Took a 3-day trip to Seaside and Monterey, California over Thanksgiving Holiday…visited the Point Pinos Lighthouse for the first time.
Point Pinos is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the western coast of the United States. It’s been in operation since 1 February 1855 ~ while Alcatraz Island Lighthouse preceded it by 8 months, it was replaced in 1909, therefore out of operation for a bit.
The lens is a third order Fresnel that was manufactured in France in 1853. A larger, second-order lens had been planned, but a delay in shipment caused the lens that was destined for Fort Point Lighthouse in San Francisco to be installed instead.
The first light source was a lantern of whale oil which was forced up from a tank by a gravity-operated piston. Whale oil was soon replaced by Lard oil which in turn was replaced by kerosene in 1880. During the turn of the century an incandescent vapor lamp was used followed by electric lights in 1919. A falling weight mechanism rotated a metal shield around the beam to cut off the light to seaward for 10 out of every 30 seconds from 1912 through 1940. Afterwards a timed flasher provided the signal.
The present light source is located 89 feet above sea level ~ it is a 1000 watt bulb which is then amplified by the lenses and prisms to produce a 50,000 candlepower beam visible under favorable conditions up to 17 miles. It’s permanently on now and it’s present signal is a simple 3-second on, 1-second off signature. Further navigational aid was added in a Class D radio beacon which was operated continuously and had a 20 mile range. The radio beacon and a foghorn, which was located below the lighthouse closer to the shore and manually operated by the Coast Guard, when needed, was deactivated in 1993 with the advent of global positioning satellite.
The name Punta de los Pinos, Point of the Pines, was named by Sebastian Vizcaino in 1602 during an exploration of the California coastline for the Count of Monterrey. Franciscan missionaries explored the area in 1769 where a Father Crespi mentions a freshwater pond in his diaries, now believed to be Crespi Pond, just past the lighthouse. In 1850, after the Mexican War and the American acquistion of Alta California, Congress appropriated funds for the construction of lighthouses on the west coast…one being Point Pinos, the dangerous southern entrance to Monterery Bay. Construction began in 1853, but with the difficulties in the delivery of the lenses and prisms from France the opening was delayed until 1855.
The stone building, lenses and prisms of the light are all orginial and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The lighthouse and grounds are open from 1-4 pm Thursday-Monday. You can call them at 831-648-5716.
Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History
Pictures taken by myself on 29 November 2008 and information taken from the Pacific Grove Museum lighthouse handout.