H-CENTRAL COAST

Oct 30, 2013 6:10 PM by Jeanette Trompeter

Divers spend this week inspecting integrity of Hearst Castle Neptune Pool

Just a month or so ago, it was named one of the 15 most spectacular pools in the world by a travel website...and it IS spectacular. But the Neptune Pool at Hearst castle has some problems. And this week the long process of trying to deal with those began.

Some 40-million people likely have pictures in their vacation albums of the Neptune Pool. It is the most photographed spot at Hearst Castle and there's no doubt why. It's stunning from every angle. But below the surface, the picture ain't so pretty.

Time has taken it's toll and water above is making it through the cracks and crevices that have slowly emerged over the last 80 years or so. "We know it leaks." says Hoyt Fields, Museum Director for Hearst Castle. "We loose between 3000 and 5000 gallons of water a day."

That's why there's a lot of activity going on below the surface of the Neptune Pool this week. "If we continue to loose the water, the sides will start to deteriorate and implode." says Fields.

State Parks divers are assessing the damage, marking each tile that's cracked, and finding out if those cracks lead to crevices that leak by injecting a blue dye that will be drawn into voids behind the tiles if they're there.

It won't be an easy or inexpensive fix, but when the Hearst family handed the castle over to the state it offered up the biggest tourist and financial draw in the state park system, and letting the Neptune pool disintegrate isn't an option. "We are required by the Deed of Gift to maintain the castle to the standards required by the Hearst Corporation. That was an acceptance by the governor of California back in 1957." explains Fields.

The pool is filled using water from a spring about five miles East of the castle in the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. Phoebe Apperson Hearst bought the rights to that spring in the late 1800's. The Hearst Corporation still owns rights to that spring.

Once divers and assessment crews finish all the work in the pool, they'll come up with a report on how bad the damage is, and propose a few alternatives on how best to fix it. That report will go to the state sometime after the first of the year. Then the task at hand is figuring out when to fix it.

Vacation pictures won't likely include the pool during that time when it sits empty and under construction, but that process won't last forever. And it will keep this iconic image in vacation albums for generations to come...rather than just history books.

A dream for a lot of people is to swim in that pool. They don't open it up for that often for swims, but occasionally as fundraisers for repairs like this. If you'd like to be on the mailing list for special events like that, click here and either join to be a "Friend of Hearst Castle" or sign up for the e-mail list.

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JEANETTE TROMPETER

Follow Jeanette Trompeter's blog "JT's Little Corner of the World."