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The Cape Brett lighthouse stands nearly 500 feet above the sea on the cape named by Captain Cook in 1769 in honour of Rear-Admiral Sir Piercy Brett, a Lord of the Admiralty. Today a 35-foot(14 metre) tower stands at this southern entrance to the Bay of Islands, which is one of New Zealand's world famour big-game fishing grounds. It flashes twice each 30 seconds with a visibility of 29miles; along with Cape Reinga and Momo Hinau it guards the long stretch of coastline between the country's most northerly point and the approaches to Auckland, its busiest port.

The lighthouse, first mooted in 1906, began operation in 1910 and was unique in New Zealand in that its lens revolved in a mercury bath, which gave it smoother movement than the conventional bevelled rollers and ball bearings. The lighthouse was re-rigged in 1955 with a diesel-electric plant but was later connected to the national grid by a power line from the Maori settlement at Rawhiti, some miles to the west.

As well as a radio-telephone the station's two keepers and their families have a telephone land-link with Russell, from where they receive their mail and stores once a fortnight by launch.
Sometime in the next few years the station is to be converted to automatic operation and will then have no permanent staff. Its only visitors will be workmen and technicians on irregular maintenance and service visits.

For 70 years the lighthouse was staffed. In 1978, a smaller automated light was installed and with this automation came the end of the settlement. Nearby is the lighthouse keepers cottage operating as a DOC hut so visitors can absorb the full context of the remote life of a light house keeper - a rare example of the two surviving togehter in the landscape.

Cape Brett was the scene of New Zealand's first outright shipwreck when the schooner Paramatta was blown ashore there in 1808 and her crew massacred by the Maoris. The massacre was hardly to be wondered-at-the crew had contracted with the Maoris to load various commodities aboard the shop. But the crew reneged on their part of the deal. To add to the indignity of it all, they threw the hapless Maori overboard and fired at them, wounding three.
But on leaving the Bay of Islands on her way back to Sydney the ship was caught in heavy weather and driven on to the Cape. With a gale of wind and rightfully hostile Maoris, the crew stood no chance.

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