One third of the way up the California coast from Mexico, the shoreline curves west and then makes an abrupt 90- degree tum north. Early on, this point of land - this cape, was tenned the Cape Hom of the Pacific. One 19th century marinei; sailing north in the relative calm of the Santa Barbara Channel, responded to a new seaman who thought the sailing conditions idyllic, "It may be fine now, but when we get north of Conception we'll catch hell!"
In terms of age Point Cabrillo Light Station is a mere youngster, having first been lit in June 1909. However, the location of the lighthouse on a fifty-foot bluff two miles north of Mendocino Village on the rugged coast of northern California is of great historic significance.
The decade of the 1850's could well be called the "Age of the Clipper". The Carrier Pigeon departed Boston on her maiden voyage January 28, 1853 and on the morning of June 6th she was sighted of Santa Cruz. The ship continued in a thick fog blanket concealing the shoreline. Believing he had verred far from shore, Captain Azariah Doane steered the vessel towards the coastline and then came the sound of splintering timbers as the ship's hull drifted into the grasp of the jagged sea bottom.
The scrub-covered summit of Point Loma rises 422 feet above the surf. And below, on a ten-acre slope at the fickle shore of America’s extreme southwestern edge, stands the “new” Point Loma Lighthouse. This working Coast Guard Light Station has been a crucial feature of San Diego’s landscape for over a century.
Scattered in a line seven miles long, the Farallon Islands lie 26 miles off San Francisco's Golden Gate. They comprise 120 acres of granite sculptured by wind and waves into inlets, ridges, stacks and cliffs that descend precipitously to the sea. In early 1853 the ship Oriole dropped anchor in Tower Bay (now Fishermen's Bay) to begin consturction of the first of eight lighthouses along the Pacific Coast.
Much of East Brother Lighthouse has been restored to its early-day appearance and function. A giant cistern still stores rainwater for use on the island. Victorian- style trim decorates the outside of the dwelling and tower. And the mighty diaphone fog signal, installed in 1934, roars back to life to the thrill of visitors. Guests can even stay overnight, dining and sleeping where the different lightkeepers lived for nearly one hundred years.
The Anacapa Light Station, off southern California, was one of the last classical light stations constructed on the west coast. In 1854, members of the U. S. Coast Survey visited the island and reported that it was an ideal, but impossible site, on which to construct a light station, “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 ...”
GOLD! was the cry shouted at Sutter's Mill in 1849 and hundreds of sailing ships were pressed into service to transport the 49'ers from the east coast to California. Many, far too many, of those ships came to grief on the rocks of the dark and fog shrouded coast. The U.S. Lighthouse Service successfully petitioned Congress to construct lighthouses along the west coast. When the contract was awarded it called for seven lighthouses to be built including Alcatraz.