Tiritiri Matangi is a special island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf.
Once settled by the Maori, it was bought, cleared of native bush and farmed until the 1970's, when it was created as an open sanctuary for some of NZ's endangered species. Volunteers planted over a quarter of a million trees to return the island to it's natural state and today it is one of Auckland's most popular attractions.
The Lighthouse and the watch station to its right were built in the mid-1800's and adapted over time. For some time it was by far the brightest light in the southern hemisphere and could dazzle the night vision of a helmsman 40km away. It was observed by the crew of the space shuttles before it's light was downgraded - in part because of new technologies like RADAR and GPS, and also because new populated areas of the mainline - only a few km away, were kept awake at night by the flashing light.
It has the unique "honour" of being the only lighthouse where a ship has run aground deliberately heading for it's light.
In 1907, just before Christmas, the SS Triumph, on her maiden voyage from England, was heading out of Auckland Harbour on her return voyage. The loading of the ship had been protracted and complicated, so the captain (who was also sick) and deck officers were all pretty tired. The captain ordered the helmsman to steer for the light, as was normal to keep to the narrow channel, but fell asleep and thus did not order the course correction required to swing to starboard and thus continue as the channel swung away to clear the island. The helmsman did as initially directed and steered the ship straight onto the rocks beneath beneath the lighthouse. There were no deaths or casualties (it was a clear, still night) and the ship was eventually salvaged but not the careers of the deck officers.
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