1890 1st Order Fresnel Lens

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The 1st Order Fresnel Lens, the largest of the Fresnel Lens collection, that is currently operating in the Umpqua River Lighthouse, was purchased and built by Barbiere & Cie in Paris, France in 1890.

After it was built it was taken apart and shipped to the United States.  Upon arrival it was reassembled to make sure it had survived the voyage, and then taken apart and shipped around the Cape of South America to finally land on the Umpqua River.

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Mariners marked the way along the Oregon Coast by the flashes of light unique to each lighthouse.  The "signatures" can be distinctive by duration, sequence or color.  The Umpqua Light has a unique signature red flash, followed by two white flashes during a 15 second interval.  The brilliant red color comes from the pure gold that was added to the molten glass by the famous French glassmakers Barbiere & Cie.

The lens itself has 616 hand cut prisms, with 24 bullseyes.  It stands 9 feet 7 inches tall and is 6 feet 2 inches wide.  It weighs 2 tons.  The original kerosene lamps that lit the light were replaced by electricity in the 1930's.  The light is now powered by a 1,000 watt bulb that can be seen 20 miles out to sea.

The Fresnel Lens at the Umpqua River Lighthouse is only 1 of 2  1st Order Fresnel Lens that you can actually climb inside of to appreciate the power and intricacy of its performance.

In December, 1983 the carriage wheels under the lens had deteriorated to the point where, rather than replace them, the Coast Guard shut off the 1st Order lens and placed an outside mounted strobe as an aid to navigation.  In response to the possible loss of the Fresnel Lens, a coalition of area citizens spearheaded by Jim Unger, found a way to replace the brass wheels in the chariot with sealed roller bearings coated with adripene.  The 1st Order Lens went back in operation in February, 1985.