The South Australian Maritime Museum preserves the oldest nautical collection in Australia. In 1872 the Port Adelaide Institute began a museum collection to complement its library and its educational and social programs. That collection grew over the following century reflecting the seafarers and the ships that visited Port Adelaide. It is now held in trust at the South Australian Maritime Museum.

The Maritime Museum’s collections ranges from the Port Adelaide Lighthouse that was first lit in 1869 to a plaque that explorer Matthew Flinders left at Memory Cove in 1802 to mark the loss of eight seafarers. It includes figureheads, nautical instruments, bathing costumes, shipwreck artefacts, paintings, models and vessels.

Our scope is the maritime heritage of South Australia from the coast to inland waters. The collection of over almost 20,000 objects and over 20,000 images is at once a window to the heritage of the local community and to the ships of the world.

Lamp wicks, South Neptune Island lighthouse

Wicks used to light lantern in lighthouse.

Lighthouses were labour intensive in the classic era of lighthouse operation. Lighthouse keepers were needed to trim the wicks, replenish fuel, wind up the weights that turned the lantern and perform maintenance tasks such as cleaning lenses and windows. Three keepers maintained the light and its red tower on South Neptune Island. Their work schedules were dominated by the kerosene lamp, tended from dusk to dawn in three-hourly shifts. Before the light was lit by the head keeper, the mantle was primed, the fuel cylinders pressurised and the rotation mechanism wound. Vigilance was required as the mantle could extinguish at any time through interference from moths which gathered around it.

Associated locations: South Neptune Island, South Australia


Caption: Wicks - Lighthouse

AccessionNo: HT 2007.0627 a- f

Depth: 5 mm

Width: 200 mm

Height: 110 mm

Material: cotton

Date Created: Unknown

Physical Description:
Six cotton woven circular wicks stacked flat atop each other from widest to narrowest. Top and bottom edges left unwoven. Cream coloured cotton.

Remains of the first six wicks used in the Neptune Island light.