Friday, December 21, 2012

Old Point Loma Lighthouse

This romantic cape cod style lighthouse still stands at the tip of Point Loma, watching over the San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean.  It is a beautiful memorial to the history of navigation, which played such an important role in the admission of California as a state.  Once word spread about the discovery of gold in 1848, ship traffic increased along the coast.  Population exploded.  It was absolutely imperative to build a lighthouse on this rocky shore.  Too many people had already lost their lives.  The Point Loma Lighthouse was the first one of eight, which the U.S. government built on the Pacific Coast.
On November 15, 1855, the lightkeeper climbed these spiral stairs to the lantern room and lit the light under the new Fresnel Lens for the very first time.  To see the powerful beam of light illuminate the night sky must have been an astonishing sight.  It could be seen 28 miles away.  Lighting the wick of the kerosene lamp night after night never lost its fascination.  

 Captain Robert Israel and his wife kept constant vigil of the lighthouse and the seas for many years.  Thousands of lives depended on them.  They knew that without the light, ships would crash into Point Loma's rocky shore and sink.  It was a lonely existence, but a happy one, as well.  They raised a family of  three boys and one niece here.  They kept goats and chickens on the property and grew their own vegetables.  The lantern had to be kept meticulously clean and the kerosene full.  Therefore, their days were filled with chores.   In the evening, the family played cards, played muscial intruments and worked on crafts.  Making frames out of seashells was a favorite hobby.  Their work is on display in the little musuem which was restored in 1980 with period furnishings.

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse continued to operate until 1891 when a new one was built closer to the tip of the point.  Despite the powerful beam of light, fog and low clouds sometimes obscured it because it was situated too high up.
  The Fresnel Lens in the adjacent museum is a thing of beauty.  It was designed by French physicist Augustin Jean Fresnel in 1823 for use in lighthouses.  The multiple concentric rings of glass enabled the light source to emit a narrow horizontal beam.  The modular construction made disassembly and assembly easy, a very important factor when working in tiny lantern rooms above the lighthouses.  Unfortunately, Fresnel died in 1827 before seeing his invention installed in hundreds of lighthouses around the world.

Going out to the tip of Point Loma in San Diego to see the Cabrillo National Monument and the lighthouse makes for an enjoyable afternoon.  Fascinating history.  Breathtaking views.  It doesn't get much better than this.

1 comment:

  1. My father is buried on Point Loma. I have visited this peninsula many times. During the winter you can count the grey whales as they migrate to Mexico. I knew you in another life...Chad