When PCH Blasted Through Point Mugu | KCET
When PCH Blasted Through Point Mugu
Today, Pacific Coast Highway passes effortlessly through Point Mugu between Oxnard and Malibu. But when highway engineers began plotting the route in 1919, the rocky promontory presented a colossal challenge.
Then, Point Mugu was a near-vertical ridge of resistant volcanic rock -- an igneous dike that in a distant epoch intruded the Topanga formation's softer sedimentary strata--standing some 150 feet tall against the pounding surf. As the westernmost tip of the Santa Monicas, it represented the last hurrah of the rugged mountain range. Just north and west of the point, the land opened up as the Oxnard Plain. (The Santa Monicas don't truly end at Point Mugu. Instead, geologists speculate, the thrust fault that gave rise to the mountains plunges beneath the waters of the Pacific only to reemerge far to the west as the northern Channel Islands.)
Point Mugu was a formidable barrier to the planned coastal highway, but California's state highway engineers attacked it with a full arsenal of geologic weapons.
First, in 1923-24, they blasted a road cut around the base of the headlands. Workers scaled the cliff with ropes and drilled a series of 30-foot holes into the rock. Into the holes went 18 tons of hand grenade powder left over from World War I and 25 tons of black blasting powder, and down came 108,000 cubic yards of rock – much of it used as fill for the adjacent road embankments. By October 1924, a narrow road snaked around the point where waves once lashed at its stony face.
But a spate of fatal accidents soon proved the alignment to be inadequate. Weather was often a factor, but so was the tight, 275-foot radius curve around the point. Drivers plunged their cars off the road and into the Pacific – sometimes leaving little trace except for bloodstained rocks. The tip of Point Mugu earned the dark moniker Dead Man's Rock, and in 1930 Inspector Kenneth C. Murphy of the California Highway Patrol appealed to the state highway commission for help. Blow up the rock, he pleaded.
The commission complied. In October 1937, an army of day laborers began carving a 200-foot-deep road cut through Point Mugu. Workers used 107 tons of explosives, a diesel shovel, a bulldozer, ten dump trucks, and five jackhammers to carve out the new 60-foot-wide roadway. Where the highway once bent around Point Mugu, it would now plow straight through the stony wall.
By February 1940, their work was complete. The original road around the rocks survived as a scenic bypass (it's since eroded away), but the main highway now sliced through Point Mugu, leaving only a rocky stub where the Santa Monica Mountains once thrust themselves into the Pacific with a final flourish.
Creative restrictions can often mean creative breakthroughs, as seen in Jacob Jonas’ ‘Parked’ and #adigitaldance projects.
Art has the power to influence culture. Columnist Anuradha Vikram asks artists how they use or don’t use their creative practice in service of social causes.
KCET received a total of 54 nominations for the 62nd annual Southern California Journalism Awards presented by the Los Angeles Press Club. The tally ranked KCET as earning more nominations than any other local broadcast organization.
The Auntie Sewing Squad is a multi-generational network of 800-plus home sewers making face masks for vulnerable populations without access to them.
Explore the lasting impact of the Shindana Toy Company, created out of the need for community empowerment following the 1965 Watts uprising, whose ethnically correct black dolls forever changed the American doll industry.
This episode explores how Yosemite has changed over time: from a land maintained by indigenous peoples; to its emergence as a tourist attraction; to the site of conflict over humanity’s relationship with nature.
California’s deserts have sparked imaginations around the world. This episode explores the creation of the Salton Sea; the effort to preserve Joshua Tree National Park; and how commercial interests created desert utopias like Palm Springs.
This episode explores how surfers, bodybuilders, and acrobats taught Californians how to have fun and stay young at the beach — and how the 1966 documentary The Endless Summer shared the Southern California idea of the beach with the rest of the world.