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Those irritating noisy Fog Signals!!

Forum to discuss all areas of lighthouse technology such as optics, fuels, fog signals, radiobeacons, daymarks, construction, etc.

Postby island » Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:52 pm


Frequently and recently there are complaints from some local citizens about the noise from nearby fog signals. Some people become so accustomed to the sound they do not notice it. Others become highly irritated to the point of total distraction. This complaining by the latter has been happening as long as there have been these devices. Some in past years have even complained about the mellow tone from fog bells. Then along came steam whistles and sirens, and compressed air horns to replace many of the bells.

Lighthouses and Lightships of the United States, George R. Putman, 1917

Keepers of fog-signal stations are required to maintain a continuous watch, night and day, as the signal must be started promptly on the approach of fog. In order to keep a record of the sounding of the fog signal, recording gauges are now installed at the more important stations.

There is sometimes an unfortunate conflict of interest between the need of a loud and distinctive sound to aid the mariner in a fog and the quiet and comfort of seashore residents in whose midst the fog-signal station may be located. Even the mournful note of the whistling buoy may bring complaints from the near-by shore residents. In some cases it has been possible to lessen the difficulty by installing a deflector on the land side of a shore fog signal. Regarding protests against a disturbing fog signal a newspaper writer recently put it this way: —

"The citizens of Russian Hill should put to sea of a foggy night in a fisherman's boat or a three-master. They should see the skipper at the helm, holding his boat to an uncertain course through the blackness of space, while the wet sails drip in endless patter on the deck. There would be minutes of suspense and apprehension; then out of the night would come the siren, so friendly and intimate and reassuring — almost beautiful. Then Russian Hill could go back and sleep in peace; the siren would have a sweeter tone ever after."
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Postby CHUCKX53 » Fri Aug 05, 2011 6:13 am


Given the relatively mild sound that foghorns make nowadays, one wouldn't think there would be that much complaining....I recall sitting outside of our 'rustic' cabin on Bois Blanc Island one night, listing to frist Poe Reef's foghorn, then Fourteen Foot Shoal's foghorn. Far from being annoyed, I was thrilled to hear them. Course, I wasn't up close.....

Still, it was neat. Don't get to hear anything like that down here in the flatlands. :mrgreen:
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Postby island » Sun Aug 07, 2011 8:14 pm


In my early years I lived at an island lighthouse during summer months. My grandfather was the head keeper. This light had a fog signal consisting two large compressed air powered diaphragm horns sounding a pair of one-second blasts every half minute, and these considerably louder than the electric sound devices now in use at lighthouses.

One does become accustomed to the sound, even the intense sound of these older style fog horns. And so intense that one could not only just hear but also feel the vibration of the intense energy of the sound waves.

However strange this may seem there were several occasions, having gone to sleep at night while serenaded by these horns, I would suddenly awaken when the sound stopped, for the fog had lifted and the horns were silenced. This is not unique. Others have experienced the same, suddenly awakening when the sound ceased. Awakened by the silence.
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Postby Fred » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:38 am


I have to agree that though it is a contradiction you literally "hear the silence" even at Rattray Head :-http://homepages.manx.net/fredd/rattray.html my bedroom was on the seaward side of the tower directly above the fog signal and eventually you would get used to the noise,drift of to sleep and awaken when the signal stopped.
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