Keeping Lens Bright
Our Modern Lightkeepers

The phrase Lighthouse keeper conjures a romantic image of stalwart men and women braving storms and a solitary life in remote outposts. There are still many lighthouses in operation today, but the transistorized "NAVAIDE" panel, automated lamp changers, and other electronic innovations, have made the profession of lightkeeper virtually obsolete.

At the Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park, lightkeeping is making a come back. Since the return of the Fresnel lens to service in 1999, the volunteer lightkeepers from Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 87 have been trained to perform maintenance on both the lens and lantern room.

Reviving the Fresnel as a modern, automated light was no easy matter. It had to be made as reliable as the DCB (airport beacon), which had replaced the Fresnel in 1972. Advanced technical support is provided as needed by the US Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team. The Point Cabrillo Light House  combines 19th century technology with the sophisticated electronics of today, and was nurtured to fruition by the lightkeepers' finest attributes: a passion for detail, creative problem solving, and copious elbow grease.

The restored Fresnel has operated reliably since 1999. It's only a little finicky, requiring, as it did in the past, some human care and attention to keep it happy. Every week, the protective storm window panes of the lantern room are checked and cleaned, surfaces dusted, and brass polished. Quarterly, the lens is shut down for a complete mechanical check and a thorough cleaning.

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