Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lighthouses,Pacific Coast

I found a little known ACE Hardware store on Tramway just south of Paseo Del Norte,here in the great city of Albuquerque NM USA. The people are very helpful and found the little plumbing fittings that I needed for the motor home, water expansion tank, I am installing, to prevent the little electric pump from having a nervous breakdown from cycling off and on every time the water faucet is turned on and off. Did I mention the shower goes hot and cool in sync with the cycles. That 'sick puppy' will be 'well' soon now. When I find a business that gives good attention to it's customers, I tend to brag them 'up' to everyone.
Since our return from Oregon and Washington, I have been thinking about the numerous Lighthouses built there in the late 1800's. All of them are interesting in their own way, some stand out for the location. Tillamook Rock, two miles offshore, is one rough place for a lighthouse. After it was decomissioned, it picked up the name of 'Terrible Tillie' The waves crashed over the top of it from time to time, no small feat due to the top being over 150 feet above the ocean. Big 'Rogue' waves are out there sometimes.
Another one along the Oregon Coast at Winchester Bay, I found fascinating to watch, was 'Umpqua' river Lighthouse in the Umpqua park we stayed one night. The lens is a First Order Fresnell installed in 1894. The distinction is the beautiful octagon with red and white colors it beams out to sea and into the surrounding forest as it turns on it's Chariot Wheel base. First order Fresnel lenses are capable of being seen over 20 miles out at sea, if positioned above 150 feet high. Umpqua lighthouse tower is 65 feet tall and on a hilltop 100 feet above the ocean. This is a must see, if anywhere near at nightfall or before dawn. Fresnel (pronounced FRAY-NEL named after the man in France, that invented the system in the early part of the 1800's) lenses are built of hand crafted prisms (hundreds of 'em) and weigh in the neighborhood of 2 thousand pounds or more. Some of them floated on a bed of mercury, and could be turned with one finger. Some were as tall as 12 feet and you could easily stand inside to clean the hundreds of prisms. The focusing power of the prisms was such that allmost all (over 70 percent) of the light from the burning wicks, (five or more) was concentrated in the beams. The oil was various depending on supply. Coal oil, Kerosene, Whale oil were common. Huge supplys were kept on hand due to the remoteness of these engineering marvels. Remember, there were no roads to most of them and supplys were months away. A certain type of person was required to maintain the light, and at times, the 'monster fog horn' which was boiler steam driven. 'Tillie' had no less than five lightkeepers on station with one on 'shore leave' at all times. Isolation was the 'curse' or to some a 'blessing'. The 101 highway was built in the 1930's. that was a long time to be isolated from 1894. Shipping along the Oregon coast was primarily to serve the logging industry. The light houses were the savior for thousands of ships trying to find the harbors at night or in storms or both at the same time. 'Tillie is south of the dangerous Columbia river 'BAR', where the, 'out flowing' Columbia river, meets the incoming Pacific Ocean tide. Wild to say the least. A monster storm, and the stakes were unreal as to survival of the ships. Today is still not perfect, even with all of the modern ships and navigation aids in place. Astoria Oregon has one of the best maritime museums I have seen. Good presentation of the facts of life along the coast. Thank the Engineers of years past for the marvels they accomplished in civilizing our nation. We tend to take so much for granted do we not?


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