Cape Meares, near Tillamook, Oregon, named after Captain John Meares who first charted it in 1788, was 'deemed' an ideal sight for a lighthouse. Easily seen from the sea, the outer point is below fog line, making the light visible during conditions when it is most needed. The lighthouse served from 1890 until it was replaced by an automated beacon in 1963. (See the brass hand-holds between each pane of glass? The lightkeeper held on to them when it was necessary to work from the outside walk during storms. A passing seagull is reflected in glass.)
Cape Meares lighthouse was tended by three keepers: an appointed keeper and a first and second assistant. The main tasks were to keep the light burning from sunset to sunrise and to maintain the equipment. Among the main daily tasks done by the keeper and his first assistant were: 1) clean and polish the lenses to prevent pitting from salt spray; 2) trim or replace the large wicks; 3) filter the kerosene; and 4) fill the lamp. Kerosene was strained many times, using fine silk for the final filtering. The second assistant swept, dusted and cleaned the inside of the building. Keepers wore linen aprons to keep from scratching the lens with their coarse clothing.
The French hand-ground Fresnel lens at Cape Meares is one of only two eight-sided lights in the United States - the other is in Hawaii. Keepers were given detailed instructions for maintaining the masterpiece.Shaped like a giant beehive, the outer surface of the lens is made of prisms that bend the light into a narrow beam. The beam then passes through a magnifying lens at the center of each side that intensifies it, producing a brilliant sheet of light visible for 21 miles. The original light was a heavy bronze five-wick kerosene lantern that was turned by weights and pulleys. Four sides of this eight-sided lens were covered with red glass which produced an alternating red and white beam as the light turned. The Cape Meares light, weighing one ton, is of the "first order," the largest of seven lens sizes.This little window looking seaward is the only one in the lighthouse. It intrigued me - I wondered what was on the inside. Who sat beside it and watched the sea beyond the edge of the bluff and the rocks below? What was their life really like? Were they ever afraid? What incredible stories would they tell? I'll never know the answers to my questions but I will remember the small lighthouse with the big lens that warned captains and sailors of the perils nearby.
Information courtesy of State of Oregon Parks Department