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
Saturday, February 15 – Robin Joy Wellman on Siberia – The People, Their Traditions and Their Connections to Our Coast
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
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
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, January 18 at 4 p.m. Marlene “The Elusive Rutabaga” Padilla will present “A Solo Adventure Down the California Coast Trail” as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.  Marlene will recap her adventure in 2009 travelling 1,200 plus miles down the California Coast.

This was Marlene’s first (but not last) solo walk, taking 5 months to complete and using up 2 pairs of shoes. Marlene moved to Point Arena in 1994 from Los Angeles. Since childhood growing up in East LA she has been drawn to the great outdoors. She started working for the California Conservation Corps in 1986 and this was her way out of the city into the woods.

Future Lectures

On Saturday, February 15 at 4 p.m. Robin Joy Wellman will present “Siberia – The People, Their Traditions and Their Connections to Our Coast” as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.

Enjoy an evening of Siberian tales from Robin Joy, who was invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ellyadia Organization, who after years of Fort Ross work, has a deep and lasting relationship with the people of Siberia.  She traveled to Siberia with Fort Ross volunteer member Amy Lemmer, and Coast Miwok members Joan Harper and Nancy Napolitan. The Sakha people and Coast Miwok people intermarried. Learn about their experiences of being the first Americans in the village of Mryrla, camping on the Siberian plains along the Angara River, attending the Solstice Festivals, experience very different foods, learning about village life, effects of climate change and the perma frost, and their visit to the Lena Pillars.  Hosted by friends, colleagues, diplomats, and villagers the stories are colorful and unique to this two week visit. Amy and Joan (Coast Miwok) will be joining the conversation. Tea and a sample of traditional blessing bread will be shared.

Robin retired after 27 years at Fort Ross State Historic Park where she worked closely with natural and cultural history interpretation providing research, curriculum development, and programs. She worked closely with many partners including Sonoma Museum, San Francisco Presidio Trust, Gualala Art Center, Sonoma State, Santa Rosa Junior College, Stanford University, Russian Orthodox churches, and many people across the cultural spectrum including tribal members from all tribes (Kashaya, Coast Miwok, Dry Creek Pomo, Sakha, Kenaitze, Kodiak, Tlingit members, and Aleut tribal members as it relates to the Northwest Pacific History, as well as Russian diplomats, and many international academics. In 2012 for the Fort Ross Bicentennial Robin was Chair for the California State Parks organizing over 38 events across the many cultures of Fort Ross.  Robin has presented internationally throughout Russia and Paris. She was recently chosen to write the forward of   ‘The California Collection’ –published by the Museum of Anthropology, Peter the Great, the Kunstkamera.

Robin Joy with Serge pole

Robin has presented for the Russian Academy of Science, Russian Geographical Society, American Embassy in St. Petersburg and Moscow, Kargopol, St Petersburg, Archangelsk, Totma and Vologda.  She was trip lead and organizer for six trips between 2012-2107 with Coast Miwok, southern Pomo, Dry Creek Pomo, Kashaya Pomo and Yakutia tribal members. Robin received the award and recognition from Congress of Russian Americans, Russian General Consul, Russian Scouts, Governor of Vologda, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Sons of Revolution, and received California State Parks Director award for Interpreter of the Year. She continues to remain active being a presenter at the first forum in Hawaii in November of 2017 with the tribal people of Hawaii and academics related to the Russian American Company, presenting in Paris in regards to her work with the Kunstkamera, presenting in Oregon, and local conferences in as it relates to interpretation in Santa Cruz. Her passion and dedication to the telling of the Northwest Pacific has been core to her life work.

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.

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, 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