MV Cape Don Society Inc.

Incorporating the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service Museum.

MV Cape Don at sea

Commonwealth Lighthouse Service Museum

The Commonwealth Lighthouse Service Museum will tell the story of the ships and crew of the CLS. The main item in the collection is the MV Cape Don it's self, a working and hands on museum. The MV Cape Don is one of the last remaining purpose built vessels and is a record of Australian Ship Building in the 1950's and 60's. She was built in Newcastle, N.S.W. with the keel laid in 1961 and commissioned in 1963.

Our collection of photographs, drawings and machinery manuals is growing with donations from AMSA, public and ex crew. The collection of artifacts is also growing into a good collection of uniforms, plaques, models, flags, and other items of the Lighthouse Service covering the period 1900's to 2000.

The Museum will be located on the ship once the restoration is complete and suitable storage and display units are installed. Any assistance would be gratefully appreciated.

Any donations of memorabilia would be gratefully appreciated. Contact the curator for further information.

Cap badge
Lifeboat radio
Cape Otway

A Brief History of the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service

The roll of the CLS vessels was to maintain navigational aids, lighthouse maintenance and transport essentials and families to and from lighthouses around Australia.

The Service

In 1913 Joshua Ramsbothan was appointed the director of the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service and began taking over the responsibility for the lights from the states. In 1915 the Commonwealth accepted responsibility for 179 marine markers and has maintained the lights until the service was disbanded.

The Ships

In 1914 tenders were called for three purpose built steamers but at the outbreak of war the project was halted so the commonwealth charted the Victorian lighthouse tender SS Lady Loch becoming the first CSL tender, its Captain was Henry Trace.

Lady Loch and two others ships served until replaced by the first purpose built Cape vessels the Cape York, Leeuwin and Otway. All built at Cockatoo Island Sydney in the 20's. They served until the 60s when replaced by the second fleet of purpose built Cape ship, all built in Newcastle, N.S.W.

Cape Don, Cape Moreton and Cape Pillar served until the 1990 when most lighthouses were automated. The last of the cape ships was the Cape Grafton built in Spain.

The later CLS Ships also performed other duties and special journeys such as survey work around the coast, recovery of Flinders anchor, recovery of black box from Botany Bay and a trip to Heard Island for survey work and recover a Walrus aircraft. The Cape Don lead the tall ships into the harbour during bicentennial celebrations.