Pachena Point Lighthouse

Pachena Point Lighthouse

Pachena Point LensThe photo at the left shows the lamp, lens, mercury bath bearing, and winding apparatus which was installed on the Pachena Point lighthouse in February 1908. The lens is a 1st order Fresnel lens made by Chance Brothers of Birmingham England – one of the largest sizes possible, and it all sits on a wooden tower!

The glass lens, 3 m tall, 2.5 m wide and weighing 400 kg was brought by boat around Cape Horn. The 1000-watt bulb in use now puts out four million candlepower and is visible from Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. (reference)

This graphic was sent to me by a friend but I have no idea of the source. I have searched Google and the only mention of the photo that I found was in reference to the Eddystone lighthouse, which this definitely is not.

It is a wonderful drawing to see, as I was a keeper on Pachena Point lighthouse in the late 1970s and saw first-hand the wonderful double bulls-eye (aka double-flashing) lens with all its glass encased in its framework of bronze. The clockwork mechanism had been refurbished by the keeper Bob Noble, and it could actually be run like in the olden times in place of the modern electric motor. Imagine getting this 400 kg lens turning at all, but what was amazing was that it could easily be turned by hand as it sat on its bed of mercury.

Unfortunately the light revolves no more as automation has taken its toll. The lens still remains but it is covered over, and a modern battery-operated light in a plastic lens operates from a pole on the seaward side of the tower. What a shame!

These Fresnel lenses were so well made that like a magnifying glass they could focus not only the lighthouse light source but also the light from the sun. The focused beam from the sun was so powerful that it could start a fire on the lighthouse grounds outside, hence the use of heavy curtains to shield the lens during daylight hours in the early days to prevent these fires.1

Below you will find a gallery of photos showing the light at Pachena as well as close-ups of the lens and its associated equipment. It was a dream to see – too bad it is not open to the public now.

Below is a photo from the 1930s showing the lighthouse with the curtains drawn. (Please observe the copyright notice before copying).



Below is an accidental but controversial photo I took in the 1970s while stationed at Pachena.


The reason that this is controversial is that it proves the government made a mistake when it created a new postage stamp in 2008 featuring Pachena Point lighthouse. 

Canadian Lighthouse Stamp Backwards   Featured   Lighthouse News


Canadian Lighthouse Stamp Backwards


Canadian Lighthouse Stamp Backwards

By Sue Clark on Jan 9, 2008

Comments Bring Problem To Light

A couple of interesting comments were made on a recent article about the Flag series of stamps issued by the Canadian Post Office in late December. It was mentioned that either the lighthouse had been moved to Australia, or that (most likely) the been reversed to keep the flag in the same position as the rest of the series.

Well, it appears that the lighthouse had been accidentally reversed for “aesthetic” reasons by the stock photo company that did the printing, and it has Bristish Columbia Senator Pat Carney just a little bit incensed. Carney is waging a campaign to get Canadian lighthouses added to the Heritage Protection Act. In an article from the Times Colonist, she said it was great that the Pachena Point Lighthouse was chosen for the stamp. “But it is unfortunate that they were not able to present it accurately. … We are fighting to preserve maritime history and it doesn’t help to misrepresent it.”

Pachena Point Lighthouse as depicted on the Canadian postage stampThe Pachena Point stamp as issued The correct orientation for the lighthouseThe correct orientation of Pachena Point

The Comments:

From Dave:

With reference to the Pachena point stamp,
One thing to note is that with the angle of the sun (judging by the cast shadows) the only way this pic can work is if it’s an Australian lighthouse or, if it is in fact in the Northern hemisphere in Canada we have to be facing more or less East or North East for the photo – so, judging by the clear ocean horizon, and that fact that Pachena is a BC lighthouse, it’s pretty clear from the stamp that Pachena Point lighthouse can’t be on the West Coast at all, so must be on Vancouver Island’s East coast and we can’t see the coast range. Seems a major error to me – shifting coasts!

And Chris replied:

Pachena Point is indeed on the west coast of Vancouver Island, but the image has been reversed (in order to accomodate the flag in the same position it appears in the other stamps, I assume).




1 By order of the governing body supervising the lighthouses at the time of implementation, lighthouse lamps were always extinguished one hour after sunrise and re-lit one hour before sunset. During the daylight period the lens did not rotate, but because of the potential fire hazard from the stationery lens, canvas curtains were pulled around the lantern room to shield the sun’s rays.

This practice was discontinued in the early 1970s when the government started its practice of automating the lighthouses. At this time ALL manned lighthouses were required to operate their lights twenty-four (24) hours a day all year long. To open and close the curtains required manpower and this the government wanted to eliminate.


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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.

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