California · United States

Battery Point Lighthouse & Museum – Crescent City, California

Crescent City is located at the very tippy-top of California.  I found a great map on Pinterest of this area:

Crescent City map

If you look at the “inset” box on the top right, you will find the Battery Point Lighthouse.

The lens (in the tower’s lantern room) lit up the night sky for the first time in December 1856.

battery point lighthouse.jpg

I can’t imagine what this must have looked like to passing ships or event the residents of Crescent City at that time.  This was before the Civil War!

Because it is perched atop a small, rocky island the lantern room has seen broken glass and water when the waves become high & violent.

On March 27, 1964, Crescent City received the worst  tsunami damage ever suffered along the west coast of the lower 48 states when the Alaskan earthquake occurred.  This earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in the northern hemisphere.  The waves from Alaska raced south at speeds of up to 600 MPH!  Crescent City experienced 20 foot crests.

Crescent City tsunami
Crescent City tsunami damage 1964.  Pinterest.
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Article from Los Angeles Times.  Pinterest.

The curators happened to be living in the lighthouse when the waves arrived.  Here is an eyewitness account from the Friends of the Battery Point Lighthouse website

Clarence (Roxey) and Peggy Coons were living as curators in the lighthouse when the waves arrived. Peggy awoke a little before midnight to use the bathroom, and upon looking out the window noted an extremely high tide in the harbor that was illuminated by a nearly full moon. She roused her husband, and they quickly dressed and hurried outside in time to witness the first waves pummel Crescent City.

The following is Peggy’s account after the third wave had flooded the city:

The water withdrew as if someone had pulled the plug. It receded a distance of three-quarters of a mile from the shore. We were looking down, as though from a high mountain, into a black abyss. It was a mystical labyrinth of caves, canyons, basins, and pits, undreamed of in the wildest of fantasies.The basin was sucked dry…In the distance, a black wall of water was rapidly building up, evidenced by a flash of white as the edge of the boiling and seething seawater reflected the moonlight.

Then the mammoth wall of water came barreling towards us. It was a terrifying mass, stretching up from the ocean floor and looking much higher than the island. Roxey shouted, “Let’s head for the tower!” – but it was too late. “Look out!” he yelled, and we both ducked as the water struck, split and swirled over both sides of the island. It struck with such force and speed that we felt we were being carried along with the ocean. It took several minutes before we realized that the island hadn’t moved.

When the tsunami assaulted the shore, it was like a violent explosion. A thunderous roar mingled with all the confusion. Everywhere we looked buildings, cars, lumber, and boats shifted around like crazy. The whole beachfront moved, changing before our very eyes. By this time, the fire had spread to the Texaco bulk tanks. They started exploding one after another, lighting up the sky. It was spectacular!

It still seems hard to believe that with all the salvage that floated by us out to sea, the only bit to reach the island was one spool of lavender thread.

Astonishingly, the lighthouse survived intact and is today offering tours given by the current caretakers.  Many people have highly recommended visiting this site and give the advice of visiting in low-tide so you can get across the isthmus to take the tour.

battery point lighthouse 1.jpg
Battery Point Lighthouse at sunset.  Pinterest.


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