Sunday, November 6, 2011


Location:Anacapa Island, Santa Barbara Channel, California
Directions:The station is located on East Anacapa Island, part of the Channel Islands National Park. Tours are available -
Island Packers, operating out of Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, is an authorized concessionaire to Anacapa Island and Channel Islands National Park

call them at (805) 642-1393. 
Year first lit:1912
Active: YES
Deactivated: No
Automated: 1968
Keepers dwelling: 1932 4 x 1 Stories,l Style: SPANISH REVIVAL Materials: WOOD
Construction:Brick & Concrete
Tower shape: Cylindrical, White and Black Trim
Tower Height:40 ft
Focal plane: 277ft 
Original lens: 3rd Order Fresnel (1932) On Display in the Visitors center
Current lens: DCB-24 (1991), 2 white flashes every 60s, separated by 15 s
Fog Signal: : HORN/ORIG. DIAPHONE a diaphragm-type horn,
Characteristic: one 2 s blst then is silent for 2 s, blsts again for 2 s and then completes the cycle with 14 s of silence during low visibility.
Admiralty number:G3940
ARLHS number: USA-012
USCG number: 6-0185
National Register Status: LISTED: ANACAPA LIGHTHOUSE



6:00 A.m., I awake sore and tired, my lily white skin burnt from the day before. I packed everything in my car making sure nothing is left behind. My stay at motel 6 was Okay, very comfortable. 7:20 a.m., I am on the road to Oxnard to catch my boat; I made my way to harbor Blvd. I arrived with plenty of time to spare, so I had breakfast at the latitude 34 cafĂ©, it was quaint in a way, nobody on the marina and the sun was shining. I relaxed in the glow of a morning light, feeling this was the life to live. Filled my flask with coffee, made sure I had plenty of water, and of course a few sandwiches and lastly checked my cameras, I was set for the journey. I waited for the island packers’ office to open.
The trip to island was fun, It was approximately an hour each way, waters calm and the skies where a deep blue go to see some blue whales in the distance, dolphins came close to the boat, and a few pelicans. We came close to an oil rig between the mainland and the islands. As we came closer to Anacapa, the views where amazing, the lighthouse was perched atop a cliff looking proudly out to sea. The boat, Vanguard pulled into the Island Harbor and we disembarked. It was a steep climb up the stairs, 154 steps to the top of the Island. I slowly plodded my way up, not too anxious to be the first to be at the top. And then hike a few miles to the visitors’ center.
We camped out at the visitor’s center and had some refreshments. We now had 2-3 hrs to tour the Island or do our own thing. I noticed the ice plant covered a lot of the island, this was also at other lighthouses, Piedras Blancas had done a great Job at removing it, and so did San Luis Obispo. It's from South Africa, and was introduced to control land erosion. The Ice Plant overran light stations grounds so much that the NPS and LH Volunteer groups enlisted the services of high school students to hand pluck them.
 Our docent was quite vocal as she bellowed out her instructions. She gave some safety tips, one being not pick up things and bring them back to the mainland, as they could carry the Hantavirus. Our group was a motley one varying in all ages, genders and nationalities and personal fitness. It was amazing to see so many sea gulls; it was breeding season for the Western Gulls, it reminded me of the Alfred Hitchcock Movie “Bird”, this place is a sanctuary for the winged beasts. I called them beasts as I had to hit the dirt several times as they flew so close. The docent had given us some advice “The gulls can get agitated and often will  swoop down like a kamikaze plane on people, to protect oneself, hold up a closed fist for the gulls to hit, and not your head!”.
Our docent led us on a hike around the Island, we headed west, she stopped every so often to explain the habitat and give us a little folklore about the Chumash Indians and their gods. As we trekked to the remote regions of the Islands, the Vistas became more and more breathtaking. We eventually came to Inspiration Point. The view was from high cliffs that opened out to the strait that separated East Anacapa from Middle Anacapa, East Anacapa is a sanctuary for Pelicans. Our weather was great and so was the clarity of our views, we could easily see the other Islands from our vantage point.
I made my way to the base of the lighthouse, surrounded on all sides by gulls, walking the marked trails; I was always within a few feet gulls sitting on their eggs. They won't attack if you stay on the trail, but they complain incessantly with loud squawking racket that's difficult to illustrate.
 It felt so eerily uncomfortable. Hard to put into words, but deep inside us we have an innate fear of the unfamiliar and when you find yourself surround by thousands of birds and no one else in sight those fears can rise suddenly. At the base of the lighthouse, there is a caution sign preventing you from getting closer, unless I could get inside there was no purpose in disobeying the sign. I had my pictures so I headed back to the visitors center. There I was able to photograph the Fresnel lens.
I learnt that the Island is powered primarily with solar powered panels and backed up with a diesel engine. Water is pumped from the base of the island to a storage tower that looks like a church. The building was made to look like a church to stop people from taking potshots at the water storage tower. The park rangers brought their drinking water unto the island when they are doing their tour of duty, 8 days on, and 8 days off. I am sure the constant sound of the horn and the birds is enough to drive anyone crazy; every 12 seconds the foghorn blares out its signal for 2 seconds, the sound goes on for 24hrs a day. Gladly while I was on the Island the foghorn was silent.
Finally we came to the end of the day, back to the boat for the return trip. One final look at the Island as set out on our departing journey. We made a quick stop in a cove to look at some sea lions, I was tired, I used my point & shoot for my last shots, I was too lazy to retrieve my dslr’s; my mind was already prepared for the long journey home. The remainder of the boat journey was uneventful, until we arrived near the harbor; a fishing boat arrived alongside us with a shark on the rear of the boat, they had just caught. Now that was a climatic finish to a great day.


1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered the Channel Islands, Anacapa being one the group.  The Anacapa ("Mirage Island") islands, a chain of 3 islets extending four and a half miles from east to west, 12 miles off the California coast and in the Santa Barbara Channel, coupled by reefs that appear at low tide. The islands are named East, Middle and West Islands. West Island, the largest island of this group, is 2 miles long (3km) by 6/10ths of a mile wide, and its highest point is 930 feet (280 m). The length of the Middle Island is 1 & 1/2 miles; its breath is 1/4 of a mile with its highest point being 325 feet (99 m). The length of East Island is 1 mile (1.6 km); its breath is 1/4 of a mile with its highest point being 250 feet (76 m). At the east end of East Island is a 40 foot-high natural bridge, called Arch Rock, Arch Rock is a trademark for Anacapa and Channel Islands National Park. The perimeter of the island is made of steep sea cliffs. Concealed in the cliffs are lava tubes and air pockets, signifying the origin of the islands being volcanic. Most of the features are sea caves and attention-grabbing points of discovery for kayakers.

1769, Spanish explorer Gaspar De Portola names the islands "Las Mesitas" meaning Little Tables.

1793 Captain George Vancouver renamed the islands Anacapa, derived from the Chumash Indian word, "Eneeapha".

1853 December 2 At 11 p.m. , the side-wheel steamer Winfield Scott, on the way from San Francisco to Panama, beached on Middle Anacapa Island in soup thick fog. Abruptly waking its passengers, many en route from the California gold fields, they scrambled to save both themselves and their gold, amazingly, no lives were lost. The passengers made it safely to shore in lifeboats. Following the wreck it was “every one was for himself, with no thought of anything but saving his life and his (gold) dust.” The passengers were stranded and rescued after several weeks. The Winfield Scott was a total loss; today its remains lie sunken just north of the island.

1854, the scandal of the grounding provoked President Franklin Pierce to issue an executive order reserving Anacapa for lighthouse purposes. The U.S. Coast guard Survey recognized the need for a light at Anacapa Island, but believed that it was impractical to build a lighthouse on the rugged volcanic rock. The report said “it is inconceivable for a lighthouse to be constructed on this mass of volcanic rock - perpendicular on every face, with an ascent inaccessible by any natural means." James Whistler, who later became famous for his painting of his mother, was part of the survey team and produced an etching showing the profile of the eastern extremity of Anacapa Island.

1854 September 11, Executive order reserved 700 acres for government purposes.

1868, The Lighthouse Board requested funds for a lighthouse on Anacapa island.

1874, a lighthouse was eventually built, at Point Hueneme instead of Anacapa Island. Point Hueneme was the nearest point on the mainland to Anacapa Island.

1909, Lighthouse board report “Anacapa island is one of the most difficult points on the Southern California coast to pass in foggy or otherwise thick weather and is regarded as the most important point for a light station on any of the Channel Islands It is estimated that a light and fog signal station can be established here for $100,000, and the Board recommends that an appropriation of that amount be made therefore.”

1910, bureau of Lighthouse takes over from the Lighthouse board

1911 The increase of shipping traffic, increased ships lost near Anacapa, this put pressure on the lighthouse board to place a light on Anacapa Island. Congress was unwilling to fund $100,000; The Lighthouse Board estimated cost for the light station, so in its place they erected a 50 foot skeletal tower housing an unattended acetylene lens lantern, the light display a lashing white light every 15 seconds, its focal plane was 185 ft above sea level, the light required service 2 times a year.  In addition a whistling buoy was anchored 5/8ths of a mile off the east end of the Anacapa Island.  This setup served as a guiding beacon for sailing vessels until 1932. 

1921 February 28, This solution proved insufficient, the steamer Liebre ran aground directly below the acetylene light and had damages totaling $40,000. The whistling buoy had capsized and was not operational; it was suspected that the disaster occurred on a foggy night. It was estimated 90% of ships trading on the Pacific Coast moved inside the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, the American Association of Masters, Mates and Pilots petitioned for a fog signal station on Anacapa Island. Anacapa would be the last major light station built on the west coast, and funds were finally allocated.

1928, bureau of Lighthouses allocated funds for a fog signal and radio beacon on Anacapa,est cost for light station $186,000

1929 Construction of a lighthouse began on East Anacapa. However, Roth construction company first awarded the contract to construct the light proved incapable of doing the job

1930 A new contract was awarded, and work began anew, starting in the spring. First a landing dock, 2 gasoline powered hoisting cranes - one 55 feet above sea level, the other at the top of the cliff, and roads were constructed and then work began on the light station buildings. The cranes served to transport supplies to the island. Materials were shuttled from the ship to the landing dock and from the landing dock to the top of the cliff. At the eastern end of the Island, near the highest point,248 ft above sea level, a 39 (12 m) foot
cylindrical tower housed a 3rd order Fresnel lens, manufactured in England by Chance Brothers, and a fog signal building was built. The keepers’ quarters were 4 large Spanish-style, white stucco houses with red tile roofs. A large cement catchment basin fed rainwater into 2 x 50,000-gallons, redwood water storage tanks situated on the hill behind the keepers’ quarters. Regrettably the annual rainfall of 8 inches was common for this dry environment and provided about 30,000 gallons of water, the tender that called to the cove had to provide the remaining water, and this had to be pumped to the tanks. A building called the “church,” had to provide protection for the tanks. The water tanks, often where the targets of boaters and their rifles. Fuel was stored in 3 x 2000 gallon tanks

1932 March 25, Keeper Frederick Cobb lit the lamp, the light from Anacapa beamed out on the Pacific Coast. The light from the tower’s Fresnel lens, equipped with 3 flash panels had characteristic, a 1/10th  second of white light, 11.9 seconds of darkness, A 1/10th  second of white light, 11.9 seconds of darkness, 1/10th  second of  white light, 35. 9 seconds of darkness. The foghorn, a two tone diaphragm-type horn, groans one 3 second blast every 27 seconds. Electronic equipment sends out a continual radio beacon signal with a range of 12 miles (19 km). 

1933 The stations fog signal - had a characteristic like nearby Point Hueneme. The SS Lightburne mistook the Point Hueneme signal for Anacapa Island - providentially the fog lifted just in time for the ship to steer clear of disaster. Point Huenene, the fog signal characteristic was altered.

Anacapa’s radiant light beacon, 1.1 million candlepower, bellowing foghorn and beeping radio signal have guided ships safely through the coastal channel since 1932

1934, Life on the high cliff proved to be hazardous. The assistant keeper Rex Coursey's wife was badly injured in a fall. The station radioed for help, and the battleship USS California responded. A boat from the battleship took the woman to shore, where she was treated and recovered. . A keeper lost his life falling from one of the station's platforms. Arriving on the island was no easy chore - a small boat was hoisted by crane up to the lower platform and placed in a cradle. One keeper and his wife had their boat stuck dangling in the air as the derrick broke down in mid operation,

1938, Channel Islands where declared to be a National Monument by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

1942, The lighthouse extinguished and the navy took control of the coast guard 

1950's Light-keeper James W.Baker recalled that there were many rats on Anacapa Island, they had come from a wrecked Spanish Galleon  in the 1700's "We had rat alerts, similar to general quarters, where we found long tailed critters in the residences. They where large and display a nasty temper when cornered". The rats were well fed from the sea gull eggs and found shelter in the in the dwellings when the lighthouse was constructed in 1912. baker recalled a night owl screeching and when he went to investigate he saw the owl flying away with a rat clasped in its claws. The rats terrified the residents of the Island.

1951, TV had come to the Island

1956 March, the residents on the Island where 3 couples and 5 bachelors, each of the couples had their own residences and the 5 bachelors shared a 4th house. The wife of Larry Boylan, Officer in Charge, Lois, stated life on the island wasn't as lonesome as people thought. Women "would gab over the phone just like the girls on the mainland" although their quarters where in close proximity to each other, women could lean out their windows and talk back and forth. Living in seclusion appeared to have a health advantage, Boylans 2 children where never sick since they moved to the island.

1961, The replaced the fog signal with an electrical appliance

1962, an aerobeacon has replaced the Fresnel lens A plan was proposed to convert Anacapa Island Station to unattended operation and remove the Coast Guard's personnel. The reason for the change was the weekly test firing of missiles from Point Mugu; it was mandatory for the island residents to stay several hours in a shelter during tests.

1967 May, The Coast Guard razed 3 of the 4 houses

1968, the remaining house along with several other buildings were slated for demolition in the fall, September 24, Donald M. Robinson Superintendent of the Channel Islands National Monument placed a phone call to the Coast Guard. Robinson informed the Coast Guard that the National Park Service was interested in placing persons on the island and would like to keep the remaining facilities.

1968 December, The light station was automated.

1970 , the Coast Guard signed A joint agreement with the National Park Service, the Coast Guard would maintain  the light and fog signal, the park service would take care of all other structures.

1980, Congress designated 5 of the 8 Channel Islands, Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara Islands, and 50,500 hectares (125,000 acres) (510 km2) of submerged lands as Channel Islands National Park. Known today as the "Northern Galapagos Islands", contains a large variety of Mother Nature's multihued and fascinating plant life and creatures, over 250 species of plants and seabirds, the largest Brown Pelican rookery in the USA. 7 other species of marine birds nest here, including the Western Gull, as well as 22 species of land birds. 90 per cent of the Western Gulls in Southern California were born on Anacapa. This isle is a migration ground for many other birds. Harbor seals and sea lions breed on its rocky beaches

 The lighthouse is still an active aid to navigation.

1989, the 3rd-order Fresnel lens, was removed from the tower in and placed on display in the Anacapa Island Visitor Center, formerly the station's service building.  A solar powered acrlic lens.

2001 Visitors to Anacapa Island today can see the lighthouse, fog signal building, one of the original keeper's dwellings, the water storage building, the powerhouse, and James W. Baker served on Anacapa Island for almost a year and a half starting in February of 1956. After an absence of more than forty years, he returned to the island with his wife in 2001 to view the old station. Baker's admiration and affection for the Fresnel lens used in the Anacapa Lighthouse are evidenced in the following lines he composed after his visit. "The multifaceted crystal lenses, bound in polished brass, are still among man’s most beautiful creations. A static display of a lighthouse lens in a museum, however, is similar to viewing an animal in a zoo. Once removed from its natural habitat it’s never quite the same. I get chills remembering foggy nights when the sweep of the powerful light flashed through the mist, illuminating a small part of the sky."


  • Umbrella Guide to California Lighthouses, Nelson
  • California Lighthouse Life in the 1920s and 1930s, Wheeler
  • California Light Stations and Other Aids to Navigation c.1950, Mattson and Thowy, California Lighthouses, Roberts and Jones
  • Keeper's Log, Summer 2002,
  • Lighthouse Digest August 2005
  • Channel Islands, Charles Hillinger, 1998.
 Anacapa  Lighthouse, Lighthouse, lighthouse pictures, Anacapa Island, Anacapa, California, photographs, Journal, history, LighthousesOfCalifornia, Sean O’Cairde

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