The Double Cone Quarterly
Window to the Wilderness
Spring Equinox 1999 || Volume II, Number 1

Junipero Serra Peak (upper right) and Pinyon Peak (upper left) as viewed from the Black Cone Trail.
Photograph ©1998 by David Rogers


Researched and Compiled by David Rogers

From the Salinas Daily Index, August 5, 1907:



Native Daughters Succeed in Getting U. S. Geographical Board to Honor Good Padre.

C. S. Sloane, secretary of the United States Geographical Board, has officially informed Mrs. Lily O. Reichling-Dyer, founder of the order of Native Daughters of the Golden West, that her efforts and those of Cora Bonestel Sifford and Harriet Stoddard Lee, to have the highest peak in the Santa Lucia range of the mountains in Monterey county named Junipero Serra have been successful, and that the name is now given to the peak formerly known as Santa Lucia.

The movement to have this change of name began more than a year ago, at the session of the Grand Parlor in Salinas. The idea was endorsed by the President of the United States, the United States Geological Survey, the National Geographical Society of California, the Geographical Society of the Pacific, the California Club and the Sierra Club. In a letter to Mrs. Dyer, Scientist George Davidson wrote:

In that remarkable range, overhanging the Pacific for fifty miles, are peak which are landfalls for our navigators and they were familiar to the early fathers. The name of Junipero Serra upon one of these coast peaks that barred the expedition of 1769 and 1770 will be a living designation, appealed to every day by the mariner and traveler.
Henry Gannet, chairman of the U. S. Board on Geographic Names, wrote from Washington:
The Santa Lucia peak is the highest summit in the Santa Lucia range, forty miles southeast of Monterey, in the midst of the scenes of the Father’s labors. It is probably the highest peak in the coast ranges south of San Francisco and has an altitude of very nearly 6,000 feet.

From the Salinas Weekly Journal, March 27, 1897:


This peak, which is said to be highest in the Coast Range, is in the southern part of Monterey county, California, and is in the region of the county lying within the angle formed by the Salinas valley on the north and east and the Pacific on the west. Mountain men living in the vicinity say that its ascent- if approached from the east, north or west-is exceedingly difficult, if not practically impossible; but its approach and ascent are comparatively easy if made by the was of Jolon-formerly a station on the old San Jose and San Luis Obispo stage line-and up San Antonio Creek, past the ruins of Mission San Antonio, and on through the Milpitas grant to its northwest termination, a distance of twenty miles. The valley here is about two miles wide, the northern border of which marks the beginning of the rugged hills terminating in the peak which towers over Mt. Hamilton [in Santa Clara County] by two thousand feet.

A trail zig-zags it way to the summit, but it is so blind by reason of the chaparral through which one must literally push his way, that the tourist unskilled in mountain craft should have a guide.

The ascent for the first two thousand feet may be made with as much ease as is usual in traveling a rough and hard hilly region having an upward tendency; but the climb of four thousand feet following is steep, continuous and laborious. This part of the mountain is destitute of trees affording shade, and the climber should be provided with a canteen of the cold water found in the lower hills. If horses are used, they should be sure footed and accustomed to mountain work.

The summit of perhaps one-fourth mile in length by half as much in width, is moderately oval and covered for the greater party with a close growth of madrone [manzanita], only about knee high but very and unyielding. Some gravelly and open places, however, are to be found. From the summit fine and extended views may be had. To the eastward, King City and a section of the Salinas valley; to the southward, the valley of the San Antonio may be seen; and to the northward and westward, a sea of dark and forbidding hills, peaks, canyons and gulches all pitched together in wildest confusion, while back and beyond that angry picture the ocean lies in seeming serenity.

On the highest point of this mountain are to be seen two pillars of pedestals of concrete material, on which rested the telescope used in taking astronomical observation some years ago; also the cabin of split sugar-pine, erected for the accommodation of the man who was left here to guard these matters of preparation, that they should be in readiness when the scientists should arrive. The preparatory work was done in the fall, and in the following winter, with four feet of snow at the summit, the observation was made, about forty people being present. Here, also, four rude braces give support to a flag staff, around which is an oblong mass of grass and twigs so intertwined and laced that they form a mass about two feet thick and four feet long all firmly bound to the staff. This was used as an object, during the triangulation of the coast. This point was also used as a station by a detachment of the signal corps, and a point from which signals were flashed to other stations.

No water is to be had on the mountain except for a small spring some three hundred yards down the northern slope, the overflow of from which forms one of the heads of the Arroyo Seco. The northern slope is timbered with sugar pines and other trees, which grow quite near the cabin previously mentioned. The Indians-a colony of whom, numbering about forty souls, live at the base of the mountain-are occasional visitors to this solitude. Deer may be met with, and the writer has seen mountain lion tracks here.

All in all, it is a wild and romantic place. The elevation is six thousand four hundred and fifty-two feet [actually 5862 ft.].-Judson Edwards in San Jose Report.

From U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Annual Report, 1882, p. 463-470:


By George Davidson, Assistant, U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
San Francisco, Cal., January 16, 1880

Dear Sir: After computing the central line of totality of the solar eclipse of January 11, I decided to occupy the triangulation station of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, Mount Santa Lucia, about 5,700 feet elevation in latitude. 36º 08’ 20" north and longitude 121º 24’ 30’ west of Greenwich, and lying 35 miles southeast from Point Pinos. This station is only 12 or 15 miles from the coast line, but is separated from the mountains immediately overlooking the shore by the deep, narrow valley of the San Antonio, which flows southward to join the Salinas River flowing northward. There is another mountain on the Coast Range, lying near the path of the central totality, about 10 miles farther to the westward and 5,000 feet elevation, but its well-nigh inaccessible. On the triangulation reconnaissance it is known as Cone Peak.

Although the ascent of Santa Lucia Mountain is somewhat difficult I was very well satisfied with the selection and the advantages which it afforded.

In this work the party consisted of Assistants Gilbert and Colonna, Subassistant Dickins, myself, my son, and four hands. Our outfit was of the simplest character, although we expected snow and heavy weather at that elevation and season.

The instruments were:

  • Equatorial 6 7/16 inches (with star spectroscope), portable observatory, canvas dome (George Davidson).
  • Hassler equatorial, 3 inches, United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.
  • Zenith telescope No. 1, 2 7/8 inches, United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.
  • Meridian instrument No. 1, 2 7/8 inches, canvas observatory, United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.
  • Reconnoitering telescope No. 24, 2½ inches, United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.
  • With chronometers, sextant, barometers, thermometers, solar-radiation thermometers, binoculars.

Professor Frisby, from the United States Naval Observatory, asked my advice in San Francisco about the best location, facilities, &c. I freely gave him all the information I had, and as his funds were very low, and he had no camp outfit whatever, I invited him to occupy the same station and promised that we would carry his instruments, &c., with ours, he bearing a proportion of the general expense. He accepted the proposition.

The Southern Pacific Railroad, through Mr. Bassett, ordered every facility to be granted my party in the transportation of the instruments, &c.

Through the active kindness of H. M. Newhall, esq., of San Francisco, I was enabled to obtain transportation by teams and animals and the services of his majordomo, Mr. Fancher, to move from Jolon to the base of Santa Lucia.

Mr. Colonna, with Professor Frisby, examined the approaches to the mountain, and after a second examination by Mr. Colonna the best available trail was chosen. It is very steep and rough, and the total rise is about 4,000 feet in three or four miles. When the station is occupied for the triangulation the trail can be zigzagged in some of the steepest rocky places. At Camp Milpitas (latitude by sextant 36º 05’ 54") which the wagons reached, we kept the pack animals, on account of the severity of the weather and the necessity of getting fodder from Jolon.

The summit of Santa Lucia is in two peaks, about 200 yards apart, with a saddle or depression of 20 feet between them. The eastern one will doubtless be chosen for the triangulation; we chose the western one for the eclipse work as affording us protection for the tents and a nearby supply of fire-wood.

Mr. Gilbert secured the base for the large equatorial, and assisted in mounting it.

Mr. Colonna with Mr. Dickins prepared the block and observing tent for the meridian instrument which was used for transit observations and for latitude.

With the sextant I observed for latitude, but the heavy weather came upon us before the instruments were fairly mounted; fierce winds, rain, sleet, and snow making everything very uncomfortable. The temperature was mostly below freezing and upon one night, when Mr. Colonna was observing, the thermometer recorded 11½º, with a bitter north wind blowing. When we first reached the mountain the earth was frozen to a depth of 6 inches, which increased before we left. But the weather cleared up on the afternoon of the 10th, and Sunday (the 11th) opened clear and cold, with the temperature at 15º and a stiff north wind. To this time Mr. Colonna had determined the errors of the chronometers by transit observations, and also the latitude by two nights’ observations upon seven pairs of stars. When opportunity afforded, I had observed for time and latitude with the sextant.

To check the longitude of the mountain as given on the reconnaissance plan, Mr. Dickins made a round of horizontal angles upon all known points.

The view from Santa Lucia is uninterrupted: Point Arguello is distinctly visible at 90 geographical miles distant. To the west the ocean is visible except where obstructed by the summit of Cone Peak.

I could have selected a point in the Salinas Valley on the line of totality, but I was afraid of the valley fogs, of which there were several on days when the mountains were clear.

My plan of operations was to observe the beginning and ending of the eclipse, the beginning and ending of totality; but the latter by only one or two observers, whilst the rest sketched the corona and looked out for intramercurial planets. By rising to this elevation I had computed that the ending of the eclipse would be visible.

I had interested parties in the Salinas and San Antonio Valleys to note whether the eclipse was total at Soledad on the northern limit, and have verbal reports and expect others.

Of course I determined to look for intramercurial planets, and had five star charts prepared for the purpose, one for each observer who studied the relative position of the probably visible stars. The equatorial zenith telescope and meridian instrument would have given absolute positions, had such objects been detected.

Diagrams were prepared upon which to sketch the corona, rose-colored flames, &c.

As the computed time of totality was only 331/2 seconds, the chances for our doing much in either of the last two schemes were infinitely small; nevertheless I felt sure of doing something trustworthy.

The observers were as follows:

  • Assistant Davidson: 6 7/16 inch equatorial. Power estimated 300; colored glasses show sun greenish yellow; Herschel prism; solar eye-piece.
  • Assistant Gilbert: United States Coast Survey Hassler equatorial, 3 inches. This is the instrument with which I observed the solar total eclipse of August 7, 1869, in Alaska. Direct eye-piece, power about 100; colored glass, neutral tint.
  • Assistant Colonna: United States Coast Survey meridian instrument No. 1 turned out of the meridian. Objective 2 7/8 inches; direct eye-piece with prism, power 60; colored glass shows sun red.
  • Subassistant Dickins: United States Coast Survey zenith telescope No. 1. Objective 2 7/8 inches; direct eye-piece with prism, power 85; colored glass shows sun greenish orange.
  • George F. Davidson: United States Coast Survey reconnoitering telescope No. 24. Objective 2 9/16; direct eye-piece, power about 40, showing whole sun in the field; colored glasses show sun greenish orange.
I had taken with me two chronometers; obtained the use of a third from Professor Frisby; used pocket chronometer Widenham 900, and a watch. All were compared by Mr. Colonna before, during, and after the eclipse.

Mr. Colonna had good transit observations, and a good determination of the latitude which I had, by sextant observations, placed in 36º 08’ 20", and from the reconnaissance sheet in 121º 24’ 30".

Sunday, January 11. The morning was remarkably clear and the atmosphere very steady, with a cold and moderately strong wind from the north. Temperature l5º. No clouds were visible except a low bank about half a degree higher on the western horizon. The instruments were all in position on the western side of the summit, and protected from the wind to prevent vibration.

As the time of first contact approached I gave warnings at 5, 4, 3, and 2 minutes before the computed time. Each observer watched to see if he could perceive the moon's disk before it touched the sun; but it was not seen.

The limb of the sun was not absolutely steady, but nearly so, and sharply defined. The three clusters of spots were well made out in all the telescopes, although some of the individual spots were very minute; the penumbrae were well marked and defined; the mottled appearance as of rice grains was visible over the whole disk, and the faculae readily traced in all their irregularities. There was no spurious disk such as arises from great atmospheric disturbance, but there was just enough atmospheric tremor to give an occasional shivering to the border. There was no disturbance of the limb at the point of first contact.

I was using a Herschel prism solar eye-piece that permitted most of the heat and light rays to pass directly through the eye-tube, whilst the eye-piece was at right angles to the optical axis. The position circle was not constructed to fit this solar eye-piece, and therefore I had to estimate the position on the sun's limb where the moon would first appear. I saw the first indentation when it was about the apparent thickness of a coarse spider thread in the eye- piece, and noted the time, which was, I think, before that of anybody else.

As the moon advanced I noticed the time of disappearance of the umbrae in each of the groups of spots. These were also observed by the others.

As the moon's disk advanced with a well-defined outline apparently broken by lunar mountains, the sun’s cusps were very sharp and clear, but whenever a tremor occurred on account of any slight atmospheric disturbance these cusps where apparently doubled. This phenomenon was also observed and recorded by Mr. Colonna. It was not owing to want of parallelism of the colored glasses, for when the atmosphere steadied the cusps were single, sharp points. Had the atmosphere been much more disturbed the points of the cusps would have appeared confused and blunted, as Assistant Rodgers observed them at Oakland. This duplication of the cusp is shown on an exaggerated scale in Fig. 1.

During the progress towards totality I called the observer's attention to the fact that there was a perceptible difference in the darkness of the sky adjacent to the sun's disk yet unobscured, at A, compared with that immediately adjacent and still covered by the moon's advancing disk, which projected beyond the sun's disk at B. And yet none of us had been able to detect the moon's disk before it touched the border of the sun.

At 50 minutes after commencement I noted the "sun much steadier, cusps sharp as knife point, limb of moon sharp."

At one hour after commencement "the limb of the moon steady enough to see the lunar mountains near apparent right cusp" (C), which I was then examining (Fig. 2).

The irregularities of the lunar outline could be detected wherever an examination was made, the more clearly when no shiverings or tremors affected the disk.

Towards totality a few cirrus clouds formed on the line to the sun and the atmospheric disturbances were at times increased. As totality rapidly approached the crescent of sunlight was remarkably long and narrow on account of the slight difference of the apparent diameters of the two disks. To illustrate this I have made the accompanying sketch (Fig. 3) to reduced scale, exhibiting the shape of the crescent at 3 minutes 30 seconds before totality, and at 12 or 13 seconds before the total phase commenced. At the bottom I have exhibited the moon’s disk when projected upon the sun about ten seconds after the commencement of the eclipse. The last line of sunlight was from 30º to 40º in length before it broke. But this long, narrow crescent exhibited no distortion from atmospheric disturbances, and no wavy movement, except, occasionlly, that slight tremor which I have designated as "shivering," and which is seen at times, in geodetic observations. The cusps, before the crescent was reduced to a line, were remarkably sharp and curved points, as if cut by the finest graver. The breaking of this last line of sunlight was occasioned by the intrusion of the lunar mountains and inequalities; and it presented the appearance of a line of dots, dashes, and spaces. There was no wavy motion to interfere with this exhibition; whenever a bright spot or dash disappeared it was gone for good. As in my observations upon similar phenomena in the eclipse of August 7, 1869, the atmospheric conditions were so favorable for steadiness of image that the "Bailey’s-beads" were totally and wholly wanting.

I did not remove the colored glass in observing this contact, as I had done in 1869, because I wished to preserve my eyes for any possible intra-mercurial planet. But immediately upon leaving the telescope I saw that, on account of the small diameter of the cone of shade the brightness of the corona, and probably the effect of the light cirrus cloud, the illumined atmosphere rendered the sky too bright to see any stars or small planets, and I fixed in my mind the position and size of the rose-colored flames and especially the first circle of bright light around the sun, whilst others sketched the outline of the corona (Fig. 4).

There was a brilliant rose-colored flame just at the left of the sun's vertex; and the lower part of the moon's disk-say, one-third of the circumference was apparently bordered by a remarkably brilliant and continuous line of rose- colored flames. The upper flame was between the one-tenth and one-twelfth of the sun's diameter in height; and the lower border of flame was about the one eighth or one twentieth, of the sun's diameter in height.

The first concentric ring of white light around the sun was strikingly bright and extended one-tenth of the diameter beyond the disk. Mr. Dickins noted this and also a second but fainter concentric ring. The corona had the general form of a parallelogram with the angles prolonged in the direction of the longer sides, and stretched at an angle of about 35º with the vertical, from the upper left to the lower right. The accompanying sketch is a near copy of the sketch which Mr. Colonna and myself made immediately after totality; the parts drawn by Mr. Colonna marked with a C; those by myself with a D. The parts marked (a) were much lighter than the other parts of the corona. The outline and general features of the corona are quite consistent among the observers, whilst that of Dr. Gustav Eisen, near Fresno, is equally consistent. In addition to the originals I shall endeavor to have prepared a specially colored sketch.

Two of the observers, Messrs. Colonna and Dickins, distinctly saw the changing appearance of the corona at its most extended points, which seemed to contract and lengthen rapidly; a phenomenon similar to what I observed in the comet of August, 1853.

Messrs. Gilbert and Colonna observed the time of the third contact, although not with confidence.

Before totality we all saw the shadow of the total phase coming over the ocean as a brown area on the surface. After totality I saw the shade of the retreating cone against the eastern sky, but could not see the shadow upon the distant mountains, which were too dark. This shadow had not the density and impressiveness of the shadow coming down the valley of the Chilkaht, Alaska, where it was visible on the flanks of the mountains and against the snow gorges.

After totality the sun was for some time behind a cirro-stratus cloud, and the steadiness of the atmosphere was disturbed. The disk of the sun only came from under this cloud a few minutes before the fourth contact, whilst below the sun lay the cloud bank, which had hung on the horizon all day. This cloud was 35’ above the horizon. Here the atmosphere was in a remarkable state of undulation, and the limbs of the sun and moon moving in great rapid waves, so that it was next to impossible to note in the smaller telescopes precisely when the moon left the Sun. I observed it with no satisfaction, except that the time noted was approximately close. The sun set about ten minutes after the last contact.

The following preliminary tabulation will give an idea of the times observed by the different observers. Tile corrections to the different time-pieces are very close to the truth, but no rigorous reduction has been made.

Equal weight cannot be given to Davidson, jr., as he has not had much experience as an observer.

Incidentally, observations were made for the temperature during the eclipse, but not at regular intervals.

The following are the results, premising that the temperature was 15º at sunrise, with a moderately strong north wind. The wind continued all day, but with decreasing force.

Jupiter and Mars were seen by the observers several minutes before totality. No stars were seen by any observer.

At Soledad and at Oak Grove the sun was visible at the greatest obscuration; but Señor Villegas informed me that where he was, about 1½ or 2 miles' south of Soledad, there was a point of the sun about as bright as Venus, visible about 30º or 40º to the right of the vertex. At Oak Grove, about l¼ miles south of Soledad, there was a slight line of the sun visible. On the southern limit, at Lowe's stage station, the sun was visible, and at Jolon a very thin line of the sun was visible. I have written to get nearer limits for the southern line of totality. At Fresno, I interested Dr. Gustav Eisen to go to the line of totality where it crosses the Southern Pacific Railroad; and Dr. W. H. Harkness, of the California Academy of Sciences, reports that he went with the party to Sycamore and witnessed the phenomena. The phase of totality was not visible at Fresno on the southern side.

I extract the following description from Dr. Eisen's letter to me:

The totality was not seen at Fresno; but following your advice I had gone to Borden, a station on the Southern Pacific Railroad about 10 miles north of Fresno. The totality here lasted exactly 31 seconds, and I suppose I was pretty near the central path of the shadow.

Shortly before totality I suddenly saw the western edge of the moon's surface lighted up by a reddish light, displaying the convex and mountainous surface in a most extraordinary manner. This vanished, however, at totality. The atmosphere seemed perfectly quiet, and no disturbance or tremor of the limbs was visible. At totality the sky around the sun was entirely free from clouds, but so lighted up by the corona, or by something else, that there seemed little prospect of seeing any intra-mercurial planet. The appearance of totality was, to use the faintest language, grand.

I had my paper prepared according to your instructions and made a rapid sketch which I enclose herewith. The second accompanying drawing was made after my return home. The red, rosy, and purple flames around the lower left border of the moon, covered, at the beginning of totality, about one-fourth or one-fifth of the border, but increased rapidly, and at the end of totality they covered about one-third of the moon's circumference. Just at the apex I saw an immense pyramidal flame of yellow, very brilliant light, and also a much smaller one at the right horizontal edge, also of brilliant white or yellow light. (Fig. 5, without color.)

The corona of radiated white, pale light extended from the upper left side to the lower right. The extremities of the corona I could follow to about one diameter distance from the sun. Judging from the shadow of the moon, which we saw passing over the Sierra, the diameter of the cone could not have been much more than ten miles.

Dr. Harkness informed me that the shadow was very distinct because the Sierra was covered with snow, and that it passed like the shadow of a cloud.

I. P. Moore, esq. (vice-president of the California Academy of Sciences), observing the eclipse at San Rafael, reports that at commencement he saw iridescent colors at the part of the sun first touched by the moon, but that they immediately disappeared.

As a spectacle, this eclipse in some respects exceeded, and in others was inferior to, that which I observed August 7, 1869, in Alaska. Here the rose- colored flames and inner circle of white light were perfectly glorious, and the corona was more brilliant, but the disk of the moon did not stand out with that blackness and perspective effect which I saw on the Chillkaht. This might be in part the result of interference by the cirrus clouds. The sky here was much brighter on account of the closeness of the apparent diameters of the sun and moon. The shadow on the ocean was a poorly defined brown area; in the valley of the Chilkaht the coming of the shadow on the mountain flanks and over the snow -gorges was more distinct. Near Fresno and at Millerton the shadow was seen coming over the San Joaquin plains, and after totality the shadow was very beautifully distinct on the snow-covered flanks of the Sierra Nevada.

This eclipse affords another confirmation of the theory which I have before reported, that the exhibition of "Baily's Beads," the "ligament" and "black drop" in transits of Mercury and Venus, the projection of a colored star on the moon's bright limb at occultation, and similar phenomena, are the consequences of atmospheric disturbances occasioned by irregularities of refraction, etc., which create spurious disks of the sun, moon, and planets. This view, when first insisted upon, was strongly controverted, but we have analogous phenomena exhibited almost every day in the geodetic observations of the Survey. At high isolated elevations, and during a remarkably steady atmosphere, whether dry or moist, at any elevation, all these abnormal conditions vanish.

I may mention here, that whilst at this station the zodiacal light was observed every evening when the weather was clear. It was distinctly marked, and stretched up to an elevation from 4º to 6º higher than Jupiter, and from 4º to 5º to the right. The base, at 6½ or 7 p.m., was about l2º broad, and the inclination 10º from the vertical to the left.

I enclose special reports of Assistants Gilbert and Colonna and Subassistant Dickins, with their sketches; also second sketch of Dr. Eisen (Fig. 5).

The original records for time, latitude, and the epochs of commencement, etc., together with the original sketches, will be duly transmitted.

Yours respectfully,

Assistant-Coast and Geodetic Survey.

Carlile P. Patterson,
Superintendent Coast and Geodetic Survey.
January 29, 1880.

P. S. -Assistant Colonna has reduced two pairs of the latitude stars, which give the latitude of the station 36º 08’ 40", and I have graphically located the station from Mr. Dickins's horizontal directions and Mr. Eimbeck's positions on his reconnaissance plan of 1873. This gives for the longitude 121º 23’ 40", to which must be added 1’ 02" for determination by telegraph longitudes, so that we may provisionally place Station Santa Lucia in latitude 36º 08’ 40"; longitude 121º 24’ 40".

A closer approximation to the longitude could doubtless be made by computing the triangles of the reconnaissance from Mr. Eimbeck's measures.
G. D.

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