Ever since the Gold Rush Days, the Point Conception Lighthouse has guarded the treacherous waters of the Pacific, where the Santa Barbara Channel and Pacific Ocean meet on the western edge of Santa Barbara County. Such a dangerous place for mariners, Point Conception was dubbed The Cape Horn of California.

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM), home of the giant First Order Fresnel lens from the Point Conception Lighthouse, will celebrate the 164th anniversary of the lighthouse’s first lighting on Feb. 1, 1856.

An afternoon reading and discussion of the lighthouse and its lens, followed by a birthday cake will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at the museum, 113 Harbor Way. To attend, register at www.sbmm.org or call 805-456-8747.

The event is free and open to the public. Parents are encouraged to bring their children to learn the history of the lighthouse and the men and women who braved the rugged terrain, heavy fog, and strong winds of Point Conception to keep mariners safe.

Award-winning historical fiction author, lecturer and historian Willard Thompson will lead the event and read from his book “Keepers of the Light: The History of the Point Conception Lighthouse.”

“For me, writing history and historical novels is not just about telling stories in historical time settings; it’s about bringing to life the people who lived, loved, and strove for meaning in their lives during those historical times,” Thompson said. “I hope we will have a good turnout of parents bringing their kids to learn about this aspect of our local history.”

In 2019, Thompson donated all rights to his book and proceeds from its sales to SBMM.

Since 2000, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum has featured artifacts and stories to share the history of the Santa Barbara Channel with 40,000 visitors annually and provides year-round experiential maritime history and marine science education for local youth. Current exhibits explore History of Oil in Santa Barbara Channel, and Fishing with Paper and Ink.