Monday, January 17, 2011

pigeon pt. lighthouse/

I have been a bit antsy for a road trip lately, so I took a drive down Hwy. 1 this weekend. It was gorgeous and windy at Pigeon Pt.


  1. Pigeon Point. Has a sonorous effect. Fun to say, like other geographical alliteratives with the letter P, such as Point Pelee in Ontario, where I used to spend summers. Or Piney Point, on the Chesapeake, where I first learned to sail. Or Piscataway, about which I know nothing.

    But why a point named Pigeon? Does the coastline resemble that bird? Did the first seafarers to chart that area come upon flocks of pigeons roosting along the shore? Maybe there was a Frenchman among them who, so long at sea, half-starved and delirious, had begun dreaming of eating one of those plump birds, columba livia, like the delicacies cooked in Paris. Silly.

    I decided to check. It’s much more banal than all of that. An American ship named The Carrier Pigeon, with a gilded pigeon as its figurehead, left Maine in January, 1853, headed around Cape Horn toward San Francisco. In May, in heavy fog, it foundered on rocks near the shore, which since that time came to be known as Pigeon Point, after the ship. Before that time it was called Punta de la Ballenas, because there was a whaling station nearby.

    That’s such a lovely part of the coast. I hope it was soothing, and they let you climb to the top of the lighthouse.

  2. The thought of a gilded pigeon as the figurehead of some grand vessel has me cracking up. I imagine pigeons did not suffer from such a bad reputation at that time as they do now. But still....a gilded pigeon. Wow!