2013-10-03 / Letters to the Editor

Horn at Castle Hill Light is necessary for safety

The article about a Beavertail resident’s fight with the fog signal on Castle Hill last week’s Jamestown Press was intriguing to me (“One resident’s fight against the Castle Hill Light horn”). I have resided 27 years directly across East Passage from Castle Hill Light – closer than Mr. Whitman – and neither my wife or I have never once heard an emitted fog signal from Castle Hill Light, whereas the fog signal from Beavertail a mile to the south is occasionally audible. Museum docents who work within 100 feet of the signal within 15 minutes normally become impervious to its blast every 30 seconds.

As students of fog signal history at Beavertail, we have learned sound propagation around Beavertail and lower Narragansett Bay has resulted in strange unexplained anomalies. In 1881, Beavertail Light Station, after the fatal 1880 disaster of the Steamship Rhode Island caused by fog and inability to hear Beavertail’s fog signal, was selected by the U.S. Lighthouse Board as an experimental station to evaluate sound propagation incongruities. James Henry, a mathematician and meteorologist who founded the Smithsonian Institution, directed the studies.

Surprisingly locations both void and amplified, ducted and propagated were found. Tests were conducted for a number of years and charts created indicating the location of these anomalies, which included multi-path phenomena. While atmospheric variables such as wind direction and density induce and distort these abnormalities, they do in reality still exist.

The fog signal at Castle Hill (a bell) was first placed in operation 120 years ago, periodically evaluated and upgraded. Perhaps Mr. Whitman should take up his frustrations with the people “upstairs” who control the atmosphere rather than the U.S. Coast Guard who are trying to save vessels, cargo and lives.

Varoujan Karentz
Clarke Village Lane

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