Great difficulty was encountered in landing the heavy stores. Eventually a wooden crane with a 40ft (12.2m) jib was erected and due to the skill of the boatmen various cargoes were landed safely. About 30 men and three boats were employed landing cargo, the heaviest being sixteen bluestones for the floor of the gallery, weighing thirty hundred weight (1,524kgs) each. The hardwood used came from the Bellinger River area.
The landing stage was formed with wrought galvanised iron leaded into the rock and well braced. On this stage was a wrought galvanized traveling crane with a 20ft (6.1m) jib, and it was by this means that light keepers and their families and all stores, were hoisted in a basket from boats in the open sea on to the island - a rather terrifying experience. A concrete path runs from the landing to the cottages and another path extends from here to the lighthouse.
For a long time their only communication with the outside world was provided by a six-weekly tug service from Bellinger Heads. A big improvement was effected when the boats of the North Coast Steamship Navigation Company made a fortnightly call. Urgent messages went to the signal station at Dammerel Headland (now Emerald Beach) - flag signals by day, Morse lamps by night. Side-by-side with these limitations were tremendous food and educational problems.
In 1946 Harry C Fanning commenced operating a launch service from Coffs Harbour Jetty to South Solitary Island, a service he supplied for some thirty three years. Supplies of food with mail and papers were eagerly received by the keepers and their families. Normally it was a weekly service but often two or more trips would be made if extra materials were needed such as oil or building materials.
Harry Fanning was a man with an uncanny knowledge of the sea, a fine seaman.
He came to Coffs Harbour from Drummoyne where his family were well known boat builders. Harry built his own launch, the Pamela Star, named after a beautiful young daughter who died tragically in her teens. He used Australian beech for her decking and hull, spotted gum for her framework, cedar for her cabinet work and lining - all native timbers that would endure continual combat with the sea.
It was amazing to note the accurate skill with which Harry steered the Pamela Star in below the iron jetty so that the basket landed square upon her deck. Materials for the construction of a new jetty in 1958 were all transported to the island by the Pamela Star and included 40 tons of gravel, 30 tons of sand, 18 tons of cement and 25 tons of steel work. Whereas the old jetty was only 20ft (6.1m) above sea level, the new one was 43ft (13.1 m) and the new crane was capable of a one-ton lift.
Helicopter is the only means of transport onto the island these days, with National Parks completing maintenance several times a year on the island.
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