Friday, May 27, 2011

Pelican Point (Point Loma Lighthouse)

Pelican Point (Point Loma Lighthouse)

Location: Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego, California, At the bottom of the Point Loma Peninsula and across the bay from downtown San Diego.
Directions: From I-5 South or I-8 West, take the exit for Rosecrans/Highway 209. Stay on Rosecrans into Point Loma, turn right onto Canon Street. Follow Canon Street to the end, take a left onto Catalina Boulevard (Also known as Cabrillo Monument Drive) and follow to Cabrillo National Monument, which is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. follow the road leading to the park's tide pools.
Coordinates: 32° 39′ 54.36″ N, 117° 14′ 32.96″ W
Year first lit: 1891, Mar 23
Active: Yes
Deactivated: No
Automated: Yes
Keepers dwelling: 2 detached keepers’ white, clapboard Mission Revival-style
Foundation: concrete
Construction: skeletal pyramidal
Tower shape: cylindrical/tubular
Tower Height: 70 ft
Focal plane: 88 ft
Original lens: 3rd order Fresnel lens
Current lens: a modern optic VRB-25 Vega Beacon
Fog Signal: a powerful compressed-air fog siren was installed. Driven by oil engines, it emitted a three-second blast followed by 17 seconds of silence, replaced by a two-tone diaphone fog signal
Characteristic: white flash every 15 s.
Admiralty number: G3676
ARLHS number: USA-626
USCG number: 6-0005
Owner: Coast Guard
Site manager: Coast Guard

San Diego is definitely one of those tourist cities, Boardwalks, shops, street vendors, restaurants, blue skies and a laid back atmosphere. It was Sunday, after lunch and a stroll along Seaport village we headed off to Cabrillo Park. It was not hard to get to, just a short run from the hotel. When we got to the Park, we paid a few dollars to park and took our time to find an ideal parking spot. Not too many people where visiting. I had my cameras ready for action. My primary camera was the 5d with a 24-105mm lens. I also had a 7D with a 70-200mm ready. Jean had made her way to the sights and left me to enjoy my photography.

The air was fresh and we where high above the city. With clear blues skies we had a great view of the air force base, San Diego City and the Bay. This peninsula was certainly guarding the entrance to the harbor. One of my first photographs was of the cactus, just above it, perched like a gull on a cliff top was old point Loma lighthouse. It proudly displayed its glory of yester year. I eliminated all current day distractions as I tried to take the picture. I was wondering how I could make this different, and I realized it’s in the eye of the beholder. This is about the past and history of these sentinels, their location and isolation. These structures housed men and women with their families and together guided vessels through treacherous waters to safety.

From my high precipice, I was able take in some wonderful vistas of the city and the naval planes landing and taking off from the naval complex in Coronado. After spending my time shooting in Old Point Loma, I had my first look at what is considered to be New Point Loma, from the heights of the Old lighthouse. I took a number of shots from this location before moving on to investigate the remaining surrounding area. Just before we left the park, we dropped by the visitor center, it contains a gift store and a small theater showing movies about the history of the area.

We drove down to the new Point Loma lighthouse, the Lighthouse area is not accessible because its still controlled by the Coast Guard. I had to overcome the obstacle of the wired fence, to get my pictures; it definitely appeared to be scenic as it was surrounded by tall palm trees. I did not spend too long here as my options where limited. So I took a few more pictures of old Point Loma from below. I wondered what Lightkeeper Israel thought as he looked up at his former home. Did he miss his former home?.

I spent an hour on the beach area where the tide pools where, again my ignorance came to the forefront, and I had no clue what a tide pool is, yet lots of people where on the beach poking between the clefts of the rocks. I headed back to the MDX, where Jean was busy playing her Sudoku. We drove back to San Diego, spent the remainder of the day on the aircraft carrier Midway. That night it was dinner in the Gaslamp Quarter, Tratoria La Strada, followed by a nice relaxing stroll back to the Hotel in coolness of the evening. This is what vacations are about, at the end of the day being in a relaxed state of mind and tired. My day was full, and I was content to be with my wife.

Contemplation: Why do I take pictures of lighthouses, why spend a lot of time on the quest for the Journey towards the light. Its part spiritual and part a love for this country. I visualize the lighthouse as the Land of the USA, a beacon to the world lost in a foray of religious, political and environmental correctness. Alone and brave, constant in her efforts to protect those in trouble, oppressed by foreign regimes casting lightning bolts of hatred at those seeking liberty in a fog of despair; She weathers out the storms of troubled lands and peoples. Her lightkeepers are the founding fathers and her beacon the constitution upon which she stands. She is supported by those who are willing to stand alone against criticisms, to brave the storms, to make sure that guiding light still shines. They are not looking for government handouts and bailouts, at a cost they stand against the lashing waves of injustice and offer hope to those who are tossed about in a tumultuous sea of uncertainty.

On the spiritual side, it’s about Jesus; He said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness. He is the solid rock upon whom we stand. He takes the accusations made against us and bears them in His body. I see the tower of the Father, the Light of Jesus, and the oil of the Holy Spirit. In the keepers, His disciples, working tirelessly to make sure the light is kept burning. By prayer and fasting, is the oil primed, by self sacrifice is the beacon shined upon tossing waves, and faith of steadfastness is the tower strengthened against the storms. Father, Son and Holy Ghost all three working as one to rescue drowning men, to find lost souls, to guide the weak, and relive the oppressed, down through the centuries they have labored inspiring frail men to step into the fray and follow their Lord.

It’s such thoughts that follow me as I photograph lighthouses, such thoughts that cross my mind as I try to capture the essence of a life that is now gone, an era, that no longer exists. An era no one remembers anymore, and it was only yesterday.


The lofty position of the old Point Loma light, however, proved to be its eventual downfall as an aid to navigation. It was found that high fogs often obscured the light while the coast line just below was clearly visible.

1881, Pelican point was picked as the new site, but no funds were available to relocate the light from the old Point Loma.

1889 Congress appropriated $30,000 for reestablishment of the Point Loma light on Pelican Point the lower site.

1889, August 21, bids for the construction of the new lighthouse were opened, and work was soon begun.

1889: September, Building materials for the construction of 2 Victorian cottages arrive at the point.

1890: July 5, the 37 ½ tons of iron skeletal tower arrived in San Diego from Trenton, New Jersey. The tower was constructed by Phoenix Iron works of Trenton. The tower arrived at the point July 16th. Horse drawn wagons was used for the delivery,

1890: Aug, 25ft square, 14ft deep concrete structure was ready to receive the structure.

1890: Oct 20, the supplied lens was too large for the lantern room.

1891: Feb3, The replacement was a barrel-shaped optic that remains in Point Loma’s tower today – a 3rd order Fresnel lens – arrived from San Francisco aboard the steamer Corona. It was hauled to the station on board an 8 horse drawn wagon. The cost was about $4000. It had 12 glass prism panels, which contained a bulls-eye. The lamp was kerosene with 3 concentric, tubular wicks; panes of red glass were suspended in front of every other lens panel, which gave it the red/white flash characteristic. 3 gallons of oil a night was used to power 60,000 candle power.

1891: Mar 23, the new light shone its beacon at a lower elevation, the final hour of the old Point Loma light was at hand, the old tower is extinguished. The community celebrated with a sailing party and a moonlight picnic.

1892: Jan, Israel career as lightkeeper ended. He is replaced by George Patrick Brennan. Brennan had 8 children, 5 boys and 3 girls. Cooking was done on coal stoves. Much excitement lies on the escapades of Brennan’s kids getting to the local schools, and the supplies coming onshore from the lighthousetender Madrono.

1909: Electric Cables were laid across San Diego Bay.

1911: Telephones installed.

1912: A new incandescent oil-vapor light is installed, it uses 1 gallon of oil to produce 120,000 candlepower of light. The red glass panes had been removed because of the weaker red flash, and the light’s characteristic changed from 1 red/white flash every 20 seconds to 1 white flash every 15 seconds.

1913: a fog signal is installed; it’s a compressed-air fog distress signal. Powered by oil engines, it made a 3-second blast followed by 17 seconds of silence, The engine house was constructed near the base of the light tower to protect the new apparatus, and a 3rd keeper was employed. His dwelling had been added to the light station the year before.

1924: Electricity requested for the lighthouse by the superintendent of lighthouses.

1926: Lighthouse wire for electricity.

1933: A 500 watt bulb was lit by electric current, 200,000 candlepower exhibited a 15 sec flash, 1.5 secs beam, followed by 13.5 secs of darkness. Fog signal was changed to a diaphone

1936: A radio beacon installed in the engine house, was synchronized with the diaphone to give bearings and distance during bad weather.

1973: Light is fully Automated, its modern optic is a VRB-25 Vega Beacon.

1997: November the lens stopped rotating. The chariot wheels had taken a beating over the years, and where now stopped to preserve them.

2002: Lens removed from the tower and placed in storage

2004: lens is restored and placed on display in Old Point Loma


San Diego History

National Park Service



1. The New Point Loma Lighthouse, Karen Wagner Scanlon, The Keeper's Log, Winter 2002.
2. California Lighthouse life,Wayne C Wheeler,United States Lighthouse society Arcdia,2006,pp 10
3. Lighthouses of the Pacific Coast,Elinor De Wire,Voyageur Press,2006,pp 36
4. Lighthouses of California,Bruce Roberts an Ray Jones,Globe Piquot Press,2005,pp12

5. Umbrella Guide to California Lighthouses, Sharlene and Ted Nelson, 1993. pp 11-13

Keywords: Point Loma Lighthouse, Pelican Point, Lighthouse, lighthouse pictures, California, directions, location, photographs, Journal, history, San Diego, LighthousesOfCalifornia, Sean O’Cairde
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