Lighthouses and navigational beacons are built on solid ground, even those in shipping channels. The Light Ship evolved from the need for a beacon to be located on the edge of shoal waters where it was impossible to construct a permanent structure. Two such vessels were located off the Queensland coast, one off Sandy Cape, on the northern tip of Fraser Island, and the other in the western approaches to Torres Strait.

CLS 2 Carpentaria was one of 4 identical vessels, designed by Messrs D & C Stevenson of Edinburgh, Scotland and built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney in 1917 for the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service (later the Federal Department of Transport). The vessels were used in pairs; while one was on station, the other was in port under maintenance. Each year, the replacement would be towed to position and the one that had been on station would be towed back to port for refit. The vessels on location were also checked 4 times a year.

The flashing light was powered by a six month supply of acetylene gas, carried in four A-300 size acetylene cylinders. The flow of gas, which was ignited by a pilot flame, was controlled by an automatic mechanism to produce the characteristic code of flashes. A “sun valve” turned on and off the flow of gas to the burner at dusk and dawn, respectively. Nominal range of the light was 10 nautical miles (18.5 km). A warning bell tolled with the rolling of the ship to warn mariners during periods of reduced visibility such as in rain or fog.

CLS 2 (together with CLS 4) spent much of its time in the Gulf of Carpentaria, hence the name CARPENTARIA emblazoned along the side, but was last stationed in the Bass Strait oilfields serving as a traffic separator. The Light Ship was retired from service in 1985. Later in the decade it became part of the collection at the Queensland Maritime Museum, where it is on display with Diamantina in the Dry Dock. Currently, she is being restored by Museum volunteers.


Length (Overall): 72ft (21.94m)
Length (Waterline): 70ft 7″ (21.51m)
Beam: 25ft 8″ (7.82m)
Draft: 9ft (2.74m)
Displacement: 164 tonnes
Candlepower: 1,500
Range of Light: 10 nautical miles (18.5km)