August 19, 2014

Pigeon Point Lighthouse -- a photog's Mecca

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Well, yes, thanks for asking… I DID take a little fast mid-of-night trip down the San Mateo Coast.

ALL photogs go to Pigeon Point Lighthouse. They just DO, and no reasonable explanation has ever been found. Some say it is a right-of-passage, and others go less for snaps and more to absorb darkness and salt-laden-air. A new excuse for each long, very long exposure. And often, I will admit in my case, it could be the bad-boy thrill of staying up past bedtime.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Not a new image^^^taken on another mid-of-night outing, Nov, 2011.

source of the following: Wikipedia
Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the most picturesque lighthouses on the Pacific coast. The tower stands on a rocky promontory and has long been a landmark for ships approaching San Francisco Bay from the south. This headland, and hence the lighthouse, took its name from the ship Carrier Pigeon that wrecked here in 1853.

The lantern room of the tower is no longer equipped with the original first-order, 1000-watt Fresnel lens. No longer illuminated for demonstration purposes, the lens has 24 flash panels, is composed of 1008 hand-polished lenses and prisms and is capable of producing over 500,000 candlepower illumination. It was manufactured by the Henry-LePaute company in Paris, France and was first lit at Pigeon Point at sunset on November 15, 1872.

Originally the tower was equipped with a lamp that burned refined lard oil (pig fat). In 1888, that lamp was replaced with a mineral oil (kerosene) lamp. To produce Pigeon Point's assigned characteristic of one white flash of light every ten seconds, the one (1) ton lens rotated one time every four minutes. When observed from a distance, this resulted in the appearance of one white flash of light every ten seconds. The lens rotation was originally powered by a clockworks and 45 pounds (20 kg) weight. In 1926 the lighthouse was provided with electricity. Modern innovations were incorporated and the kerosene IOV lamp was replaced by a 1000 watt bulb, the clockworks by an electric motor and an electrically operated fog signal was eventually installed. The lighthouse has been designated California Historical Landmark number 930.

In 1972, the United States Coast Guard mounted a 24-inch aerobeacon on the front of the tower (now replaced by a smaller beacon) and officially retired the Fresnel lens from regular duty. The First order Fresnel lens is no longer lit to celebrate special occasions, such as the annual lighting of the lens, which usually occurred in mid-November (closest Saturday to November 15) the date of the original first lighting in 1872. The lens was removed from the top of the tower in November 2011, to now be displayed in the fog signal building, adjacent to the base of the lighthouse. The light outside the lens room, mounted on a small verandah at the top of the 100-foot (30 m) tower, rotating with six beams, is still an active aid to navigation. Updated information, garnered from the recent lens removal crew, has produced new numbers for the weight of the lens...long reported to be four tons. In actuality that figure was the complete shipping weight of the lens and its rotating clock works. The correct figures are as follows: lens weight, one (1) ton; the clock works, one (1) ton; and the seventy-eight (78) wooden shipping crates to contain such, two (2) tons; total, therefore, being the reported four tons.

The tower has been closed to tours since December 2001 because of the collapse of brickwork supporting outside access metal walkways on the top of the structure. Cast iron was used rather than steel with the unfortunate result being that cast iron absorbs water rather than repelling it like steel, thus the walkways are severely rusted, as are the major binding ring bands at the base of the tower! The California State Park system has promised repairs, but it is estimated that even if funds were available, it would be seven to ten years before the repairs would be completed. In July, 2010, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) stated that of the $3.4 million she requested for her district through the Fiscal Year 2011 Interior and Environment Appropriations Act, $250,000 will be allocated to restore the upper portion of the lighthouse.

Donald Kinney Quarterly - volume 2014 issue 2       
Donald Kinney Quarterly - volume 2014 issue 1       

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