Earliest people in the Carpenter Rocks area were the Boandik aboriginal communities. They lived along the coast where they had access to an abundance of food and water.
The name according to Geoffrey Manning and Rodney Cockburn 'Place Names of South Australia', 'The Rocks', were named 'Les Carpentiers' after a Dutch navigator, by the Frenchman Baudin, meaning 'The Carpenters', alluding to their indented and serrated nature, which reminded Baudin of a carpenter's saw.
Lt. James Grant, when on board the Lady Nelson, named Cape Banks. On 3 December 1800, he sighted what at first he thought was four unconnected islands, but on a closer look realised they were two mountains and two capes. One of these he named Cape Banks after the English Botanist - Joseph Banks.
Many ships have been wrecked along this piece of coastline including Varoon, Admella, Troas, Flying Cloud, Agnes, Edith Haveland, Helen, and Aeolus. Click here for information on South Australian Ship Wrecks.
A signal cannon was originally set up near the lighthouse. It was later relocated to Dingley Dell where it still remains today. The Carpenter Rocks Lighthouse came into operation on 1 January, 1883. Of the ships wrecked in this area, the Admella still remains as one of Australia's worst shipwrecks, with the details recorded in books and newspapers of the time.
Cape Banks Lighthouse & cottages (now demolished) 1921
Mr W Carrison, of Port MacDonnell, built the first home at Carpenter Rocks in approximately 1888. Families from as far away as Mount Gambier travelled to Carpenter Rocks for fishing and boating holidays. Homes appeared from the early 1900s, but because of the poor quality roads to Carpenter Rocks, only locals fished the area. It is not until the early 1940s that large boats commenced fishing from Carpenter Rocks. It is believed Angus Harrup (George) was considered the first fisherman of the area in an 18 foot boat called 'The Gull'. However, the part played by the Von Stanke family had a huge impact on the fishing scene in the area. Carl Von Stanke was born in 1861 in Prussia and he came to Australia around the mid 1880s. His descendants later moved to the Carpenter Rocks area.
Hercules Von Stanke was born in 1893 and spent time at Bungalow Bay fishing. Hissom and Fred began fishing in their boat 'Dauntless', and later the Von Stanke family brought the ketch 'Hawthorn'. The Von Stanke family were involved in salvage of the wreck of the 'Corio', giving assistance to the crew, and later buying the salvage rights of the boat. Over the years, generations of this family have become excellent fishermen.
Before fishing developed into an industry, wattle bark, pebbles and rabbits gave a meaningful occupation to the locals. Wattle trees had their bark stripped, bundled and then carted by horse drawn vehicles to local mills where it was powdered and used to tan leather. The Flint Pebble industry developed with the registration of the Cape Banks Flint Company Ltd. in 1909. The large deposits found along the coast have been dislodged from the sea floor and accumulated along the foreshore. Used for the paint industry, ceramic industry and in the mines, they were collected in the size range of 3 to 4 inches, bagged and transported to Burrungule Railway Station. A load for a bullock dray could be up to 12 tons. Trapping rabbits in the area meant many men could remain in the area and work in this industry. The cray fishing industry still plays a major role in the town of Carpenter Rocks while the coastline is a haven for birds, plants and has a rich history.