Point Arguello, Vandenberg

Point Arguello, Vandenberg

by | Feb 21, 2019

Point Arguello is a headland on the Pacific coast near the city of Lompoc, California. The area is used by a rocket launch facility and is part of Vandenberg Air Force Base. In 1901, the U.S. Lighthouse Service built the first light station consisting of a white square tower attached to a one-story keeper’s house. The tower was replaced in 1934 by a steel tower, which was in turn replaced by the current post light.

In 1769, the Spanish Portola expedition became the first Europeans to explore this area by land. Soldiers of the expedition named a nearby point Los Pedernales or Punta Pedernales because they found flints there. The entire point was given that name on some early maps, but in 1792 British explorer Captain George Vancouver dubbed it Point Arguello, for José Darío Argüello, a Spanish frontier soldier who was Commandant of the Presidio of Santa Barbara and acting governor of Alta California. In 1837, a Mexican land grant was given by Governor Juan B. Alvarado to Lucas Antonio Olivera and José Antonio Olivera. The Rancho Jesus Maria was 42,185 acres (17,072 ha) extending along the Pacific coast from Shuman Canyon south to the Santa Ynez River. Today it is the site of Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Ships sailing south here along the coast must locate the Santa Barbara Channel, which lies between Points Arguello and Conception on the mainland and San Miguel Island and then make a hard turn to enter the channel. Performing this maneuver has been described by mariners as trying to sail a ship through the eye of a needle. There are over 50 known shipwrecks here which prompted the construction of the light station. On July 1, 1939, the Lighthouse Service was combined with the U.S. Coast Guard, and during World War II, the Coast Guard manned the light and the lifeboat station, as well as a newly established LORAN beacon. After the war, it was deemed uneconomical and in 1958, Point Arguello Lifeboat Station was retired. Today the facilities at the light include a 36-inch (910 mm) revolving beacon that can be seen approximately 17 miles (27 km) at sea. The light is mounted on a post 124 feet (38 m) above sea level. A two-tone diaphone fog signal operates when visibility is less than 5 miles (8.0 km). Read more here and here. Explore more of Point Arguello here:

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