Thursday, March 11, 2010

SouthHampton Shoal/Tinsley Island

Southampton Shoal Light


Directions: From the Greater Bay Area, Take 580 East towards Stockton,580 becomes 205,From 205 take I-5 North From I-5 take the Eight Mile Road exit, Head west on Eight Mile road (4 miles), turn left at the King Island Marina sign just before the second bridge, Parking is located on the landside of this levee road. Note: Your GPS can be set to King Island '11530 West Eight Mile Road, Stockton, CA 95219 'as your destination.

Latitude: 37° 52' 49"
Longitude: 122° 24' 02
Status: Automated
Year Established: 1905, Dec
Deactivated: 1960
Existing Keepers Quarters? 3 Story White Victorian wooden Building
Foundation: Cylindrical Wood Piles
Tower Shape: Square
Height of Focal Plane: 52 ft
Original Optic: 5th Order, Fresnel, located at Angel Island
Light Characteristic: Fl. W., 4 s (1 s fl)
Fog Signal: Electric Horn/ Orig. Mechanized bell
Fog Signal Characteristic: Diaphone (gp of 2 blasts ev 30 s (2s bl-6s si-2s bl-20 s si)),
ARLHS number: USA-777
U.S.C.G. District: 11
Current Use: Yacht Club
Owner/Manager: Private
Miscellaneous: Saint FrancisYacht Club moved the top 2 stories to San Joaquin delta, Tinsley Island


This adventure began about one year ago; around the time I was in San Francisco, near Crissy Field. I came across the San Francisco Yacht club; I knew that Tinsley Island had a yacht club that is home to the Southampton Shoal lighthouse. I inquired at the Yacht club if there was a way to visit the Island, I was informed, that the island was a private club and that only members could escort me to the Island. Well that was problem set before me, I put out the word on the web, and with my friend , and had no responses.

Undaunted, I proceeded to to find a solution to this challenge. I pondered the options before me, I could rent a fishing boat and go fishing near the Island, I could see if they had a volunteer program on their website, lighthouses need a lot of tlc,  I logged on and found that I just missed out on the toiler’s event. So I decided  to send an email to Steve the Island manager and continued my quest visiting other lighthouses. Surprised on Aug 4th 2009 I get an email from Ed, offering in the time period Oct/Nov, I could come to the Island and take my pictures. This was an exciting opportunity.

Sat Nov 21st, I rose early in the morning; I was to meet Ed or Tony the Island manager at 9:00 am on the dock at Kings Island. The Sun was rising on the horizon and it appeared as if it would be a nice day. I had my music loaded and drove 580 to 5 and North towards Stockton. As soon as I got off the freeway and headed in towards Kings Island, I started to relax and let civilization slip into the abyss of my mind. I was once again unified with God and nature. Its hard to explain this addiction, but it grows every time I head towards raw nature.

I arrived at Kings Island; around 8:30 am, the area was a bit rough and ready. The unsophisticated character of the place made me appreciate the remoteness of the regions I visit. The sun quickly retreated and the fog moved across the water towards the pier I was standing on. A few people looking isolated and alone where standing about and the temperature took a sudden drop. Almost eerily I was in a timeless zone waiting on some event. Everything was lost in the fogbank. My fingers pained me with the cold, I headed to the shop/cafĂ© that was open.As I entered and the bell over the door rang, ting aling, ting aling, two women who where engrossed in conversation, turned their head and looked in my direction. Immediately they recognized I was not one of their usual drop ins. They appeared as if they where in their mid 40’s to their early 50’s, with bottle blond hair. I greeted them with a witty comment about the weather,and they returned my greeting with some warm jesting, I asked for coffee and they both pointed to the coffee pot and said it was free. The ice was broken and we entered on of those moments when people open up to perfect strangers and we swapped stories.

I explained that I am a photographer and I take pictures of lighthouses and this was the reason I was visiting Tinsley Island for the day to shoot Southampton Shoal. One the women shared about her passion to visit lighthouses with her husband, and continued to tell me about the ones in California she had been to. I took my coffee and headed back to the fog, I wandered about the place and managed to shoot a few pictures. The ferry boat came and so did Ed, we met near the wharf, Ed introduced himself and Tony, and we headed to the ferry boat and soon we where on the delta making our way to the Island. When we arrived at the Island and the fog had not yet encompassed the region. I fired off a quick shot when I  first saw the lighthouse, little did I know that these where the only ones with blue skies. The lighthouse was well maintained and held a lot of its character from the past.

Ed gave me a quick tour of the lighthouse; it was well maintained and held a lot to its original character. I got the feeling what these lighthouses where meant to do, not only to protect the seafarers but also provide equitable accommodation for those who served upon the lighthouse. As I moved throughout the lighthouse, and entered and exited each room, I could almost sense the past lives of the light keepers and their families. The rooms which the children played, I visualized the bath times and two families who lived in close proximity for months at a time.

I had several hours to move around the grounds and the lighthouse. I hoped for better lighting and that the sky would clear up. I used my wide angle lens primarily in the house and for some of my outside shots. What I could not escape from was the autumn effect, dead leaves and plants that had no life. I could only picture what beauty this place has in the summer. Just at the end of the day, as I was leaving and my cameras packed, the sun came out. Almost unwillingly I left on the ferry, looking back as the lighthouse receded into the inlet of the island. The remainder of the day I spent moving around the delta, taking some pictures of the waterways and the farm fields, knowing inwardly I had not done this lighthouse justice, I headed home, hoping I can salvage this shoot, with some creative process’s.

Historical Information:

1900: Santa Fe Ferry railroad starts a route between Point Richmond and San Francisco. At the same time marine traffic was getting busier from Mare Island and the Carquinez strait. Due to the shallowness of the water at Southeast Point of Southampton Shoals, the lighthouse board realized the need for a lighthouse to mark the danger due to the sea going traffic they petitioned congress for $30,000 for the navigational aid.

1905: Southampton Shoal Lighthouse was completed, adding one more light beacon to the array of lights that guided sea vessels through San Francisco Bay At the Southampton’s shoal, northeast of Angel Island, a 3 white story Victorian Lighthouse structure, with a 4 sided red roof was constructed upon 11 cylinder poles over the shoal to mark a hazard of shallow waters on the shoal, it was known as the “House on the Bay.” A square wooden tower with a 5th Order Fresnel lens made in 1886 extended through the center of the lighthouse. Wooden Balconies encompassed the 1st and 2nd stories. Its accommodation was home to the light keeper, assistant light keeper and their families. Located on the second story was a mechanized 3,500 lb brass bell and a unobstructed view of the bay. The bottom story was used for storage, and the location of the workshop, Also the boat hung from davits, and was the place of a major tragedy. Located in the middle of the bay, this isolated the lightstation from civilization, its environment was damp and cold, and life was very difficult for the keepers and their families. Fresh water was collected by rainwater via the roof – often spoiled by seagulls. The keepers set up wire mesh around the lantern room balcony to deter birds; the keepers did not dispose of waste into the bay which might attract gulls. From The light station to the shore was a often hazardous boat ride.

During the Christmas holidays, the in-laws of keeper Lunden's where visiting the light station When returning to shore by boat, the engine stalled, and the boat was swept by the currents into the path of a oncoming ferry, which narrowly avoided the boat. Eventually the boat wound up at the Immigration Station on Angel Island.

1906: Twice the light station nearly fell into the bay, once due to erosion, and then the 1906 San Francisco earthquake permanently tilted its support pilings as much as 11 deg eastward, After the lighthouse service had placed several tons of rocks around the steel columns to strengthen and stabilize the support.

1929: Ole Lunden was working in San Francisco as a streetcar motorman, he saw economic times ahead where getting worse. He asked his friend Milford Johnson, on leave from the Farallon Islands Lighthouse, to assist him to get a job as a lightkeeper. Lunden filled out an application, and was offered an assistant keepers position at Southampton Shoal. Lunden gladly accepted the assignment, and he and his wife, Bernice, moved to the station. The head keeper Frank Schou’s family lived in San Francisco. Soon the crews of passing tug boats were shocked to see female’s lingerie being aired at the lighthouse. Ole recalled, “They made a close pass by the lighthouse to get a good look at Bernice. She was the first woman they’d ever seen on this offshore station.” The Lunden’s developed a close relationship with the crews. In exchange for a fresh fish or crab dinner they would deliver the newspaper.

Yerba Buena Keeper Albert Joust rowed 5 miles to Southampton Shoal to ask Lunden if he would exchange assignments. Lunden worried about his wife making trips ashore on the light stations boat jumped at the offer. The light service approved of the transfer

1930: Albert Joost and his wife moved to their new home at Southampton shoals. This decision to transfer was to have tragic consequences in later years.

1935 Dec 23: Joost, was alone with his wife on the station. The assistant keeper had gone ashore with his family. In the lightstation workshop, Joost was performing station maintenance, he was in the process of fixing the stations radio and antenna, he used a blow torch to heat a soldering iron- when something caused an explosion, its assumed that the blow torch released a large amount of gas into the air, and when Joost tried to lit the torch the explosion occurred, the light station caught fire and so did Keeper Joost clothes, he received very serious burns. Seriously injured, he and his wife extinguished the fire. In need of medical attention Joost lowered the boat from the light station and rowed a boat 2 miles to Angel Island; upon reaching Angel Island he was rushed to the Marine Hospital in San Francisco; his wife remained on the light station to maintain the light. Mrs. Joost stayed until a relief keeper arrived. Mrs. Joost was rushed to her husband’s side, who was in critical condition .Albert Joost died on Christmas Day from his burns. His final words to his wife were to light the beacon at sunset and look after the light station.

1939: The US Coast Guard take control of the station, the mechanized bell is replaced by a pair diaphone horns.

1960, The US Coast Guard determined that a manned station was no longer needed so the Coast guard deactivated Southampton shoal lighthouse, and replaced it with an automated beacon. The lighthouse was sold to Saint Francis Yacht club, the top 2 stories where lifted off by giant cranes and moved by barge to Tinsley Island in San Joaquin river delta just northwest of Stockton, where it now located as a integral part of the Saint Francis Yacht club, its used as a bunk house by visiting club members. The original lens was moved to Angel Island’s Interpretive Center. The operation of Southampton Shoals fog signal is now controlled by personnel at Point Blunt.

2010: The pilings used for support the lighthouse is all that remains of the original structure and supports an automated bell which chimes every ten seconds and red light mounted on a pole, which flashes on for three seconds and is then dark for 3 seconds in each six second cycle


1. Umbrella Guide to California Lighthouses, Sharlene and Ted Nelson, 1993.
2. Guardians of the Golden Gate, Ralph Shanks, 1990.

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