Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Historic Reports from Cape Mendocino

We've been doing deep research for our forthcoming California & Hawaii Lighthouses map. And what we found makes for interesting reading (at least we think so!) 100+ years later.

All spelling sic; some paragraph breaks were added for legibility.

From the 1868 U.S. Treasury Report:
Cape Mendocino.—The iron light-house and the keeper's dwelling for this station were completed in San Francisco in September, 1867; but the lens and lantern not arriving in time, the shipment of the tower, lantern and lens was delayed until July last, when they were shipped to Eureka, in Humboldt bay, about thirty miles to the northward of the cape, to avoid the difficulty and risk of landing them there. All the materials for the keeper's dwelling were shipped to the cape during August and September of 1867, a portion of them on board of sailing vessels, and some on board of the steam tender Shubrick. The wreck of that vessel and the probable loss of those materials were mentioned in the annual report of last year. The hull of the Shubrick has since been recovered, but the light-house materials were lost.

The nature of the ground at Cape Mendocino makes it difficult to secure a good foundation. The excavation for the foundation of the keeper's dwelling was made during the summer in ground as hard as rock, and. apparently of equal consistency and durability. In the rainy season, however, this ground becomes soft, and on many parts of the coast, near the cape, landslides have occurred. With these peculiarities in view, the site for the dwelling was chosen on the outcropping of a ledge of shale rock, a ditch was dug round the house, and the bank of the excavation sloped off. These precautions, it is believed, render the foundations secure; it is, however, proper to state that some inconsiderable cracks have appeared in the walls. Should they increase in size or number, it will become necessary to secure the walls by iron ties. The spot selected for the tower was on a projecting rocky ridge; but as that also becomes softer in winter, an excavation has been made two feet deeper than originally intended, and the space filled in to a depth of two feet, and a little larger in circumference than the bed-plate of the tower, with concrete. By the last advices it was expected that the tower would be finished in October of this year.

The dwelling is 29 by 31, with two additions for kitchens, 12 by 14, and is built of the best materials. The walls are of brick, with an air space between the roof covered with galvanized iron. In consequence of the great difficulty in landing materials on the open sea shore, the cost of transportation has exceeded that of the materials.

1869 Treasury Report:
Cape Mendocino.—As reported last year, the lantern for this light-house reached San Francisco in February, 1868, and after waiting until the 20th July for the lens, and it not arriving, it was decided to send the tower (manufactured in San Francisco) and lantern to the Cape, as it would take several months to transport them there and put them up, and it was hoped that the lens would meanwhile reach San Francisco. This occurred, and on August 5 the lens was shipped to the Cape.

From the experience of the previous year in landing materials at the Cape, and the serious delay and expense that would have to be incurred should any part of the iron work or lens apparatus be lost or broken in landing, it was determined to ship all the materials for the tower together with the lantern and illuminating apparatus, to Eureka, Humboldt Bay, and to transport them by wagons to the Cape, some forty miles distant. In November everything was ready, for the exhibition of the light, and after proper notice it was shown for the first time on the night of December 1, 1868, and this important and very difficult work was considered as completed.

During the winter of 1867-68, immediately after the completion of the dwelling-house, several small cracks appeared in the walls, showing that the structure had not settled uniformly; but no new cracks have since been developed, and no fears are entertained regarding the stability of the building. When the light house was about to be commenced, the rocky slope on which it was to be built had to be made level to receive the concrete of the foundation. In summer this rock is very hard, but in winter it absorbs water to such an extent as to become soft; so much so, in localities not far distant, that masses of the steep bluffs sometimes slide off into the sea. It is possible that such a slide on a small scale might occur on the steep bank just above the tower, which was left in making the excavation.

As a proper precaution it is deemed advisable to slope the earth or rock above the tower to a more gentle inclination, and to cover this grade with a bed of concrete of sufficient thickness, and about twenty-five feet in width on each side of the center of the tower, with a large drain at the top and a smaller one at the bottom, by which means all the water from the mountain side, the summit of which is nine hundred feet above the tower, will be diverted to the right and left before reaching the tower, and the foundation thus protected. The materials required to do this have been shipped to the Cape.

When the dwelling house at this place was built, brick for the purpose, including a sufficient number for two cisterns, were shipped from San Francisco. In consequence of the inclemency of the weather, a small portion were not landed, and therefore the cisterns were not built. At the time this was considered of but little importance, because there was a spring near the house where a sufficient, though not abundant supply, of water was obtained. This year, however, this spring has almost entirely failed, the rain-fall of last winter having been under the average, and the greater portion of the water required has to be obtained from a stream one and a half miles distant. The materials for the two cisterns which now appear to be necessary have been shipped to the station at a cost of $26 per ton (in coin) for transportation, the only other offer being at $30 per ton. These matters are spoken of in considerable detail to show the great difficulty of foreseeing everything which may be required, and the consequent difficulty in making accurate estimates of the cost of any projected work, as well as the great cost of even the most trivial repairs or improvements upon this exposed and sparsely settled coast.

1872 Treasury Report:
Cape Mendocino, sea-coast of California.—During the month of November, 1871, the keeper's dwelling and cistern, referred to in the last annual report, were completed.

1873 Treasury Report:
Cape Mendocino, sea-coast of California.—There is a settlement of the ground, caused by an earthquake, in the ravine to the north of the tower, the limits of which are well defined by a continuous crack in the earth. The south line of this crack passes through one end of the cement retaining-wall and within 15 feet of the tower; this has been filled up with concrete and well rammed. Granite posts were cut and sent there to be planted at the corners of the reservation to mark its limits. A suit, Buhne vs. Chism, to eject the lighthouse keepers at this station—a suit involving the title to the site—was decided on the 10th of October in favor of the United States.

San Francisco Call
, June 29, 1896:
The Schooners Mary Buhne and Jennie Thelin Collide
Both Are Badly Damaged
Eureka, Cal, June 28While in the vicinity of Cape Mendocino, the schooner Mary Buhne, returned empty from a southern trip last night, collided with the Jennie Thelin, bound for San Francsico, heavily loaded with lumber. The Thelin was struck amidships and immediately filled with water. The lumber prevented it from sinking. Both vessels were badly damaged. The Buhne's bow was injured, and the Thelin's side caved in. The tug Ranger towed them into port this afternoon.

The crew of the Buhne claim that no side lights were exposed to view on the Thelin, and it was not seen until only a few yards away.
1901 Treasury Report:
Cape Mendocino, seacoast of California.—The roadway was repaired. The act of June 6, 1900, appropriated $1,000 for the construction of a masonry oil house at this station. A stone oil house was built. The temporary structure now occupied by one of the keepers is almost uninhabitable, on account of its bad and unsanitary condition; it is also unsafe, as its foundations are so poor that it has settled several times during the last year, and although each time it has been raised and temporarily repaired, it has subsequently settled. As it was originally built for an oil house and not a dwelling, no permanent improvement can be attempted.

The following recommendation, made in the Board's last five annual reports, is renewed:

The plans approved by the Board contemplated the construction of an additional cottage for the assistant keeper. It is estimated that a proper structure tan be erected for $5,500, and it is recommended that an appropriation of that amount be made therefor.

San Francisco Call
, August 24, 1902:
Through School of Sharks
The steamship George W. Elder arrived yesterday from Portland. Captain Randall reports that off Cape Mendocino he ran through a large school of sharks.

Los Angeles Herald
, July 27, 1905:
Norwegian Ship Tricolor Still Ashore at Cape Mendocino
By Associated Press
EUREKA, Cal., July 26With a fair chance of holding together many days yet, despite the fact that breakers are pounding over her, the Norwegian steamer Tricolor, which went ashore in the fog at Cape Mendocino at 3 o'clock yesterday morning, still lies hard and fast on the rocks.

Captain Wold states that the steamer was fully insured. He is very bitter in his comments of the lightship stationed on the Mendocino coast, to whose failure to give good service he attributes the loss of his vessel. He stated this morning that the lightship was inactive when he passed her and that no sound was heard from her until 5:30 a. m., when she started blowing. This was after the steamer had gone ashore.

1905 Light-House Board Report:
Cape Mendocino, seacoast of California.—The following recommendation, made in the Board's last ten annual reports, is renewed, and the immediate need for it can not be too strongly urged:

The temporary structure now occupied by one of the keepers is almost uninhabitable on account of its bad and unsanitary condition; it is also unsafe, as its foundations are so poor that it has settled several times, and although each time it has been raised and temporarily repaired it has subsequently settled again. As it was originally built for an oilhouse and not a dwelling, no permanent improvement can be attempted. It is estimated that a proper structure can be erected for $5,500, and it is recommended that an appropriation of that amount be made therefor.
Illustration: Reconstructed Cape Mendocino Light at Shelter Cove, CA © Gerald C. Hill, from California & Hawaii Lighthouses Illustrated Map & Guide, coming in summer 2012.

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