Digest>Archives> August 2010

In the Fog at Seguin Island Lighthouse

By John “Jack” Graham


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Jack and Tobi Graham, in the summer of 2005, ...

From time to time I have read reports of lighthouse keepers at various locations who listened to the blast of fog signals for days on end. After reading the story in the June issue of Lighthouse Digest about fog at lighthouses in the 1930s, I thought I’d recount the experience my wife, Tobi, and I had during our stint as the 2005 caretakers or modern day ‘keepers’ at Seguin Island Lighthouse in Maine.

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The fog starts to roll in at Maine’s Seguin ...
Photo by: Geraldine A. McCue

It was only several days after we arrived on the island in late May when we encountered our first foggy day on the island. Strangely, the fog signal, now an electronic horn with a fog sensing device, failed to come on. We dutifully reported this to the Friends of Seguin who in turn notified the Coast Guard.

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Although the tower at Maine’s Seguin Island ...
Photo by: Ron Foster

A few days later, a Coast Guard helicopter landed on the island and a crew departed to work on the fog horn. After a few hours, the signal was working fine – even though it was a crystal clear day. The crew was getting back into the helicopter to depart when I caught one of them and asked about it. I was told that they didn’t have the parts they needed and would be back when they could get them. In the meantime, the fog signal would be left ON. They felt it was better to be sounding when not needed, than not sounding when it should. That was June 7.

The fog horn at Seguin sounds two short blasts followed by 14 seconds of silence for a 20 second cycle. That is a total of six blasts per minute, 360 per hour, and 8,640 per day. Because the Coast Guard wasn’t able to get parts and return to the island until September 13, that means that my wife and I listened to the fog signal for 98 days, a total of 846,720 blasts of the horn – in a row.

What makes this even more interesting is that September 13 was our last full day on Seguin Island. We departed the next morning. So, there we were, finally enjoying an afternoon of silence after those 98 days of a blasting fog horn. Guess what happened exactly four hours after the Coast had fixed the fog horn and left the island? You guessed it; the fog rolled in and the fog signal dutifully came back on! So we again listened to the fog horn for one more night. As we departed Seguin Island in that still-there fog on the morning of September 14, 2005, the sound of the fog signal was our official goodbye as we heard it long after all view of the island had faded from sight.

We’re not sure if that is a record or not, but if anyone, anywhere, anytime has listened to a fog horn for a longer continuous stretch, we sure would like to hear about it, as I’m sure would the readers of Lighthouse Digest.

This story appeared in the August 2010 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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