stations”—only men allowed. One was the station unaf- fectionately known as “Terrible Tilly,” Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. The station is indeed built on a rock, an austere outcrop of basalt marooned within sight of—but quite far from—the Oregon shore. Even when viewed from the shore in spring sunshine—as we did—the light- house looks foreboding, and the winter storms on the rock are legendary. There is a story of how one group of four keepers was so affected by the constant onslaught that they resorted to passing notes across the dinner table in place of speaking.
keepers draped a cloth over the lens during the day.
Still, careful precautions were not always enough to prevent mishaps, and the consequences of fire in such an isolated location could be tragic. De Wire tells the story of Albert Joost who inadvertently started a fire while working on repairs at the Southampton Shoal Lighthouse. His clothes caught fire, and he was horribly and mortally injured. Before Joost was evacuated to the hospital, his final words to his terrified wife were to light the beacon at sunset and look after the station.
Along with loneliness and storms, another ever-present threat was fire. There are many examples of lighthouses catching fire, particularly in the days when oil was used to fuel the lanterns. The hundreds of prisms in the lighthouse lenses also had the potential to start a fire, much like a magnifying glass lighting tinder. For that reason, cautious
Reversal of Mission One of the northernmost lighthouses on the West Coast offering accommodation is Point No Point, in Wash- ington. The lighthouse is on Puget Sound, a short drive north of Seattle. Sea lions swim just meters from the beach by the lighthouse, and the winds must make it an
A e r c h e d o n a h e a d l a n d n o r t h o f t h e t o w n o f F l o r e n c e , O r e g o n , t h i s a i t b o a s t s powerful first-order lens v to its origin isible up to 40 km out to sea. a
San Francisco to Puget Sound north of Seattle
lens. One of the keeper’s most important responsibilities would be getting up in the night to reset the mechanism. There are stories of drowsy (or possibly bibulous) keepers positioning their cot directly below the descending weight.A solid nudge in the chest would get them up to keep the light rotating.
Since the lenses were expensive and utterly essential to a l i g h t h o u s e ’ s o p e r a t i o n , e x t r e m e c a r e w a s t a k e n o v e r t h e i maintenance. Before electric bulbs replaced oil lanterns, remov- ing smoke and grime from the lens was a never-ending task. Keepers would remove rings and other metal objects to avoid accidentally chipping the glass during cleaning. r
Although glass lenses are no longer made, Fresnel’s technol- ogy is still very much in use. Modern automated lights still have Fresnel lenses but are made from sturdy plastic, and with mini- mal maintenance they provide the same brilliant performance. Smaller Fresnel lenses can be found in a myriad of everyday ap- plications: overhead projectors, traf ic lights, stage lights, camera focusing systems and bicycle lights. Fresnel lenses are even used in solar generation to concentrate light onto solar panels.