Wild winds and rough water are deafening, but through it I hear the steady, reassuring drone of the horn at Egg Rock Lighthouse. I listen to it a few minutes longer than I would have in the past, because soon it will no longer be calling out in fog and storm.
The Egg Rock horn has always been one of the things I cherish about my home in Otter Creek. It lulls me to dreams in the summer when I sleep outside, and in other seasons reminds me that the ocean is right over there. I love the sound, and I love that it grounds me here, on an island, with the power of the Atlantic not far away.
This summer it will be replaced with a horn activated by mariners. I doubt I will ever hear it from October to May, and will probably not notice it if randomly activated for a brief moment in the summer months. It is a loss that I may be the only one who cares about. Joseph Pulitzer, however, would be pleased.
Pulitzer built his home within earshot of the horn, but, according to Lighthousefriends.com, “Even though Pulitzer had an indoor pool that was ocean fed and steam heated, he couldn’t block the moan of the fog horn; and it made him furious.” And so the direction of the horn was changed, reducing the volume at Pulitzer’s home and leaving him in peace for the few weeks of the year he was here. It may be that shift which increased the volume in my village, and so I am grateful.
The horn is indeed louder than in Bar Harbor, which is five miles away. It is never distractingly loud, though. In fact, you almost have to deliberately decide to hear it. I will ask guests if they hear the horn. Some will have noticed, but for others I raise my hand when it goes off, and then they hear it, and always smile.
Locally we call it the snow horn, as it sounds most clearly during a Nor’easter. It sounds at times even when there is no storm, and has been part of the lives of villagers for over one hundred years. We may not use it as a navigational tool, but it has been deeply woven into our lives.
It won’t be part of them any longer, though. The chimes of Big Ben in London are also no longer needed—we all carry the time around with us—and they no doubt cost some amount of money to keep ringing. The value of the chimes must be considered something more than simply a tool for keeping time.
At some point in the summer of 2016 Egg Rock Light’s horn will only sound when it is triggered by a VHF radio signal on channel 83A. I wish I knew when that was, so I could pay my last respects. Was Egg Rock chosen to among the first turned off because others who did not like the sound, like Pulitzer, complain? I do not know. Whether this is more economical and safer for sailors, as the Coast Guard suggests, is also something I do not have enough data to comment on.
The Coast Guard changed the direction of the horn to suit Pulitzer, and that change, like this adjustment, was undoubtedly backed up with plenty of paperwork proving the need. I am not one to argue with paperwork.
It is a wild and windy Sunday, and I have to strain to hear the low call of Egg Rock, but I do. Its original purpose was to warn sailors of perilous rocks. There are no sailors coming into Bar Harbor on this day. There is no need for it and so it will be turned off except when requested. I shall miss it. Would that I, like Pulitzer, could influence the Coast Guard—then, the snow horn would continue to call.
Read about deactifications here: http://bangordailynews.com/2015/11/14/news/17-lighthouse-foghorns-to-be-radio-activated-by-may/
summer photo of Egg Rock: Chriscoop commonswiki