Painting Date30th of November -0001
On 9 June 1775, two Spanish Naval explorers, Bruno de Heceta and Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra anchored in Trinidad Bay. Two days later, on Trinity Sunday, 11 June 1775,Trinidad Head was claimed for Spain in the name of Charles III by Heceta, his men and two Franciscan fathers who erected a cross on the summit. When Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno, Captain of the Portuguese ship “San Augustin,” discovered and entered the Trinidad Bay in November of 1595, he did not anchor for fear of hitting submerged rocks. Over the next 75 years, Spanish, Russian and British ships landed at Trinidad Head for sea otters, fresh water and refuge from storms.
- The Trinidad Head Lighthouse was built 1871 and remains in operation.
- Trinidad Head Observatory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began operation in 2002, monitoring regional and global meteorology.
- NASA’s Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment began on Trinidad Head in 1995 and was updated to a system which can measure more than 40 trace gases in May 2005.
The low, square, brick tower, painted white, was built in 1871. The light is only 20 feet (6.1 m) above ground, but the headland on which it stands gives it an elevation of 196 feet (60 m) above the sea. Despite the great height above the sea, heavy seas have been known to reach it. In 1914, the keeper made the following report:
- “At 4:40 p. m. I observed a sea of unusual height. When it struck the bluff the jar was very heavy. The lens immediately stopped revolving. The sea shot up the face of the bluff and over it, until the solid sea seemed to me to be on a level with where I stood in the lantern. The sea itself fell over onto the top of the bluff and struck the tower about on a level with the balcony. The whole point between the tower and the bluff was buried in water.”
The wave he described was the highest recorded wave on the coast. After the sea struck the lighthouse and extinguished the light, service was restored in four hours by Lightkeeper F.L. Harrington, the keeper from 1888 to 1916.
Buildings and structures
The station originally consisted of the small two-story light tower, a single Victorian residence, and a small barn. In 1898, a bell house was constructed, and a 4,000-pound (1,800 kg) bell was added that was operated by weights. A second keeper was assigned at that time, and the quarters were expanded to accommodate two families. In 1947, the fog signal changed to an air horn. In 1949, the Trinidad Civic Club constructed a facsimile of the tower in a park overlooking the harbor and installed the original lens in its structure as a memorial to those lost or buried at sea. The 4,000-pound bell is displayed alongside the tower. In the late 1960s, the Coast Guard razed the original dwelling and barn and constructed the present triplex. The fog signal was discontinued when the station was automated in 1974. However, the complaints from the citizens of Trinidad Head were so vocal that the Coast Guard was forced to install the present ELG 300, operated by a fog detector. The new fog signal is operated in the original bell house. The original tower remains essentially unchanged.