24.000 x 18.000 inches
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Olympic Coast Sentinel
Painting - Watercolor
North Head Lighthouse
Olympic Coast of Washington State, Pacific Northwest
North Head, that is actually the extreme western knob of Cape Disappointment, is the site of a prominent lighthouse. North Head Lighthouse was commissioned in 1898, a regal 65-foot masonry tower standing 174 feet above the ocean. Its placement so close to Cape Disappointment Light it may be perplexing to the viewer. The contour of the land necessitates the presence of both beacons. The establishment of North Head came about because of the growing number of shipwrecks along the North Beach (Long Beach) Peninsula.
C.W. Leick, was the architect and engineer in the creation of the lighthouse. The structure has a sandstone base tapering upward with several courses of brick masonry and a cement plaster overlay. The tower was originally equipped with a first-order Fresnel lens taken from the nearby Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. When the Coast Guard took over the Lighthouse Service in 1939, a fourth- order, American made, McBeth-Evans, double-bullseye, prismatic lens was placed in the lantern. That lens was replaced by a Crous-Hinds beacon in 1961. On July 1, 1961 automation came to the station and attendants were removed for other duty. In 1984 it was restored to mint condition. Until the light was automated in 1961, keepers entered the tower through a small workroom that was edged with mosaic tile. Today this practical but handsome room still has the original desk and wood- burning stove. The station�s two dwellings are now occupied by Fort Canby State Park personnel. When accompanied by guides, visitors are allowed to climb the sixty-nine steps to the top of the tower. The enormous lens that once crowned the tower is a prime attraction at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Fort Canby State Park.
North Head is said to be the third windiest spot in the nation. Winds blast across the peninsula at speeds clocked at up to 150 miles per hour. Trees, chimneys, and fences have been flattened by these gale force winds. With the wind in mind, builders fixed handrails to the lantern-room window frames so the keepers could grasp them firmly while cleaning the glass. The gloom of winter once overcame the wife of a lighthouse keeper there, and she committed suicide by hurling herself off the precipitous cliff near the tower. In 1932 a wild duck blown off course and out of control by the wind slammed into the lantern, shattering a window and even chipping prisms in the lens.
North Beach Peninsula extends northward from North Head, an unusual finger-like barrier of sand bordered on one side by the Pacific and on the other by Willapa Bay. From Cape Disappointment to Willapa Bay is a straight 22 mile stretch of beach, one of the longest of its kind on the Pacific Coast. Its fringes and outer shoals are littered with the bones of wrecked ships. North Head Light stands like a monument over the graveyard of ships that spreads out below its lofty perch, its powerful revolving beacon warning of the existing danger zone.
Pacific Northwest Artist: James R. Williamson
January 17th, 2012
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