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Cape Reinga

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Cape Reinga Lighthouse
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Cape Reinga Lighthouse

Cape Reinga (or Te Rerenga Wairua in the Maori language) is the northwesternmost tip of the Aupouri Peninsula, at the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand.

Cape Reinga is located over 100km north of the nearest small town of Kaitaia. There is a road all the way but suitable vehicles can travel much of the way via Ninety Mile Beach and Te Paki stream bed.

Meeting of the seas

The cape separates the Tasman Sea from the Pacific Ocean. From the lighthouse it is possible to watch the tidal race, as the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. This makes for unsettled waters just off the coast.

Cape Reinga is often mistaken as being the northernmost point of the North Island. North Cape's Surville Cliffs, 30 kilometres to the east of Cape Reinga, are slightly more northerly.

Maori mythology

According to Maori mythology, the spirits of the dead travel to Cape Reinga on their journey to the afterlife in the spiritual homeland of Hawaiki. At Cape Reinga they depart the mainland by leaping off the ancient pohutukawa tree on the cape. They turn briefly at the Three Kings Islands for one last look back towards the land, then continue on their journey. Reinga means the leaping-off place and Te Rerenga Wairua means the leaping-off place of spirits.

Lighthouse

The lighthouse at Cape Reinga was built in 1941 and first lit during May of that year.

The Cape Reinga lighthouse replaced a lighthouse located on nearby Motuopao Island, which had been built 1879. Accessing the lighthouse was difficult due to the rough seas in the area. In 1938, it was decided to move the lighthouse to Cape Reinga for safety reasons. The complete lantern fittings from Motuopao Island were reused at Cape Reinga.

The lighthouse was fitted with a 1000 watt electrical lamp that could be seen for 26 nautical miles (48 km). The lamp was powered by a diesel generator.

In 1987, the lighthouse was fully automated and the lighthouse keepers were withdrawn. The lighthouse is now monitored remotely from Wellington. In May of 2000 the original lens and lamp were replaced by a 50 watt beacon. The beacon is powered by batteries that are recharged by solar cells. The beacon flashes every 12 seconds and can be seen for 19 nautical miles (35 km).

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