The Hitchikers’ Guide to Ocean Beach, Attraction #4: The Mysterious Quadripool

by on April 4, 2011 · 36 comments

in Hitchikers' Guide to OB, Ocean Beach, Popular

This quadripool shows the pier in the background and gives you a sense of where they are located. (All photos by Citizen Cane.)

Editor: This is the latest segment in our series, “The Hitchikers’ Guide to Ocean Beach” by Citizen Cane, the pen (or keyboard) name for a very local denizen of OB. To view the other segments, go to our Nav Bar above and hit “Ocean Beach”.

by Citizen Cane / April 4, 2011

There is a four sided tidepool at Sunset Cliffs known to some as the Mysterious Quadripool. Visting scientists from the United Kingdom sometimes call it the Tetragon Tidepool, but that term should only be attempted by people capable of the proper accent.

Erosion from waves and marine organisms have clearly altered the walls of the tidepool, but it appears that it was once a perfect four foot square. The walls of the Mysterious Quadripool are very close to facing the four points of a compass. This has led to rumors that the pool is Masonic in origin. The rumors are also fueled by the location of the pool in relation to the Masonic Hall up on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard.

Some people say it was just a pool that fishermen carved for their freshly caught fish. Others claim it was a primitive ice chest for a root beer vendor. There appears to be a terraced notch in the reef on the ocean side of the quadripool. Plus what looks like some corroded metal bolts in the terrace. That makes me think there was some sort of wave motor there.

The quadripool is near the outer edge of the sandstone reef, so it’s safer to visit at lower tides or when the waves are small.

The closest access stairs are at Santa Cruz Avenue. Descend the stairs and head North along the path toward the OB Pier. The pool is low on the reef in front of the last house on the North side of the foot of Santa Cruz. It can even be seen on Google maps if you know right where to look.

This shot faces the terraced notch (obscured by whitewater).

We may not ever know the origin of the mysterious quadripool, but we know what it is now.

It’s a first class tide pool with a diverse mix of creatures and seaweeds. Never forget that the world is your limpet. Veer off the beaten path, and take the time to stop and smell the algae. Take off your sandals, and cool your feet in the mysterious quadripool. Relax, but be safe. Keep an eye out for hungry crabs, rogue waves, and anyone wearing a fez.

More information on California wave motors can be found here.


{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie April 4, 2011 at 10:00 am

Citizen Cane – I have seen these and always imagined them to be the post “holes” for an earlier makeshift pier.


Sarah April 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm

I thought it was the kiddie pool!

Thanks, Citizen Cane!


thinking out loud April 4, 2011 at 7:25 pm

I heard that square was the coffin of the OB Spaceman….RIP !!


Mark April 4, 2011 at 7:37 pm

In Ruth Held’s “Beach Town” on pages 63-64, it says that there was a wave motor built on the cliffs below Del Monte Street, and there is even a photograph of it. It appears to have a square base that would match up perfectly with this.


Abby April 4, 2011 at 9:55 pm

What did it do? I’m confused as well as intrigued.


Mark April 4, 2011 at 10:53 pm


Our next dreamer, the inventor, was Alexander N. Jones. A rancher and beekeeper, he walked along the rocks near the beach and was fascinated by the power in those breakers tossing seaweed and crashing into spray.

Perhaps he thought: A surge can lift a house off its foundation; carry a thousand lifeboats on its crest and never be deterred from breaking just as hard and washing just as far up on shore. All that energy is going to waste. Couldn’t it be used?

He may have heard of the Edwards wave motor, built at Imperial Beach in 1910, which was terribly complicated and didn’t work out. Anyway, he devised a much simpler one. About the time the dance hall and plunge were being built [1919], he hired Pete and Nick Schaniel (rhymes with Daniel) to build it for him on the rocks just south of Del Monte Street.

The principle was easy to understand; a little car, connected to a generator, ran by gravity down steep tracks; the crashing wave hit a large wooden surface on the end of the car, pushing it back up the tracks. As the water subsided, the car sped down the track again, all the time turning wheels in the generator and creating electricity. Almost a perpetual-motion machine.

It was neatly built. The support for the generator sat firmly on the rocks, back from the edge. The rails sloped steeply from this large box to where they cut deeply into the outward edge.

But it wasn’t practical. The ordinary tide didn’t lift it enough; a rough tide tore at the supports. One stormy night the wild waves twisted the rails, fouled up the works, and that was the end of that dream.

The little car stood idle on the tracks for a few years but the rails were there a long time, rusting. Alexander N. Jones died in 1926, before the last vestiges of his creation wasted away. All you can find there now are the marks of the rails and the hole the generator base was set in.


Frank Gormlie April 4, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Looks like the mystery has been solved! Citizen Cane, do you agree?


Abby April 5, 2011 at 5:00 am

Thanks for the explanation! I’ll have to pick up the book, sounds fascinating.


editordude April 4, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Mark, excellent resource and info, thanks so much.


Mark April 4, 2011 at 10:58 pm

This book is an amazing resource for those who love OB History! I found a copy on eBay, but I think there are several copies available at various SD libraries (including OB and PL). I typed the post straight from the book and don’t have a scanner, but if someone does, please upload the photo on page 64!


dave rice April 4, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Nice work – I can really feel the inner Douglas Adams coming out in this entry, especially the first paragraph! Before she got so into riding her bike, I used to take Mackenzi down to the foot of Newport after school and we’d walk the cliffs home. She always got a kick out of being the one to spot the biggest crab of the day. Again, thanks for the article – this week is spring break, but I think next week we’re going to have to start taking our walks again…


George (GrokSurf) April 4, 2011 at 10:06 pm

If you go look for yourself, be very careful. Some areas of the rocky outcrop have invisible slime that’s extremely slippery. I once broke my arm from a nasty fall caused by that stuff.


bodysurferbob April 4, 2011 at 10:49 pm

george – know what ya mean, buddy. out on the rocks with the slime my legs just took off one day – they went perpendicular in relation to my rear end which came crashing down hard on the rock. this happened when i was like 16 but can still vividly remember it. very painful.


bodysurferbob April 4, 2011 at 10:51 pm

hey, where’s me avatar??? can’t let it get lonely, ya know.


dave rice April 6, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Lots of close calls and I’m still learning…I’m sure eventually my keester will kiss the rocks and I’ll have a broken tailbone tale to keep me honest.


Pat April 5, 2011 at 8:26 am

I would agree this is where the wave motor was. I’ll try to find photo and post.
Currently Beach Town is out of print, but OB Historical Society hopes to have copies available at streetfair. Very thankful Ruth left us with this. I had the pleasure of working with her on the board of OB Historical Society before her passing.


Allen Lewis April 5, 2011 at 9:52 am

WOW very cool, OB has so much history. From the age of 10 to 13 I spent much of my time on the cliffs and I think I remember this square hole, I lived just about at the end of Del Mar. I also remember you could walk all the way to Pescadero beach first on the cliffs then on a cliff trail. I do have a question for the historians of OB. When was the plunge at the Silver Spray Hotel filled in with sand. It seems to me I swam in that pool around 1955 or 56. Is that possible. I remember it as just the pool with out the building. My Sister says I’m dreaming, but she’s younger than me.


Frank Gormlie April 5, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Hi Allen, we did a post on the Silver Spray not too long ago. I can’t link to it but go to our search bar over at the sidebar and type it in.


Allen Lewis April 5, 2011 at 9:58 am

P.S. sorry I lived on Del Monte st. :-)


Rick Ward aka mr.rick April 5, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Allen, when you figure it out let us know.


Allen Lewis April 5, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Thanks Frank, I did see that post and it’s a good story but it didn’t answer my question. I’m thinken that there must be a history buff of OB that can hep me with my hazy memories of my past. I do remember the bored walk main entrance to the hotel that isn’t there anymore, and that the pool was only for guests. Please… some one HELP.


Pat April 6, 2011 at 8:23 am

Hey Allen,
I’ll ask my go to guy Ned Titlow, he took swimming lessons there from renowned open water swimmer Florence Chadwick. He’s lived in OB over 80 yrs. In Beach Town Ruth states the resort days as they were, pretty much ended in the 30s. Good question It will be interesting to see what he remembers.


Scuba April 6, 2011 at 1:04 pm

OK – How about a really good story about the green parrots of OB? As I walked down to the bus this morning, I noticed that they are back in full flight. Where did they come from? Where are they going?


dave rice April 6, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Lots of stories on them – I grew up knowing them as the Granite Hills parrots, and they seem to migrate between OB and where my fiancée and most of my friends grew up at the east end of El Cajon…or maybe there are two different flocks. Of all the urban legends surrounding their origin, the one most accepted in suburbia is that some old lady off Pepper Drive had 5 or 6 in a cage and they got free after she died sometime in the early ’60s or thereabouts…I haven’t heard any of the local creation myths since moving to the city about 5 years ago.


Allen Lewis April 6, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Are they Amazon parrots? just a question… I lived in Hawaii for 7 years and in the park there are so many parrots there hard to count. My girl friend at the time was a expert on parretts and she told me that it all starts with birds excaping and then having chicks, after a while you have a flock of whild birds. How cool is that, enjoy them I feel there specle.


Citizen Cane April 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm

OK….so it’s not so mysterious when the truth is exposed. But if you want to believe that it’s a cosmic portal where the OB Spaceman will be reconstituted on Evac Day, then go ahead and think that. Or for you folks that don’t like easy answers, you might consider the possibility that the Jones Wave Motor was an elaboarate ruse to cover up the true Masonic nature of the quadripool.


OB Mercy April 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Beach Town is the most awesome book! I was lucky enough, in that my first mtg I went to of the OB Historical Society about a year ago, Ruth Held’s daughter was speaking, and she heard that I had moved to OB after 30 yrs of dreaming about this move from LA, she came right up to me and gave me one of her Mom’s books! It’s a great resource to learn about OB history. For sure pick one up at the street fair like Pat said.


Allen Lewis April 6, 2011 at 8:44 pm

OK, I don’t get the last post. As for Space Man I knew him more than most in OB. He(Im sorry) was a drunk and for his art I watched him do his paintings, He would stand back and through pant at the canvas that a black light would make come to life. what does this have to do with the square hole on the cliffs


Allen Lewis April 6, 2011 at 8:57 pm

I just looked at my last post and my comment was for This Citizen cane guy.


dave rice April 6, 2011 at 9:22 pm

If you want your post to branch off another post so it’s clear what you’re talking about, you can hit the ‘reply’ button on that post instead of using the comment box that automatically shows up at the bottom of the page. Just a hint, hope it helps!

As far as the Spaceman/Masonic stuff – it’s fun, irreverent writing, which is (I think) styled after Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series…it’s intentionally nonsensical. By the way, Towel Day is coming up here in a few weeks – do you know where your towel is?


Allen Lewis April 6, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Hey Dave Rise, I guess I misunderstood what the Hitchhikers’ Guide is all about. Hitch hiking to me means you never know who will pick you up, and what stories you will learn. I was thinking this page was the same. Isn’t this page is a place where we all could learn about the past in OB, not only the cool places to see but also about the people that know about the history of OB.


Rick Ward aka mr.rick April 6, 2011 at 10:25 pm

This O.B. history can be sort of tricky at times. Everyone has their own particular slant on it. Hopefully you aren,t too interested in facts. If you can put enough local lore,B.S. and just straight out lies together you might get an inkling of the real history just don,t be too hung up on the truth.


Allen Lewis April 6, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Hey Mr. Rick, I don’t know how long you have lived in OB, but I’m a second generation OB person that only deals with learning and telling the facts. Who are you to talk of lore, this is not the story of the hobbits. This is a town that has a true history and that being said we need to stick to fact, not some twisted story that you may think makes good reading. I do remember when this paper was first published, my band was working at the people’s Place, and this paper was and I hope still is about the true word of the people of OB.


Rick Ward aka mr.rick April 7, 2011 at 8:10 am

I guess I’m an O.B. local. Part of the crew that no longer lives in O.B. I left in May of 1991.Moved to Tennessee. Lived in O.B. when I was in school. O.B. elementary and Collier for a year.My dad livedin the Inland Empire(me too). In 1970 came home. Turned 18 that year. Went to the Ocean Beach Ecology Action Committee metting and helped stop the “Jetty” I do know Spaceman from my time with my Mom in O.B. Remember far enough back to the nursery where Cornet now is.(or was). So I do go back a ways. Don,t get hung up on who’s from where.Some folks who are not strictly local are solid people.Some of the old stories are along time ago and the memories fade somewhat. If we get enough “tales” we can get at the truth.


Allen Lewis April 7, 2011 at 9:17 am

Thank you… point taken, I purity much lived in OB from 1950 to 1974 when I left and haven’t moved Back. I know what you mean about memories getting faded. One of the resins I’m posting on this site is to try to find people that can help me bring some clarity to my past in OB. I’m thinken the hitchhikers page is a good place for that.


Pamela Marshmani July 5, 2015 at 10:21 am

Please I am looking for a picture of Stellas pet shop that burned in the 70’s


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