Sandy Cape Lighthouse Station consists of the old lighthouse precincts with 2 fully equipped cottages, workshop, office, radio tower (used by police, VMR, Telstra, DERM/QPWS), generator shed, bunded fuel supply depot, bunded chemical shed, garage, stables, solar cells, weather station AND in the middle of all of this, a great big lighthouse which is managed by AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority).
The station is staffed permanently by a roster of volunteer caretakers (Sandy Cape Lighthouse Conservation Association affiliated with Lower Mary River Land and Catchment Care Group) of which there are 11 couples currently active. Last year, 9 couples came of which 2 couples did 2 tours of duty. During the turtle monitoring census, the staffing is on a different system.
Major renovations of lighthouse precincts
Last year saw the completion of very major renovations at the station by QPWS and QBuild. These included:-
- Removal of asbestos fibro roofs from 2 cottages, office & workshop & replaced with stainless steel painted Heritage green
- New stainless steel gutters
- New roof, rafters & battens on the Stables
- New tank & stand at end of workshop
- Painted Cottage 2 internally
- Security screens on both cottages
- Replaced wall panels on garage
- New inverter
- 60 new batteries
- New generator
Nest Relocation of Loggerhead Turtles
Erosion at the turtle nest protection cage Sandy Cape.
Rooney Point to Ngkala Rocks is used as a nesting area by both Green and Endangered Loggerhead turtles. Loggerhead nests are relocated into 4 “dingo proof” hatching pens that are situated back from possible erosion. The project is done in 2 different stages:-
- turtle census (2 weeks in December) during the peak laying period of the season when the 42km stretch of beach is patrolled all night by Rangers and volunteers in 2 vehicles in the hope of recording every turtle that comes ashore to nest. This gives Queensland Turtle Research Program fairly accurate data on the number of turtles that nest for the season.
- Otherwise nest relocation is usually carried out on low tide during the day, starting 20th November and completing on 20th February by Volunteer Caretakers.
Between 60 and 100 nests are relocated each year, which translates to between 6000 and 7000 eggs which dingoes and sea erosion cannot destroy. This year, the program was thwarted by strong weather systems, beach erosion& flooded by-pass road creating a locked in situation for a couple of days, and vehicle breakdowns.
Volunteer Caretakers carry out general maintenance of the Conservation Park which includes:-
- road maintenance and maintaining boarded hills
- lawn and yard maintenance to present an occupied appearance (impress visitors)
- tool repairs
- house cleaning
- monitoring electrical systems
- minor general repairs
- maintaining the campground, repair and planting of QPWS signs. Volunteers greatly appreciate assistance and concerns from Park Rangers with regard to “the big jobs”. There is regular contact between the Sandy Cape Lighthouse Station and the Park Ranger stations on Fraser Island.
Within approximately 1km of the lighthouse & the Sandy Cape Campground, a number of serious environmental weeds have spread. Weed eradication and monitoring program is now organised and run by volunteers with data forwarded to QPWS “Park Info” database. The most heavily infested areas, especially at the bottoms of valleys and the hillsides beside the lighthouse, have been mapped into 96 (manageable-sized) blocks. These are timetabled so that volunteers can see which work blocks are due to be weeded during their tour of duty. Easter Cassia and Climbing Asparagus are weeded on a regular basis. The aim of the program is to prevent all species from seeding.