Keeper’s Log, September 22

Outer Island Light Station, September 22, 1875

The water in the well gave out at 7:30 AM. Carried water from the house well by this means kept the Signal agoing until 9:30 AM when the fog lifted or cleared. Sent First Assistant to Bayfield at 1 PM with letters to Inspector and Superintendent of Lights informing them that the water was exhausted. At 2 PM. fog set in again; could see however 4 to 5 miles. Sharp at 2 a steamer whistled just inside of the fog bank. At 2:20 I saw her for a few moments. Got up steam as best I could with ½ gauge water and blew signal a short time to put her on her course.

Two hours of pumping buckets of water and running them to the foghorn’s boiler tank: sounds like fun- not!

A steady water supply was essential to the old foghorns, which were steam-powered, much like ship’s whistles. (Sounding like a low, booming “BOOOOOOOOOOOO!”) The first fog signal building at Outer Island was built at the face of the bluff, by the lake’s edge, but it did not last much more than a month before crashing waves brought the bank collapsing down on it.

Its hastily-built replacement depended on a hand-dug well for water- an arrangement that proved troublesome for several generations of keepers, until the steam whistle was replaced by a diesel-powered diaphone (“BEEEE-OHHHHH!”) in 1929.

The 1986 photo below shows the much-modified Outer Island fog signal building, atop the crumbling bluff that crushed its predecessor.

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2 Responses to Keeper’s Log, September 22

  1. lisahgolden says:

    I’d never considered how the foghorns were powered. What a hassle that must have been when the well didn’t cooperate.

  2. Ranger Bob says:

    Yes- foghorns were labor-intensive. Even without well problems, there was a lot of coal-shoveling and boiler tending. Typically when a fog signal was installed at a light station, an additional assistant was assigned to the crew.

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