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Fog Signal

There were four keepers assigned to this light station. As I said, I was the First Assistant Keeper when I was here. In addition, there was a Head Keeper, a Second Assistant, and a Third Assistant. Why were there so many light-house keepers? The Pigeon Point light station has a light-house and a fog signal.

The original fog signal was a steam whistle, similar to the kind used in locomotives and ships. We fed it wood and water, both in large amounts. Pigeon Point, like all light stations, had its unique pattern of whistle blasts and silence. A blast of four seconds, followed alternately by seven and forty-five seconds of silence, told ships they were near Pigeon Point.

This is a photograph of the original fog signal building. To begin with we only had one whistle and boiler. Later, a second unit was installed. In 1899 it was replaced with the new building you see out here today. We always had to keep watch for any sign the fog was coming in. It took a full 45-minutes to develop enough steam pressure in the boilers for the whistles to work! To be ready, we kept the firebox full of wood to light at a moment's notice.

We would operate the fog signal an average of 900 hours a year and the boilers needed about one cord of wood for every 10 hours of operation. One time it was so foggy at the point we had to run the fog signal day and night for six weeks straight! In 1889 the Light-House Board determined that to maintain an average fog-signal, operated by steam or hot air, the annual cost was $2,260.59