The rocky island in the middle of the cove is called "Prisoner Rock" because fishermen were often stranded on it when high tides cut off their return to shore. The next bay to the south, called "Columbia Bay," is named after the passenger liner Colombia which ran aground in fog at full speed and sank in 1896.
Six miles further south lies Año Nuevo Island and Point. Both the island and Point are major rookeries for Northern elephant seals and California sea lions. The Spanish explorer Vizcaino mapped the area on January 3, 1603, so he named it after the new year - Año Nuevo.
The tall antenna in the fenced enclosure transmitted the Morse signal "PI" continuously for over 50 years. This signal is sent so that ships at sea can take radio bearings off the Point.
The antenna and the fence around it were removed in 1998 by the Coast Guard. Look down and around you. What is all that green stuff? If you were a 18th or 19th Century sailor you probably had heard stories of the Hottentots on the west coast of Africa eating these plants both raw and cooked! In fact, you may have eaten a jam made from these plants yourself to avoid scurvy. The plant's seeds contain high food value and the plant is full of Vitamin C. If you were a Hottentot, these plants would have provided you with the makings for a crispy salad, sweet jam, seeds, vegetables, spinach, and even the basic material for pickles. Because the plants contain so much moisture, they could even help substitute for drinking water.
It's unknown when these plants first came to California. They were introduced to Europe in 1727. When a botanical expedition went through southern California in 1859, they found these plants growing in large masses. Three species of the plant grow around Pigeon Point: Ice Plant, Sea Fig, and Hottentot Fig. Ice Plant grows from Monterey to Baja California and has oval to spatula-shaped leaves. The surface of the plant is covered with shiny hairs that reflect sunlight, this causes the plant look as if it was covered with ice. The flowers are white to reddish and up an inch in diameter. Sea Fig and Hottentot Fig are common to the central California coast and have thick, three-sided triangular leaves with flowers two to three inches across, ranging from yellow to magenta.