Friday, January 12, 2018

Old Point Loma Lighthouse

 Can you imagine a time when a traffic jam was caused by a herd of loose cows roaming the dusty streets of town? What about imagining a time when our blue skies weren't polluted with thundering aircraft full of business executives and tourists and if you wanted to see Europe it would take weeks rather than hours? Well it happened, and not that long ago if you think about it. Back then we put our lives in the skilled hands of sailors instead of tiny computing devices loaded with sensors and silicon. But even the most seasoned sailor needed help navigating the seas. One bad decision or a miscalculation would lead to a disaster that would lead to deaths and lost cargo. So how did sailors of old avoid these dangerous coastlines? Ah, you already know the answer. They used lighthouses.
  I could go in to some boring historical recounting of how the concept of lighthouses grew from large bonfires to the towering structures we see today, but that would be boring. Instead, I'll tell you how I became interested in them. It's a quick, simple and most of all, strange story.
  I grew up in Utah. We don't have lighthouses there and I've never been a big fan of playing in the water so lighthouses were just something you learn about and file away in the deep memory banks of the brain. A thought to recall later while flipping through travel magazines or during dull conversation with old friends over dinner. Then I happened to catch an episode of Ghost Hunters when they investigated the St. Augustine lighthouse in Florida. They captured some very compelling evidence of paranormal activity while there and I've wanted to visit St Augustine ever since. Yup, it was those damned ghosts that hooked me. Every time! Yes, I know that not all lighthouses have ghosts. They are, however, old structures with plenty of history, another subject that tends to reel me in. This is how we ended up at a lighthouse in San Diego.
 Old Point Loma Lighthouse stands in a prime location 422 feet above San Diego harbor and was first lit up in November of 1855. However, the location turned out to not be quite as perfect as originally thought thanks to low clouds and fog. The light would be obscured thanks to mother nature and the keeper would actually have to fire a shotgun to warn off ships because there was no fog horn. The Old Point Loma lighthouse would stay in service for only thirty six years before it was replaced by the "New" Point Loma lighthouse but today it serves as a memory of the past for today's generations to enjoy. 
  The lighthouse has been restored to represent it's glory days during the 1880's. The small, humble living quarters probably seem claustrophobic to many of today's kids but I could imagine living there comfortably. You would have unobstructed views of sunrises and sunsets from here and looking down on the ships cruising into the harbor may never get old. The commute into town would be a pain though.
Old Point Loma Lighthouse stands over the harbor.
 The lighthouse is now within the borders of Cabrillo National Monument and is controlled by the National Park Service. We arrived late in the afternoon after a failed whale watching tour. The park closes at 5:00 pm, which left us and the other forty late comers, only an hour to explore the area. Most of that hour was spent in the lighthouse because that is what I came to see but I wish I'd had just a little more time. The very narrow stairs leading to the top of the lighthouse were lined with people trying to catch a glimpse of the top. Unfortunately you can't get all the way to the top on most days, but I've learned that on special occasions they open it up to the public. I'm not sure whether that would be worth fighting the crowds to see or not, especially when they have a replica of the Fresnel lens in the out building adjacent to the lighthouse. I think I get the idea.
A Fresnel lens helps amplify it's light source.
 The Old Point Loma lighthouse may not stand as tall as other lighthouses in the United States and it doesn't have a tragic backstory, but it is no less interesting to visit. Like all historic buildings, the lighthouse is a direct reflection of those that came before us and represents a simpler time when we didn't need to be glued to tiny electronic devices. This was just the first lighthouse of many that I plan to explore over time and I think it was a good one to start with. Of course, my cross hairs are still on St. Augustine, Florida. Oh, wait! Did I mention that I'll be traveling to Florida this year? Hmm, I may just have to ditch old Mickey Mouse for something a little more...spooky. Only time will tell.


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