Stinker’s History: An island formed in 1898

Since 1898 big seas have continually washed the sand bridge away.

KEEPERS and their families who manned the Port Stephens Outer Light lived a Spartan lifestyle which, for them, became increasingly difficult when in 1898 a mighty sea, referred to as the Maitland Gale, roared from the south and continually battered the finger of land that connected the Outer Light to the mainland.

At the time the “finger”, about 180 metres wide and four metres higher than the top of storm high water, was a well established vegetated landform with trees and stabilising rocks.

A track from the mainland to the lighthouse across the natural “bridge” was the main artery for supply and for the lighthouse keepers and their families to occasionally travel by horse and cart into Nelson Bay for supplies and to visit relatives and friends.

By this time the permanent population of the town of Nelson Bay had grown to 30.

When the sea finally settled and the driving winds subsided the trees and rocks were gone as was the telegraph line, which was the first and immediate communication with the outside world.

Established in the 1880s the telegraph link, wires and poles across ‘Narrow Gut’ to the lighthouse went overland to Williamtown and Stockton then under the Newcastle Harbour to Wolfe Street and the exchange in Hamilton.

Along with everything else, this vital link was washed away by the fury of the sea.

By daylight, where the land track had been, was a sheet of turbulent water 500 metres wide and six metres deep.


A landform that had taken hundreds of years, maybe longer, to develop, had disappeared in a matter of hours.

To the present day there has been no indication that the previously vegetated finger of land that reached out and touched the “island” would ever be likely to return.

By John ‘Stinker’ CLARKE

An artist’s impression of Fingal before the Maitland Gale.

Leave a Reply