Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Light In The Dark

Lighthouses and the stories of the keepers of the light from years long past fascinate me! I would love to visit every lighthouse on the west coast of the U.S. - perhaps I will! On our recent trip to the Oregon Coast my sweetheart and I took a short drive to visit a lighthouse nearby.

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


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. sorry, but my english is not good. Your pics are beautiful, the laight in the darknees is Really an inspiration.

  3. I love lighthouses too, we have quite a few nice ones here in Michigan!

  4. We've visited lighthouses in MN, MI,WI and along the Outer Banks. Enjoyed each of them!

    My friend has seen all the lighthouses along the west coast. She's been to several all around the waterways of the US. They used to plan trips around lighthouses.

    The photos are beautiful.


  5. What a beautiful lighthouse! And GREAT pictures! I really enjoyed reading this. : )

  6. Adrienne
    Kathy @ melodies and hymnsongs told my about your posting so I had to drop by and see your lighthouse posting...
    come visit me at listen to grammie

  7. This is one of my favorite lighthouses on the Oregon Coast.

  8. I love lighthouses! Great post!


I am grateful that you stopped by to visit me. Your kind and gracious comments are appreciated and treasured.