Long Beach ‘Robot Light’ Turns 70

By Kirt Ramirez

It stands tall, has six legs and toots every 30 seconds.

The tone can be heard quite a distance away.

It’s the Queen’s Gate Robot Light and it turned 70 this year.

Also known as “Robot Light” and “Long Beach Light,” the beacon is nothing like traditional lighthouses seen along coastlines, on calendars and in nautical art.

And of the three other lighthouses in the Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbor area – the 1913 Angel’s Gate Lighthouse in San Pedro; the Victorian 1874 Point Fermin Lighthouse in San Pedro and the 1926 Point Vicente Lighthouse in Rancho Palos Verdes – only the Long Beach Light is a box-like structure, completed in 1949.

“The Long Beach Light was designed to withstand earthquakes, winds and waves and was originally controlled remotely by the Los Angeles Harbor light,” explains a Point Vicente Interpretive Center brochure, which discusses the four area beacons. “It had dual-tone fog signals and a radio beacon. It was called the ‘Robot Light’ because the rectangular base on six columnar legs resembles a 1950s version of a robot.”

Perhaps not the most attractive guiding light, the Robot Light gets the job done nonetheless.

Like Angel’s Gate Lighthouse in Los Angeles Harbor, the Robot Light in Long Beach Harbor is housed at the end of a breakwater. The public cannot visit these two beacons but tours to the Point Vicente and Point Fermin Lighthouses are offered.

People can view the breakwater lighthouses by boat or from ashore. The Robot Light can be seen from Ocean Boulevard at Cherry Avenue for example.

With a backdrop of Catalina Island on a clear day, the Long Beach Light has guided many boaters over the decades.

Harbor Breeze Cruises CEO and Captain Dan Salas has passed by the Robot Light many times in his life.

“That little lighthouse is a very important part of the history of Long Beach Harbor,” he said. “That little lighthouse if very dependable.”

Salas grew up in San Pedro and as a youngster used to catch fish for selling. In earlier years, before boats were equipped with GPS and modern navigation equipment, he would have to listen for the fog horn to get back to the harbor when misty.

Boatswain’s Mate Senior Chief Petty Officer for the U.S. Coast Guard, Eugene Wright, is in charge of the Los Angeles-Long Beach Aids to Navigation Team.

“The Coast Guard, specifically Aids to Navigation Team Los Angeles-Long Beach, is responsible for maintaining the light and sound signal at Long Beach Light that marks Queen’s Gate,” he said.

Wright said solar energy powers the Robot Light and its light comes on automatically when the sun goes down and then goes off in the daytime.

Based on how the sound travels, the tone can be heard up to a few miles away. But Wright said the lighthouse was designed for the sound to be heard for about a half mile out. It blasts every 30 seconds continuously.

“We only guarantee for about a half mile,” he said. “It can go further than that but that’s what we advertise it as.”

In addition, “The timing of the sound signal is controlled by a timing chip that turns the circuit on and off (like a light switch) at the selected interval and produces a horn signal of our choice.”

Wright said his unit is in charge of nine lighthouses between Dana Point and Morro Bay, including one on Anacapa Island, a Channel Island in Ventura County.

According to website lighthousefriends.com, which references a 1948 Press-Telegram article and a 1949 Los Angeles Times article, the Robot Light replaced a skeletal tower known as the Long Beach Harbor Lighthouse.

The website displays a Coast Guard photo of the original lighthouse in 1945 and the present-day Robot Light as it appeared in 1949.

“When completed in 1949 at a cost of roughly $200,000, the lighthouse was hailed as the world’s most modern and a forerunner of what was to come in the way of automated aids to navigation,” according to lighthousefriends.com.

Long Beach also has a traditional-looking, faux lighthouse in Rainbow Harbor; The Lions Lighthouse for Sight, which according to lighthousefriends.com “was made possible largely through funds raised by the local Lions Club.”

The club serves and advocates for blind individuals and those with visual impairments.

And as lighthousefriends.com points out, Long Beach has another attractive lighthouse: Parkers’ Lighthouse restaurant in Shoreline Village.



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