Monday, November 23, 2009
During the summer of 1849, the Coast Survey, headed by Alexander D. Bache, set out along the unmarked West Coast to determine the most beneficial locations for lighthouses. The Umpqua River mouth was selected as one of only six sites in the Oregon territory, which included the modern day states of Oregon and Washington.
Many thought the Umpqua River area would become a major shipping center due to its abundance of "green gold," the pristine timber rapidly being harvested. The turbulent force with which the river collided with the ocean created a great hazard for ships, and a beacon marking the spot was greatly needed. In 1888, $50,000 was appropriated for the construction of the second Umpqua River lighthouse. This time, with lesson learned, it was built further inland on a headland above the mouth of the river. The site is the furthest away from a river or ocean of all the lighthouses along the Oregon coast. Construction lasted from 1891 to 1894. The new lighthouse, a sibling to Heceta Head, is a 65-foot tower which stands 165 feet above sea level. The tower, brick overlaid with cement plaster, is five feet thick at the base and tapers to 21 inches thick at the parapet.
Today the Fresnel light is still shining. The lighthouse is part of the Umpqua River State Park and is managed by Douglas County Parks, who host a museum in a nearby historic Coast Guard building and conduct tours of the tower during the summer months. In 2007, Senator Gordon Smith introduced a provision as part of the Coast Guard Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 that would facilitate alternative housing arrangements for Coast Guard personnel allowing the area surrounding the Umpqua River Lighthouse to be converted into a county park.
The following was submitted by Ryan J. Cunningham:
UMPQUA RIVER LIGHTHOUSE
It was the beginning of a prosperous time,
On the Umpqua River in 1849.
Long ago in days of old,
The timber industry began, known as “Green Gold.”
A lighthouse was needed to light the way,
Along the river, into the bay.
In the year of 1856, construction began.
But it was being built on the Indians hunting land.
So they stole the workers tools each day,
Causing their progress to be delayed.
A blast of dynamite scared the Indians away,
And soon all the tools were found.
Finally finishing the Cape Cod style duplex,
a task which proved to be complex.
The Lighthouse Keeper’s family moved into the place,
And the Keeper climbed the spiral staircase.
With its brilliant, red glow shining bright,
Leading ships out of the darkness, into the light.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Standing on a bald rocky headland with a precipitious cliff on the east side, and a sheer drop of approximately 100 metres, Cape Byron Lighthouse is the most easterly light in Australia, and one of the most powerful. The tower is constructed from concrete blocks made on the ground, lifted and cemented into position and finally cement rendered inside and out. This technique saved erecting framework. The eight ton optical lens was made by the French company, Societe des Establishment, Henry Lepante, Paris.
It is a dioptric first-order bivalve double flashing lens and contains 760 pieces of highly polished prismatic glass. The lens revolves on a bath of 7cwt mercury. The original illuminant was a concentric six-wick kerosene burner. This was replaced in 1922 by a vaporised kerosene mantle burner, which increased the intensity from 145,000 cp to 500,000 cp. In 1956, the light was converted to mains electricity increasing the intensity to 2,200,000 cd. The original lens weight driven mechanism, which works on a similar principle as that of a grandfather clock, was also replaced with an electric drive motor when the light was converted to electric operation. An auxiliary fixed red light is exhibited from the tower to cover Julian Rocks to the north.
The installation of the lighthouse was regarded as a great event in the district of Byron Bay. A banquet was arranged and special trains carried visitors from Lismore and Murwillumbah for the opening. The Premier of the day, the Hon. John See (later Sir John See), was accompanied by a number of his colleagues who left Sydney in the Government steamer 'Victoria'. However, bad weather prevented the vessel from arriving on time, and when the party should have been banqueting the steamer was some thirty miles away. She arrived in the bay just before midnight on 30 November 1901, but again, the weather made it impossible for the party to land until dawn.
The Lighthouse Opened
After landing, the party was informed that the banquet had taken place on the previous evening, and the necessary toast had been heartily drunk in the absence of the Premier and his party. Mr See, after making an acrobatic performance in landing, was cordially cheered, and later formally welcomed at the Great Northern Hotel. Interestingly, the lighthouse was christened with a rich and sumptuous vintage burgundy - not dashed against the tower to waste, but sipped by the ladies and legislators to compensate for having missed all the good things of the banquet held the night before.
Visit Cape Byron Headland Reserve page for more information.