ONE of the south-west’s most famous landmarks will be the focus for millions of British and Australian TV viewers.
Renowned presenter Neil Oliver will tell the dramatic story of the Cape Otway Lightstation and Shipwreck Coast as part of the popular Coast television series.
Oliver spent the weekend at Cape Otway Lightstation filming an episode of the Australian TV series of Coast that will be screened on Foxtel’s History Channel in the second half of 2013.
Cape Otway Lightstation manager Paul Thompson said he understood the program would also be broadcast in Britain on the BBC Two channel.
Oliver, a lighthouse enthusiast and patron of the Association of Lighthouse Keepers, said his abiding memory of the south-west coastline was of the Cape Otway lighthouse that had “such an iconic feel.”
“This is such a fantastic coastline and it’s made better by the lighthouse,” he said.
Oliver is hosting an eight-part series that will focus on a different stretch of the Australian coast in each hour-long episode.
In the episode about the local coast, Mr Oliver will tell viewers about the compelling history of the Cape Otway lighthouse, which Mr Thompson described as Australia’s most significant shipping sentinel.
The Cape Otway lighthouse guided tall ships through Bass Strait, saving them from having to go around Tasmania and cutting days off their voyage from the England.
It was the first land passengers saw after gruelling months at sea, enduring huge swells while sailing through the Roaring Forties latitudes.
But although cutting through Bass Strait was a timely shortcut, it was also dangerous.
The Cape Otway lighthouse was built in 1848 after the loss of many lives in shipwrecks such as the Cataraqui, in which 399 people died after it was wrecked on King Island in 1845.
Mr Thompson said the lighthouse was crucial to the development of the early colonies of NSW and Victoria, particularly during the Victorian gold rush when Bass Strait was busy bringing in those seeking their fortunes.
The lighthouse was also at a dynamic point where the Southern Ocean met Bass Strait
During his time at Cape Otway, Oliver spoke with former lighthouse keeper and Flinders Island resident Pat Howell, who told lots of stories about wild seas.
Oliver said his romantic fascination with lighthouses began as a teenager.
“The life just sounded ideal to me. I thought a light keeper’s life would just be about fishing and writing poetry,” he said.
“I had no idea of the grinding routine and boredom.”
Oliver said the dramatic stories of shipwrecks along the Cape Otway stretch of coast, the isolation and hardships faced by early light keepers would make good television.