Keeper’s Log, August 27

Smoke and more smoke… and water supply issues continue to bedevil the Outer Island keepers:

Raspberry Island Light Station, Keeper’s Diary, August 27, 1886

Last night and all day a dense smoke hung over land and water, much to the impediment of navigation. Left the windows open during the night and my room soon was filled with a penetrating odor. Prairies and pineries afire somewhere.

Outer Island Light Station, August 27, 1886

NE, fresh. Run Signal from 3 AM till 12 Noon when the water give out, and we had to stop the Signal. Second Assistant left for Bayfield 11:30 AM with letters to the Inspector and Engineer reporting that the water give out. The weather still continues thick with smoke. Cannot see much over a mile and blowing NE.

Keeping the steam-powered fog signal supplied with water was a constant challenge at Outer Island, but 1886 seems to have been an especially rough year. The station’s problems were bad enough to gain attention in Washington: several weeks later a letter from the District Engineer passed on some good news to the Chairman of the U.S. Lighthouse Board:

Referring to the Boards letter of the 8th instant, I have the honor to inform you… that there have been recent heavy rains at Outer Island, Wis., light-station. It is therefore probable that the cistern from which the fog-signals are supplied is now filled, and that there will not be a scarcity of water again this season.

That October the Lighthouse Service installed an improved system to pump water up the bluff from the lake, reducing dependence on the unreliable well. Even so, water supply issues would remain problematical until the replacement of the steam whistle by a compressed air diaphone in 1929.

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