2020 Lighthouse Lecture Series

A big Lighthouse Thank You to Kitty Wolfe for putting together the fantastic 2019 Lecture Series slate of presenters and for coming up another stellar line up for 2020!  Topics will be added as the presenters provide their information.

Saturday, January 18 – Marlene “The Elusive Rutabaga” Padilla on A Solo Adventure Down the California Coast Trail – Presented
Saturday, February 15 – Robin Joy Wellman on Siberia – The People, Their Traditions and Their Connections to Our Coast– Presented
Saturday, March 21 – Sara Bogard on Harbor Seals and other Inhabitants of the Point Arena Lighthouse and the Stornetta Public Lands
Saturday, April 18 – Scott Mercer on The Ecology of the Southern Sea Otter
Saturday, May 16  – Michael Combs on Logging Town – Gualala
Saturday, June 20  – Richard Sequest on Hell Ship or Angel of Mercy: The First Shipwreck at Pt. Arena
Saturday, July 18 – Katy Tahja on An Eclectic History of Mendocino County
Saturday, August 15 – Mark Hancock on 5 Years on the Light Station
Saturday, September 19 – Eric Wilder
Saturday, October 17  – Scott Sewell on Point Arena and the Mendocino Coast: How to See and Shoot the Coastal Landscape
Saturday, November 21  – Lauren Sinnott
Saturday, December 19 – Merita Whatley on Saving a Lighthouse and a Landscape

Spotlight On Our Next Lecture

On Saturday, March 21 at 4 p.m. Sara Bogard will present “Harbor Seals and other Inhabitants of the Point Arena Lighthouse and the Stornetta Public Lands as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.

This presentation will give an ongoing glimpse into the rich diversity of life that can be seen at the Point Arena Lighthouse and adjacent Point Arena/Stornetta Public Lands. The presentation will take a closer look at the animals who reside and migrate through this shoreline and bluff top habitat. From her weekly surveys and monitoring Sara will present data she has gathered on the resident Harbor Seals, birds and other species over the past year. During the pupping season from May through June, her highest pup count was 21 pups on May 5, 2019 and highest count of adults and immature Harbor Seals was 181 on September 9, 2019. Observations of Harbor Seal mother and pup interaction reveal a unique bond across many species. From this data and information, patterns and cycles of birth, nesting and migration emerge to make these bluff tops a spectacular place to view and connect with the natural world.

Sara Bogard is an Ocean Conservationist. She volunteers as a citizen scientist for the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and Beach Watch Program, and gathers weekly data on the Harbor Seal population at the Point Arena Lighthouse/Stornetta Bluff for the Point Reyes National Seashore Harbor Seal Monitor and Inventory Program. She is a volunteer for The Marine Mammal Center and helps to assess, monitor and rescue marine mammals. She also volunteers for Naked Whale Research, which focuses on tracking Resident and Transient  Killer Whales and other cetaceans along the Mendonoma Coast. In addition, she takes on the role of a Harbor Seal Docent during the pupping season and conducts other ongoing pinniped surveys in  Mendocino County, California. In particular, her observations and data gathering include Harbor Seals, Northern Elephant Seals and California and Steller Sea Lions and occasionally Guadalupe and Northern Fur Seals. Her goal is to share this data to promote the health and sustainability of pinniped populations in Northern California and bring public awareness to the effects of human and current environmental factors which affect these species.

Future Lectures

By Marshal Hedin from San Diego – Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)

On Saturday, April 18 at 4 p.m. Scott Mercer will present “The Ecology of the Southern Sea Otter” as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.

Scott will present a fascinating and educational lecture on the ecology of the Southern Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris nereis).  He will discuss their biology, feeding ecology, reproduction, range and population growth.

Scott Mercer was studying general marine biology and marine invertebrate zoology, when in 1974 he began conducting a lengthy study of the feeding ecology of the southern sea otter, in Monterey Bay.  The study showed that sea otters consume a wide array of prey items, typical of apex predators. This study was the genesis of a 43 year interest in marine mammal ecology. In 1976 and 1977  while working for Sea Grant at The University of New Hampshire, he coordinated and taught aboard the UNH Floating Lab.  In 1978, Scott founded New England Whale Watch, Inc. the only biologist owned whale watch company in New England. He purchased a 70ft passenger boat in 1982   This business, and other research activities allowed him to be on the seasonal feeding  grounds of several species of whales for as many as 165 days a year. In 1982 he wrote and published The Great Whale Book with two colleagues at the Complex Systems Research Center at the University of New Hampshire .  Scott conducted aerial surveys for the New England Aquarium from 1978 to 1987 in the Gulf of Maine, and off  the coasts of Virginia to Florida documenting the calving grounds of the North Atlantic right whale. He taught college level classes in zoology, marine mammal biology, marine ecology, and earth science at UNH, Southern Maine Community College, and co-taught a shipboard graduate level course in marine science. He led humpback whale and coral reef ecotourism expeditions for Seafarers Expeditions in the British Virgin Islands, and 4 day offshore trips for sperm whales, tropical dolphins and seabirds off the Eastern Continental Shelf and Gulf Stream.
Scott cofounded a research station on Brier Island, Nova Scotia, Canada conducting the first organized effort to document whale diversity and abundance in that region.

In 2007 he wrote and published Whalehead Nation, Creating and Keeping an Environmental Ethic in Children. In 2013, with his wife “Tree” he co-founded Mendonoma Whale and Seal Study to enhance knowledge of marine mammals in this area, and in 2019, they co-founded Mendocino Marine Life Advocates, creating the First Annual Ocean Life Symposium in October 2019. He has served on the Board of Directors of six nonprofits.

On Saturday, May 16 at 4 p.m. Michael Combs will present “Logging Town – Gualala” as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.
Gualala was a logging town and that’s what brought us north in 1949 from the oilfields of Southern California to the mills of Northern California. The war was over and the baby boom quickly led to a building boom. My father was an oilfield “roughneck” and about every three months we moved our house trailer to a town close to the next drilling rig he would work on. In  the summer of 1949 we lived in a trailer park just outside of Newhall in Southern California. My dad was the 13th of 14 children and Walter, one of his six older brothers sent us a letter that included the news that “the sawmill are hiring.” When Mom read that she told my father: “Honey, you just became a lumberjack.”

Uncle Walter and his three daughters already lived in Gualala. His two oldest daughters, our cousins, had children as old or older than my younger brother and I. They lived in what was then a private home, the Old Milano Hotel, and Uncle Walter and his wife Ruth owned and operated a small store and bar on the bluff above the Gualala River on the south end of town. We visited them as we pulled our trailer to Point Arena and parked it beside the old abandoned high school building.

That was seventy years ago, and I enjoy telling tales of life on the coast back then and the history of the area before we arrived. This time I will cover Gualala and how it grew – sometimes prospering, often not – and the changes from a mill town to a tourist destination.

Michael’s family moved to Point Arena in 1949 when he was in the 2nd Grade. They lived for a while in the old abandoned high school building across from the Catholic Church, and later built their own home behind the Elementary School. His younger brother Ron and he helped build their home, using a borrowed plow horse and Fresno scraper to dig a full sized basement. After graduation from Point Arena High in 1960, Michael went to Humboldt State a year, Santa Rosa Junior College a year, then the Air Force for 21.5 years – married his high school sweetheart Marilynn (they had three sons) – and attended five other colleges while in the Air Force. He started as a Russian linguist, then became a Budget and Finance Officer and Internal Auditor. After 14 moves, an MBA and CPA, he retired from the Air Force and worked at Lockheed, Sunnyvale, for ten years, then on to some other jobs including Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, and Nummi, Fremont. Marilynn died of breast cancer in 1988 just after their 25th anniversary, and he chose his current wife Alice from a book and they married in 1989. He retired in 1998 and he and Alice moved to Gualala, which they love over all places, while traveling quite a bit and loving coming home. Every day they play ball with their doggie Radar on Cook’s Beach and remind themselves not to take their wonderful lives here on the coast for granted.

On Saturday, June 20 at 5 p.m. Richard Sequest will present “Hell Ship or Angel of Mercy: The First Shipwreck at Pt. Arena” as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.

This presentation will review the history of the IL’mena, formerly the brig  Lydia out of Boston, highlighting  her role in the emergence of a global trading system which impacts our economy still today. In addition, we will review the status of Dr. Jim Allan’s search for  the IL’mena which many believe is  buried in the sand in the surf line on Manchester Beach.  The timeline of this ship will be reviewed and her story told through her involvement in  seven historic events:

  • Designation as the “Hell Ship” Lydia  (1804)
  • Rescue of the American Ship Boston (1805)
  • Relay of Lewis and Clark’s  Letter to Jefferson (1806)
  •  Rescue of the Russian Ship St. Nikolai (1810)
  •  Massacre of the Nicolenos (1814)
  • Service to the Russian American Company (1820)
  • A Local Connection – The Indians at the Ross Settlement (1820)

Richard will detail some of the  people involved in these events and the overall history of the IL’mena.  This will include:

John Jewitt

Chief Maquiinna

John Jewitt, who was a survivor of the ship Boston massacre in 1803 and was held captive by local natives for two years before being rescued by the Lydia in 1805.  He later  wrote a best seller of his experience.

Chief Maquiinna, who led the attack on the Boston and was Jewitt’s slave master during his captivity.  He was himself later held captive on the Lydia in a prisoner exchange for John Jewitt.

In 1805, anchored twelve miles from the Lewis and Clark encampment on the Columbia River, the Lydia received a request  from the explorers to relay a letter to Thomas Jefferson to let the president know they had reached the Pacific.

Purchased by the Russian American Company and renamed the IL’mena, the brig was a workhorse for the company until it went aground at Point Arena in 1820.

Over the past 10 years Richard Sequest has produced a number of documentary shorts on climate change and homelessness.   In 2012 he became involved in the bicentennial celebration of the founding of Fort Ross and produced a short film, “Grounded”,  on the loss of the Russian American Company brig IL’mena, the first shipwreck at Pt. Arena.

On Saturday, July 18 at 5 p.m. Katy Tahja will present “An Eclectic History of Mendocino County as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.

Where did the herds of white deer in the county come from? What connection does Miss America of 1925 have with Mendocino County? What is the second largest land dwelling mollusk on earth doing here locally?  What was Winston Churchill doing here in 1929?  History can be dry text full of facts or history can be interesting intriguing tidbits of information.  Local author and historian Katy Tahja does the second kind or writing, solving some of the history mysteries of Mendocino County in her book “An Eclectic History of Mendocino County.” The book covers 150 years, 1852-2002, of who, what, when, where, why and how along with engaging stories of county history you’ve never heard before.

Local historian and author Katy M. Tahja is part of a family that arrived in Mendocino County in 1883. A retired librarian she has been a docent at the Kelley House Museum in Mendocino 12 years and has written several books of local history. She has several women in history she portrays in storytelling events and finds it a fun way to share history.  After retiring in 2018 after 28 years of work at Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino she anticipated her newest project – writing a history of the county.

On Saturday, August 15 at 5 p.m. Point Arena Lighthouse Executive Director Mark Hancock will present “5 Years on the Light Station as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.

Mark became Executive Director of the Point Arena Light Station in August 2015 and he will share the highs and lows of the last five years.  Highs include the complete remodel of Assistant Keeper’s House 4, Keeper’s Apartment and Head Keeper’s House, the addition of Arena Mina as the feline Guest Relations Manager and Rodent Control Specialist, hiring Elyse Bailey as a Guide and watching her grow into her current role of Gift Store Manager AND fall in love with and marry Robert Chavez who was the main carpenter on the Assistant Keeper’s House 4 remodel.  He will talk about the wonderful visitors the Station gets from all over the state, country and the world, and share stories from guests that have a history with the Light Station.  The challenges of keeping this “stationary ship on the ocean” will be covered and how large maintenance projects such as painting the Fog Signal Building got funded and performed.  The lows will share the spotlight as well, such as the ever expanding sinkhole on the Gazebo peninsula that opened up in January 2019, the bluff erosion that required relocating over 500 feet of perimeter fencing and the failed electric line that put the water system and Coast Guard helipad out of commission for several days.

Photo by Peggy Berryhill

Mark has been coming to the Mendocino coast since he was 16 and fell in love with the area early on.  He worked at Pacific Bell early in his professional career where he met Laverne, his wife of now 35 years.  They lived in Benicia for 30+ years and raised their 3 daughters there, but spent many weekends and vacations on the coast.  During that time Mark worked at 2 software startups and Wells Fargo Internet.  He, Laverne and another partner formed Pivotal Business Solutions LLC (PBS), a consulting company specializing in Business Process Analysis and Redesign, software requirements, complex systems implementations, training development and delivery and software project management.  In 2000 they were able to buy a home in Gualala and in 2012 Mark and Laverne moved here full time.  While still working on PBS projects Mark became the Publicity Coordinator at Gualala Arts, where he formed many close and important relationships with the wonderful people who call this place home.  He looks forward to visits from his 3 daughters and 8 grandchildren and bringing them out to enjoy the Lighthouse.  He wishes he had this job 30 years ago.

On Saturday, October 17 at 4 p.m. Scott Sewell will present “Point Arena and the Mendocino Coast: How to See and Shoot the Coastal Landscape as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.

Scott Sewell is a photographer in love with the Pacific Coast, the High Sierra and Black and White photography. He is a fourth generation Californian whose grandfather was a forest ranger in the Central Sierra during the Great Depression. His mother, who grew up there, introduced him and his siblings to the natural beauty of the California mountains and coastline through years of family vacation travels. He has been hiking, riding and shooting both as an amateur and a professional for most of his life. His work is on sale at Point Arena Lighthouse and on his website. This presentation will detail the many facets of photographing the rugged and beautiful Northern California coastline, including:

  • Introduction: a fantastic and unique landscape
  • Shooting conditions and tools: the weather, sun, tides, waves and apps to gauge them
  • Where to shoot, how to get there and what to expect
  • Your Eye: the keys to good landscape photography
  • The Finished Product: how to improve your shots after you’ve taken them