Rare lighthouse tours resuming

February 15, 2007 11:00 pm
Helicopter tours to the famous Point St. George Lighthouse - located 12 miles out to sea - aim to raise money for a repointing project. (Triplicate file photo).
Helicopter tours to the famous Point St. George Lighthouse - located 12 miles out to sea - aim to raise money for a repointing project. (Triplicate file photo).

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

Helicopter tours to raise money for Point St. George Reef Lighthouse maintenance will resume this weekend.

Organizers are hoping the tours will garner between $4,500-$6,000 to pay for a repointing project to replace cement between the stones and granite slabs comprising the structure. Some of the work will require scaffolding.

Funds raised from the next tours, scheduled March 18 and April 15, will reimburse the preservation society for its expenses of helicopter leasing and supplies necessary for the work and its crew of volunteers.

For the work itself, the preservation society is contracting with John Lambert, a nationally renowned expert stone mason whose company, Abstract Masonry, contracts for jobs across the nation and in Europe.

"The lighthouse has three parts: the caisson on which it stands, the flat area and the tower," said Guy Powers, preservation society spokesman. "It probably hasn't been repointed since the 1930s, and the caisson is leaking."

Waves as high as 120 feet, Powers said, are "not uncommon" at Point St. George Reef.

Powers should know. He's been there and seen them firsthand.

"We had a work party out there and had been watching the waves get larger all afternoon," he said. "We were waiting for the helicopter to come pick us up and saw this wave come at us. Based on our knowledge of the structure's height, we estimated it to be 120 feet high."

The work crew made it off the rock without being harmed, but Powers remembers it being "a bit tricky" for the helicopter to time its landing between the huge waves.

The Coast Guard has documented seaweed atop the structure that rises 150-feet above mean seal level.

The structure will appear as one of a series of historic lighthouses documented on stamps the U.S. Postal Service plans to release this spring.

The lighthouse, finished in 1892 after 10 years of construction, remains in the history books as the world's most expensive lighthouse.

The cost of maintaining the structure worked against its future, however, and the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned it in 1975.

The preservation society formed 11 years later and has dedicated itself since toward taking care of the structure and its history.

So far the society has been successful in nominating the tower to the National Register of Historic Places.

A new light, installed in 2002, compares to the size of the 1st-degree Fresnel lens originally in Point St. George Reef lighthouse.

Its purchase an installation were a gift from preservation society member Glen Williamson.

The original light is on display at Del Norte County Historical Society's Main Museum, 577 H St.