Digest>Archives> Mar/Apr 2017

The Roving Fog Bell of the Manana Island Fog Signal Station

By Timothy Harrison

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This famous photo of the Manana Island Fog Bell ...

On August 3, 1854, only four years after a new and second tower on Maine’s Monhegan Island was constructed to replace an earlier tower, it was decided that a fog signal station was to be built on nearby Manana Island, which could be reached across a narrow channel from Monhegan Island.

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This early view of the Manana Island Fog Signal ...

The following year, in 1855, a 2500 pound fog bell cast by Henry N. Hooper Co. of Boston was shipped to Manana Island where it was suspended from a wooden bell tower. It was to be operated by a newly hired assistant keeper from Monhegan Lighthouse who would have to row over to operate the bell in times of fog until a house could be built for him on the island.

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Early image of the Manana Island Fog Signal ...

However, a legal dispute arose over the property, and not only was the government unable to build a house on Manana Island, but in 1856 they had to remove the 2500 fog bell and transport it Monhegan Island. Finally, in 1857, an assistant keeper’s house was built on Monhegan Island about 50 yards from the keeper’s house, and an assistant was finally hired to operate the fog bell.

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Historic image of the original machinery used to ...

Finally, by 1859, the property dispute on Manana Island was resolved, and the 2500 pound fog bell was removed from Monhegan Island and back to Manana Island. Horses were used to pull the fog bell to the water and it was then floated to Manana Island.

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This photo of keepers and others posing with the ...

In 1870 a Daboll trumpet was installed on Manana Island to produce a fog signal that was powered by an Erickson engine. However, the Daboll fog trumpet did not produce a loud enough sound for it carry the distance that the government had hoped that it would.

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The engine room at Manana Island Fog Signal ...

In 1871 the fog bell was put back into service. However, now instead of being operated by hand, it was operated by machinery, via a JD Custer Patent. At some point, the Daboll trumpet was raised in height to allow for the sound to carry a further distance. However, the old fog bell remained and was oftentimes used as a backup when the machinery failed.

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Floyd Ettinger Singer, who was assistant keeper ...

In 1876 Manana Island was declared as its own station, separate from Monhegan, and it was renamed Manana Island Fog Signal Station with a full-time keeper who lived on the island in a keeper’s house.

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Originally, all the coal needed to operate the ...

Over the years, the fog signal equipment was updated and modernized, and although a radio beacon was installed in 1933, by 1939 a new fog horn was installed but later replaced by an air-operated fog signal and later an electric system.

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Three eras of time at Manana Island Fog Signal ...

In 1965 the Coast Guard declared the old fog bell as surplus property, and it was offered to the Monhegan Lighthouse Museum.

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The Manana Island fog bell resting on its ...

Finally, in May of 1972, the old Manana Island Fog Bell was again returned to Monhegan Island, this time by helicopter, thanks to arrangements made by Sherman Stanley. In August of that same year, a man named Alan Faller organized a crew of ten hearty volunteers to pick up the heavy stanchion and literally carry it across Manana Island. The project took them several afternoons of labor intensive, back-breaking work. But finally they were able to load it onto a Coast Guard peapod and ferry it across the harbor where they lifted it onto the Monhegan dock. From there they loaded it on a truck for its journey up Lighthouse Hill and to the lighthouse. The following year, two people, Ade and Robert Mersfelder, laid a cement foundation for the stanchion and the bell.

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This image shows Manana Island Fog Signal Station ...

But it was not until 1975 when Robert Boody, who had been the Officer in Charge on Manana Island from 1973 to 1976, came forward, and with the help of some others installed the stanchion and the old fog bell on the cement foundation, where it remains to this day on display by the Monhegan Island Lighthouse.

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The Manana Island fog bell rests on wood blocks ...

In 1988 the Manana Island Fog Signal Station was automated, and for all practical purposes it was abandoned. It was eventually declared excess property, and in 2013 it was sold at a General Services Administration auction for $199,000.

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The Manana Island fog bell on the ground in 1872 ...

This story appeared in the Mar/Apr 2017 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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