Mission to the West Coast’s Last Whaling Station

Inspired by posts from blog-pals  Monkey Fist (Adventures of the Blackgang) and Capt. Rodriguez (Bitter End Blog), the NSL investigative team of David and Char decided to see for ourselves what might be left of the whaling station at Point San Pablo, a 75 minute drive north of where we live.

A recently killed Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is suspended and about to be transported for processing at the Richmond whaling station. The Humpback was the most commonly hunted whale during the history of the whaling station, which was active from 1956 to 1972.   More pictures can be found at the KQED flickr site here.

Below, areal view of Pt. San Pablo.

Detail of area from WikiMapia.   The bayshore frontage road is actually closed, the public road is the one that winds south of the tanks.   The bluff on which the tanks sit is actually pretty steep.

Our journey begins on Western Drive, just north of the Richmond Bridge…

Site of the old Point Castro ferry terminal.  Google map here.    Pretty much the only thing in good condition on the whole peninsula are the fences and “Keep Out” signs.

Char at Point Molate.   Note plentitude of chain link fence and barbed wire.  This site is part of a USN refueling base, now decomissioned.   The City of Richmond now owns the site, but can’t figure out what to do with it.

Point Orient fueling terminal.    Defunct.  Google map view here.

Pipes at Point Orient have been disconnected but not salvaged.

Char near Pt. Orient, The Brothers islands in background.

This is it.  The only view we got of the whaling station remains.  The ramp and buildings were demolished over ten years ago.   The very tip of the point where the station and the oil tanks are is heavily fenced off, and overgrown, and steep.  The railroad track seen on the map is overgrown with young trees and scrub.   We tried going around via the shoreline, but the tide was too high, and anyway we discovered another fence that went out into the water about 30 feet, cutting off the shore route.

Not to be thwarted, we pressed on, seeking new thrills.  View of Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor from West.

San Pablo Yacht Harbor and Sportsman’s Club.   Very quiet but for some roaming friendly dogs and fishermen.

Nautical exterior decor, the Sportsman’s Club.   Clearly a place to escape one’s family, perhaps for good.   A very stout fisherman enjoying a smoke and Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on the back porch kindly invited us inside the club to view the historical pictures on the walls.   Other fellows briefed us on the history of the place and let Char pet their dogs.

Sportsmans Club interior.  Most of the whaling pictures from the KQED flickr set come from here.

The film “Blood Alley” had some locations shot near Point  San Pablo.

More pics.   Some of these are stills from “Blood Alley”.

The fort in the top center picture is at Pt. Molate.

Whaling ship off Pt. Orient, early 20th century predating the fuel terminal.  Apparently the site of a whale oil processing factory not connected with the Pt. San Pablo works.

The ferry still running at Pt. Castro, even after the completion of the bridge.

To learn more:

Concluding our historical mission, Char and I headed south to Berkeley for some lunch and a visit to the exciting and creepy museum/gallery/store The Bone Room.   But that is another story.

5 Responses to “Mission to the West Coast’s Last Whaling Station”

  1. 1 Buck

    A most excellent adventure! Thanks for sharing it. So much nautical history just disappears into the weeds…

  2. 2 dog food

    Very good blog post. I certainly love this site.
    Stick with it!

  3. 3 Bonny

    thanks for visiting us!

  1. 1 Maritime Monday 246 for January 9, 2011 | gCaptain
  2. 2 website

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