Lighthouse now an empty iron tower
In daylight, the glass panes of the Jarman Island lighthouse lantern room give off a glare that makes you think its keeper has left the light on.
However, there has been no lens in the tower since 1985 and no keepers beyond 1917 after automation and the transfer of lighthouse operations to the Commonwealth Government in 1915.
Built to guide pearlers and cargo ships coming into Cossack’s harbour, the lighthouse is now an empty iron tower.
A lease encompassing the island was included in a 21-year deal between the State and the City of Karratha (then the Shire of Roebourne) over the management of Cossack, which expires in 2017.
Two years into the lease, the local government tried to renege, not wanting to cop the costs involved in its upkeep without State help because of the lack of income brought in by the ghost town.
The lease remained, and not much has been done with Jarman since.
In 2000, the lighthouse was put on the WA Heritage List and five years later received $236,500 to fix the broken windows and sandblast the exterior.
A decade on, the red band of paint that wraps around the belly of the 15m structure has faded.
The lighthouse keeper’s quarters have become unstable, baring cracks, and caved sections of roof from cyclones past having not received any funding for restoration or even to stop the decay.
The immediate future of the island is tied to a new heritage strategy by the City after the State asked it to manage more heritage buildings in the region.
Mayor Peter Long said an audit of the City’s heritage buildings would determine the most appropriate uses and management options for each one.
“The Jarman Island lighthouse is included in the list of heritage buildings to be assessed,” he said.
“This is the first time council has conducted a holistic assessment of our heritage assets to prioritise tenure issues, restoration works and tourism potential, and we believe this will enable us to better focus our resources to progress viable projects.
“There is certainly potential for tourism around Jarman Island, as with many of our heritage buildings, and we will continue to assess its heritage value, as well as determine whether a private operator may be able to activate it as an element of a tourism business through the City’s Tourism Advisory Group processes.”
Previous governments and organisations have touted developing Jarman as a tourist spot and while there was once a tour out to the island, it is now mostly unvisited.
The European relic is made of iron, a commodity which has brought great fortune to the region, but none to preserve the island’s buildings, and will stand regardless of neglect for many years more.
The keeper’s quarters probably won’t be so lucky and you never know which coming cyclone might spell their end.
Yindjibarndi artist Clifton Mack, who has exhibited all over Australia and won several awards, has often painted the Jarman lighthouse, which he would pass coming home from work as a younger man.
Sometimes, the lighthouses he paints look like the shape of an angel you’d put on your Christmas tree, wings seemingly dropping down on each side of the tower.
Jarman Lighthouse is one of the art pieces that was blown up in scale and put on a pillar in the revamped Karratha Airport.
The island itself is named after Captain John Jarman, who sailed the barque — a ship with three or more masts — the Tien Tsin, which brought the first Eu-
Jarman Island, when the boatshed was still standing and the launch rails were in better condition.
Jarman Island from Cossack in 2015.