VIDEO: The drone discovery that has Sydney talking

Sophie Gidley
27 September 2018
Faculty of Arts


Macquarie University photographer and drone operator Joanne Stephan tells the story behind uncovering a WWII tunnel in a cliff face beneath South Head, Vaucluse.

The existence of a secret tunnel beneath Sydney's Macquarie Lighthouse has been captured on drone footage for the first time, thanks to Macquarie University photographer Joanne Stephan.

Historic discovery: The tunnel in the cliff face below the lighthouse - our university logo - is believed to have been built in World War II and forgotten for decades.Video: Joanne Stephan.

Ms Stephan made the discovery as part of a photographic 3D modelling project carried out between Macquarie University and the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust.

The project is under way ahead of the lighthouse's 200th anniversary in November and involved capturing aerial drone footage and 3D scans of the site.

Macquarie photographer and drone pilot Joanne Stephan.

Picked up everywhere: Joanne Stephan's story and video footage was published by national media including the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph and Picture: Jesse Taylor.

"I’m so amazed at what we found and how close I was able to get to the tunnel," Ms Stephan said.

"The challenge was getting close enough without losing the transmission feed from the drone camera to my device, as it was a few hundred metres down the cliff face. It’s probably the toughest job I’ve done to date.

"It was awesome to uncover such a hidden gem that has a lot of historical value. I can’t wait to find out more about why it’s there."

Amazing find: A closer view of the entrance to the tunnel. Image: Joanne Stephan

The small, partially overgrown entrance to the tunnel, as above, shows a collapsed girder and damaged concrete roof.

The drone footage has been picked up by national media including the Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph and

During the anniversary celebrations on the weekend of 3-4 November, VIP ticket holders will be able to climb the lighthouse ... sadly though the tunnel remains off limits.

The 3D modelling project team: Michael Rampe, Yann Tristant, Jane Williamson, Craig O'Neill, Jane Thogersen, Olivier P. Rochecouste, Jacinta Carruthers, Kevin Lucas, Peter Reeves, Rory Williams, Will Farebrother, Joanne Stephan and Matt Cabanag.


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