Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Angel Island

Location: Angel Island State Park
Directions: Angel Island State Park is accessible by ferry from several locations around the San Francisco Bay. The island is also accessible by private boat. Segways, trams, bicycles are available on the Island

Point Knox 1886
: West side
Lens: Fixed 5th order red lens
Range: 6 Nautical miles
Fog Signal: 3000 lb fog bell supported by a wooden trestle
Fog signal characteristic; 2 blows every 15 seconds.
Structure: White Frame 30ft x 30ft single story keeper’s residence

Point Stuart 1915
Location: West side
Coordinates: N 37° 51.660’ W 122° 26.765’
Lens: 300 mm ei
Light characteristic: Iso W 20s.
Height: 80ft
Structure: White Frame 2 story keeper’s residence
Tower: Light mounted on rectangular building on hillside

Point Blunt 1915
Location: East side
Coordinates: N 37° 51.11.572’ W 122° 25.09.095’
Year first constructed:1915
Year first lit: 1956
Automated: 1976
Construction: Concrete
Original lens: order Fresnel lens,300 mm ei
Light Characteristic: Flashing Green 5 seconds
Height: 60ft
Range: 13 Nautical miles
Structure: White square house.
Emergency: (Flashing White 5seconds) light of lower intensity when main light is extinguished.
HORN: 1 blast every 15 seconds (2 second blast).
Admiralty number: G4119
ARLHS number:USA-617
USCG number:6-4335

This is a tale of 2 adventures. Struggling on how I was going to get a descent picture of Yerba Buena Lighthouse. I started to examine the routes of the ferry from Oakland to San Francisco. I saw from their schedule that the ferry went close to Treasure Island. Also I could use this to revisit Angel Island and get a picture of the Bell at Point Knox. I found that a Ferry was leaving Oakland Harbor at 9:00 am on Saturday and returning around 3:30pm. I had my plan and prepared myself for the adventure.

Saturday, came I drove to Jack London Square and parked in the parking quite close to the Ferry, bring your parking ticket with as you can get it validated. The weather was sunny, the skies a nice blue. I boarded the Ferry, onboard lined up to pay my fare $14 with parking validation, not bad, its $16 from San Francisco and you have to pay parking.

I set myself on the top deck, made sure I had a good spot facing Treasure Island. My 40d and 5D where loaded with 24-105mm and 100-200mm lens. The ferry came real close to Treasure Island and this gave ample time to snap off enough pictures that I could later edit. It was also good that my perspective kept changing as the ferry went by. Both cameras where busy clicking.

The next part of the ride I was not prepared for, as a surprise the ferry brought me real close to Alcatraz. This gave some good views of the Alcatraz lighthouse placed in its environment. I got to view the island from the East looking towards the west as the Ferry turned for San Francisco. When we docked in the San Francisco Harbor we had to change Ferries. The second Ferry brought me on the opposite side of Alcatraz Island, so now I could shoot West looking East. After we passed Alcatraz, I remained on the top deck; it was a lovely day with some wonderful views of the bay. I thought someday, I may not be able to do this, so while I am able, I am determined to continue my journey towards the light.

Once on the Island, I immediately made my way to a Park Ranger to find how I could get to the Immigration Station, I was directed to a café where I purchased a tram ride and tour ticket to the immigration station. It was a short ride to my destination, before we entered the station we had a brief history on the Asian immigrants who came through Angel Island. The Island has a rich history which I am not going fully into in this blog. Visiting the Island and listening to the story told by the docents can richly build your arsenal of Americas History in the Bay.

The group toured the station, it was quite moving, to see how these people lived in such cramped quarters, survived, and retained their dignity and self esteem. Scratched into the walls is their hopes and fears of getting into the country they dreamed of. The land of opportunity could be seen a short distance away, it was so close and so far away and each day on the island was an eternity with fading hope. Much of what I was looking at made me ponder about the immigration issue we face today, not easy problems to solve yet the right thing must be done, and I am not sure what that is.

I decided to walk back to the main area of the Island, Ayala cove. The high elevation of the hills gave me an opportunity to take lots of pictures of the Bay especially those of Tiburon, most will never be seen by anyone, unless I can find a way to publish separately from this blog. When I got back to the cove, I sat down and had a beer and a hamburger, listened to a young lady as she sang in the open air. I watched as the island traffickers made like busy ants going too and fro. I watched boats with their billowing sails set out from the harbor to the open blue waters of the bay. Soon I was aboard the ferry for Oakland, making its way around the opposite side of Angel Island, which brought me back to Yerba Buena for more opportunities to shoot Yerba Buena lighthouse. The Ferry stopped at Alameda and continued into Oakland harbor, I got a nice shot of the Oakland Relief ship.

2 weeks later I was again to make this trip with my brother in-law Pat Ryan. He was on vacation from Ireland with his wife, my sister Majella. He also is an avid photographer, so I thought this would be a good trip for him. I remembered there is an excellent shot of the Golden Gate Bridge as it sits under the Bay Bridge, so I set Pat up for the shot. I was also more aware of my locations and what to expect, I knew of Point Blunt, Point Knox and Point Stuart on Angel Island. I also was aware of Fort Point and Point Lime near the Golden Gate Bridge, not too sure if I could get a good enough vantage point for their shot, at least I was aware.

As the Ferry was leaving San Francisco, I was into positioning myself that I paid no attention to who was on board. From a distance I heard people laughing, I looked up to see what was going on. It was my Brother Eddie and his family, also his son Graham was visiting with his fiancée Katrina. We continued to enjoy the fact that we accidentally met, but quickly I got back to business, Photographed Fort Point & Point Lime, next time I will bring a longer Lens 400mm with an extender. This opportunity allowed me to focus on the Bell, Point Stewart and Point Blunt.

On the Island we walked to the Immigration Station, after 1st visiting the museum, where there is a brief history of the lighthouses and Fresnel lens on Display. The day was hot and I made the cardinal mistake of not bringing water. Once you leave the cove there are no more places to get supplies, until you get back. Met a few people along the way, many where making the treks pushing children in their wheelers. You need to be in fairly good shape to make the walk up the hill without using the tram. On this leg of the journey, I stayed with my wide angle lens. I walked all the ways to immigration station and back to the cove. My leg was killing me, the pain was quite intense, and I think it was due to the short cut back. Coming down a steep incline I kept pounding my leg into the ground and my knee could not absorb the constant shocks of the foot hitting the ground.

When we got back to Ayala cove, we found shelter from the elements under a shade from an umbrella. Pat ordered some beers and burgers. We reviewed what we shot, took a few more harbor pictures and prepared to board the ferry. The ferry was about to leave when a lady asked are we going to San Francisco, I said no we are going to Oakland, panicky she gathered her group and hurriedly exited the ferry. Again on deck, we met several people interested in photography, also their interest piqued when I said I photograph lighthouses, one young man paid a lot of attention. Several times I dropped my lens cover and he retrieved it for me. The Ferry was moving quite fast and as we sped by Treasure Island the spray came over the edge of the boat, Pat was worried that I would ruin my camera and lens. Everything was fine and we made our way back into the Alameda and finally into Oakland. For the cost of $14 which includes parking, it’s a better value than any cruise on the Bay.

So that concludes my tail of 2 trips. Now for a little history, my history comes from many sources, I have several books; I pick up the pamphlet, the docents and finally Lighthouse research on the web. I try to arrange things chronologically and make sure I have hit the high points. If you think I have misquoted or not given the correct reference please email me with the correction.

Its hard to separate what went on in the Island and try and keep the lighthouses separate. the island is so small and the lives of the people are integrated with each other.

1773, Lt. Juan Manuel de Ayala charged by the Spanish government to chart the California coast. The ship SAN CARLOS is the 1st ship to enter San Francisco Bay and Ayala is its commander, the ship anchors off Angel Island. He calls Isla de los Angels, later renamed to its English form Angel Island. Here he is met by the Miwok Indians, the original dwellers of the island.

1839, Governor of California granted Angel Island to Don Antonio Maria Osio, as a cattle ranch, he raises a herd of approximately 500 cattle.

1850, The U.S. Government reserves the right to Angel Island.
1854, 2 gentlemen from San Francisco fight a duel on Angel Island, both suffer wounds, later one of the duelers would die from his wounds.

1860, Supreme Court voids Antonio Maria Osio's claim to Angel Island the US Army takes ownership of the island.

1863, Military troops set up bases on Angel Island as part of the coastal defenses of San Francisco Bay. Work begins on Camp Reynolds (later called West Garrison on Angel Island).
1864, An Army hospital is opened at the cove on Angel Island. Gun batteries are constructed at Point Stuart and Point Knox.
1865, The 12th Infantry, headquartered on Angel Island, has men serving on eleven different posts from Mexico to Alaska.

1885, $4,500 was made available for placing a fog bell at Point Knox on Angel Island. Angel Island is the largest Island in the Bay. Due to the heavy fog that swamps the bay and increase of ship traffic, several hundred where entering the bay, Point Knox was selected. It assisted ships to navigate safely the channel that led in and out of Sausalito harbor.

1886, a 3000 lb fog bell was installed along with a 30ft x 30ft one story keepers residence at Point Knox on the west side of the Island. The Bell hung a fog signal building and was supported by a wooden trestle. It sat precariously perched on the cliff. Access to the Bell was down a 151 wooden stairs down a very steep incline of a cliff. The Bell was struck by a sledge hammer, powered by a mechanical striking mechanism, wound by keeper every couple of hours. The bell was difficult to maintain, it often broke down. Difficult to wind, some keepers considered it a dog. Gun batteries are built on Angel Island facing the golden Gate.

1887 Nov 1, on the west end of the point the fog station commenced operation. . 1st Keeper was John Ross, from the tender Shubrick. He served faithfully for 16yrs. along with his wife and 2 children

1888, A quarantine station is established in Hospital Cove.

1900, a 5th order red lens was added. It was displayed at night and pulled back into the bell house by pulley during the day; this was to protect its prisms from the rays of the sun.

1902, Juliet Fish Nichols a widow became light keeper of point Knox, during which time her stepmother Emily Fish was serving as a light keeper further south in Point Pinos. Juliet husband died during the Spanish American war, Henry was inspector of 12th district lighthouses. Juliet served for 12 yrs. Both she and her step mother retired in 1914

1906 July 2nd, Dense fog rolled in, the bells mechanism stopped working,seeing the masts of ships rise above the fog. Juliet using a hammer struck the bell continuously until the fog lifted.

1906 July 3rd, 10:00 am Mr. Burt came to repair the Bell

1906 July 4th, the bell was again malfunctioning. At 8:00pm the tension bar broke in half, a dense fog rolled in with a heavy mist, Juliet Nichols went through the night striking the bell with a hammer until 4:00 pm the next day. She struck 2 blows every 15 seconds maintaining the bells signal characteristic. She struck the Bell for 20Hrs and 35 minutes according to her keepers log. She received a letter of commendation for her actions.

1910, Ellis Island type of immigration center was setup on the east of the island, thousands of immigrants from Asia where processed through this center, today it is an immigration museum. Poems etched into the walls woodwork immortalize their plight.

1915, Point Stuart, just west of Point Knox received a small lighthouse. It was built on a hillside; a 2nd keeper was assigned to this light. He resided with other keeper at Point Knox. The residence was upgraded to 2 stories.

1939, the light keeper's residence is raised and a 2nd story added at point blunt.

1940, Fire burns down the Administration building, immigration process moved to San Francisco

1940’s, Fort McDowell, was the largest military staging facility on the west coast. Over 300,000 soldiers moved through Angel Island on their way to the pacific front during World War II. Fort McDowell was also a discharge center for soldiers returning from war.

1954, a Nike Missile site was based on the southeast corner of the island.

1960, 3rd light installed, a new watch room was constructed at Point Blunt by the coast guard, which gave a full view San Francisco Bay. Point knox was abandoned

1961 With the new watch room, and new quarters at Point Blunt, the Coast Guard moved the personnel from Angel Island Light Station and at the same time discontinued manning of Southampton Shoals Light Station. In addition to Southampton Shoals, personnel at Point Blunt operate their own light and fog signals and Raccoon Strait light and fog signals. The station also provides special direction finder calibration services as requested. Four family units, 3 bedrooms each, are at Point Blunt. Two units are Coast Guard owned, two are leased from the State of California. One unit is occupied by the Officer in Charge and his family. The other units are presently being utilized by the married crew members and their families. One small boat is assigned to the station. A pickup truck is assigned. Point Blunt Light Station rates a BM1 as Officer in Charge, plus one EN2, one FN, and one SN. (Written in July, 1970)

1963, Point Knox ,the bell house was razed, leaving a lonely bell dangling from a wooden platform. Maybe a fitting tribute

1976, Point Blunt is automated, the lantern is removed and building demolished. The green light of the automated lantern can be seen from the watch building

2009 The fog bell is still visible at Point Knox, not accessible. The bell is can be seen from Camp Reynolds. Point Blunt is not accessible, but visible from the ferries passing the island, and can be seen from the main trail on the island. Point Stuart can be seen from ferries passing or going to the Island. The island also has a rich history as a home of the native Coastal Miwok, a US military base, and an immigration station. The Visitor's Center at Ayala Cove has exhibits on the island's lighthouse history as well as the lens from Southampton Shoal. For more information, contact the Angel Island Association at (415) 435-3522

• Point Knox, George Worthylake, The Keeper's Log, Fall 1996.
• Umbrella Guide to California Lighthouses, Sharlene and Ted Nelson, 1993.
• Guardians of the Golden Gate, Ralph Shanks, 1990.
• Women Who Kept the Lights, Clifford

Juliet Fish
Finicky Fog Bells
Angel Island
Angel Island Ferry from Oakland

US Coast Guard
Content is copyright by Ocairdestudio 2009
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