A beacon in the dark
The red dot at the centre of this colour wheel of light is Bean Rock — one of Auckland’s most well-known lighthouses. Built in 1871, it is still keenly spotted by passengers on ferry trips to Rangitoto or Waiheke Island.
The rock the lighthouse stands on is known in Māori as Te Toka-o-Kapetaua (Kapetaua’s Rock) in memory of the Ngāti Pāoa ancestor Kapetaua, who was marooned there by his brother-in-law. The name Bean Rock honours a navy captain, P.C.D. Bean, who helped to chart the harbour in 1840.
The first light at Bean Rock was fuelled by kerosene. A live-in keeper would light it every evening and check it throughout the night. The keeper from 1909 to 1911, James Anderson, had a young family in Devonport. He would row a small boat to and from shore to visit them, and his son Ivan would send him messages in Morse code with a torch from the house. In winter James spent the long hours at the rock carving birds and fish from paua, mussel and pearl shell. An interview with James’s son Ivan is held in the Museum library.
Bean Rock is now the only remaining wooden cottage lighthouse in New Zealand. The light was automated in 1912. Today, it runs on solar power.