Monday, March 3, 2014

Fort Point Fog Bell

Fort Point Light in Stockton Springs, Maine, is one of the very few New England lighthouses that still have old fog bell towers. Fort Point's bell is still mounted on the tower, and striking machinery is inside. Although the mechanism can't be wound to automatically strike the bell the way it did many years ago, the bell can be rung manually from inside the tower, as you can see and hear in this video clip I shot in August 2012.

For more on Fort Point Light, click here.

"Highland Light: This Book Tells You All About It"

Highland Light in the late 1800s
Isaac M. Small, whose grandfather was the first keeper of Cape Cod's Highland Light and owned the land the first lighthouse was built on, wrote a booklet in 1891 called "Highland Light: This Book Tells You All About It."

Small wrote about the daily life of the keepers:

"The lives of the keepers are somewhat monotonous, though relieved in a measure during the summer months by visits of many pilgrims to this attractive Mecca.

"The routine of their duties is regular and systematic. Promptly, one half hour before sunset the keeper whose watch it may be at the time repairs to the tower and makes preperations for the lighting of the lamps. At the moment the sun drops below the western horizon the light flashes out over the sea; the little cog wheels begin their revolutions; the tiny pumps force the oil up to the wicks and the night watch has begun. At 8 o'clock the man who has lighted the lamp is relieved by No. 2, who in turn is also relieved at midnight by No. 3, No. 1 again returning to duty at 4 a.m. As the sun shows its first gleam above the edge of the eastern sea the machinery is stopped and the light is allowed to gradually consume the oil remaining in the wicks and go out. This occurs in about fifteen minutes. As night comes on again No. 2 is the man to light the lamp, the watches are changed at 8, 12 and 4, and so go on as before night after night."
A crowd gathers to watch a baseball game at Highland Light in the early 1900s

Small also made a plea on behalf of the keepers:

"It is written somewhere that keepers must not accept tips from people who visit the light, but of course it does not really mean that, but should be understood that keepers should not solicit tips. When you have climbed to the top floor of that winding stair, and then have reached the ground again, and you are pretty nearly out of breath and exclaim, "My, but that was some climb," you would appreciate the feelings and condition of the keeper who had gone up and down some twenty times during the day. No law requires them to do this, but out of courtesy and your enjoyment they make the trips. Think it over and decide whether you would like to change places with them."

For more on the history of Highland Light, click here.