Oregon: Day #5 — Brookings to Newport Including the Cape Blanco Lighthouse


On day #5 of Bill's and my 2009 Oregon trip, we left Brookings (circled at the lower left) and headed for Newport (circled at the upper right) with a stop at Cape Blanco. Click once (twice is even better) on this and any of the other images to magnify them.


This volunteer guide led Bill and me up the lighthouse steps.

In July of 2009 Bill and I vacationed in Oregon for a little over a week. That summer I posted about our trip through day #4. While I don’t know if I’ll ever post about the final days of the trip, I would be remiss if I didn’t post about day #5’s Cape Blanco Lighthouse.

The lighthouse was impressive in terms of nostalgia and physics. While I’m glad to have the photos, the best way to “feel” the nostalgia is to stand next to the massive lens (in the photo immediately below) in the lighthouse and listen to the story from the heart of the volunteer guide (at right).



Bill and the volunteer guide are near the massive lens and looking out over the cape.


Although it appears both lamps are lit, only one is.


The photo immediately above shows the two lamps around which the lens rotates. The lamps are mounted on a lamp changer. While it looks like both lamps are lit (powered), at any given time only one lamp is lit. I asked Bob, a volunteer guide, why in the photo it looks like two lamps are lit. He said it is a “refractive phenomenon” in that the second bulb tends to gather light from the first bulb. (At the far left of the photo you can see a slice of the cape. Also, through the lens you can see a distorted view of the cape.)

In the case of a power outage, this curtain is pulled between the lens and the sun.


At times, a curtain is pulled between the lens and the sun. There are two reasons for this. First, if the rotation of the lens should happen to stop due to a power outage, the sun would bear on the lens all day long. The sunlight could subsequently darken the glass unevenly. Bob said this discoloration would take some time to occur, so not likely to happen to a noticeable degree with a short-lived power outage. Yet, they like to be proactive in protecting the lens.

Secondly, the sun can project a beam through the lens into vegetation in the distance. If there is a power outage and therefore the lens stops rotating, the curtain is drawn to prevent a fire (from the beam fixed like a magnifying glass on a small area of vegetation). Bob said he had volunteered at the lighthouse for about nine years and only about once a year (sometimes more often, sometimes every two years) did the rotation of the lens shut down due to a power outage.

I asked how the lamps are changed. Bob said that when the primary lamp burns out, the lamps autorotate so the secondary lamp then comes into position and is used. Also, the Coast Guard checks the lamps every ninety days. During those checks usually one or both bulbs are replaced.

When I asked about the size of the motor (visible by clicking on the first photo) that rotates the lens, Bob said he thought it was a 1/4- or 1/2-horsepower motor.

Every 20 seconds the beam of light is seen from any vantage point.


The light assembly (inside the lens) is stationary. That huge lens rotates every 160 seconds. There are 8 panels to the lens, so, from any vantage point, every 20 seconds a lens panel will align (i.e., with the viewer’s line of sight) allowing a beam of light to pass through. You can see the once-every-20 seconds visible illumination in the photo immediately above. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can also see three of the eight vertical panels.

A Cape Blanco Lighthouse brochure* says:

Built in 1870, its light shone at a time when maritime travel was the major mode of transportation for our nation’s west coast. Today it still shines, continuing the important mission of protecting shipping and saving lives from the Cape’s treacherous offshore reef and coastal rocks.

The brochure also says:

Cape Blanco also has the distinction of being the only lighthouse in Oregon with an operational Fresnel lens that allows visitors into the lens room.

* * * * * * * *

For those planning an itinerary, in 2009 on our drive from Brookings to Newport we had Razzleberry (a combination of raspberries and marionberries) pie at the Crazy Norwegian** quaint shack-of-a-restaurant in Port Orford. Our meal there wasn’t great but we would go back for the pie and atmosphere.

In Brookings we stayed at the South Coast Inn Bed & Breakfast. If the opportunity should arise, we’d stay there again.

The posts about the first four days of our Oregon trip (plus this post) are here.

*”Cape Blanco Lighthouse” 63400-8061 (4/04) published by the Oregon State Parks

**Reviews of the Crazy Norwegian restaurant are here.

(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.)


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