Fresnel lens preserved at Admiralty Head
October 31, 2008 · 2:02 PM
The Whidbey Island community has come together and made great things happen. A project to conserve the Admiralty Head “bull’s-eye fourth order Fresnel lens” has just been completed. The lens was repaired, cleaned and stabilized to help preserve and restore it.
The lens project was funded by Keepers of Admiralty Head Lighthouse, Island Thrift, Coupeville Lions Club, Washington Lighthouse License Plates and numerous individual donations.
A team from The Lighthouse Lamp Shop arrived at the lighthouse on the morning of Sept. 19 and began stabilization efforts on the lens, which is more than 140 years old.
The stabilization team was composed of Joe Cocking, owner of the shop from Orange Park, Fla., Nick Johnston from China Grove, S.C., and Kim Fahlen from Point Loma Lighthouse in San Diego. Cocking and Johnson are highly experienced glass conservators who are retired from the United States Coast Guard. Fahlen served as the photographer and record keeper and is a lighthouse docent at Point Loma Lighthouse as well as a celebrated lighthouse author.
The work began with a thorough assessment of the lens’s condition. There were a few major concerns, one being the prisms along the hinged brass door. The door was tweaked and the glass prisms had become unstable and looked ready to fall out.
Historically, the glass prisms are held in place with small pieces of wood, referred to as “wedges” and putty that consisted of whiting, linseed oil and sugar of lead or “litharge.” The litharge speeds up the drying process but contains lead and mercury. Putty has been developed and used which doesn’t contain the toxins.
Much of the putty was replaced, prisms were cleaned up and cracks in the prisms were first cleaned with acetone and then filled with resin to prevent the cracked prisms from falling apart. Temperature and humidity needed to be controlled during this process.
The team suggested the Keepers purchase Aladdin lamps which closely resemble the lamps historical light source inside the lens. Keepers of Admiralty Head Lighthouse have purchased lamps to place in both the fixed and Bull’s-eye lenses that are on display at the lighthouse.
Gloria Wallin, Admiralty Head Lighthouse Coordinator for WSU Extension, said, “The team was fun, personable and took the time to answer questions from both the lighthouse docents and lighthouse visitors who were lucky enough to see the work being done.”
All are invited to come to the lighthouse and see the shiny stabilized Fresnel Lens in all its glory during the holidays. The Admiralty will be open for holiday hours from the Friday after Thanksgiving and weekends until Christmas. After Christmas it will be opened on Dec. 27, 28, 29 and 30. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free and donations are encouraged. After the holiday season the lighthouse is closed until the first weekend in March.
“Don’t forget the lighthouse gift shop is a great place to check out lighthouse and Island oriented gifts for that lighthouse Lover on your Christmas gift list,” Wallin said.