Sunday, April 5, 2009

Moving the bell off the point

The fog bell at Swallowtail was first installed at the very tip of the rocky penninsula in 1915. In 1916 a new wooden building was built beside the bell, the bell house, and the bell was mechanized. I suspect that because of the distance from the light tower itself and the necessity to ring the bell in response to passing vessels, it was decided to move the fogbell and building to the base of the light house on the northern side, which was also closer to the light keeper's house. All that remains on the point are some rusted steel girders and crumbling concrete. People often ask if the light house sat on the point when they see the old girders but the light tower is in its original location.

When an automated fog alarm was installed there was no need for the fog bell and it was taken off the peninsula using brute force and a bit of ingenuity, sometime after the arrival of the "Grand Manan" ferry which started its run in 1965 and still operates as our additional summer ferry.

The three photos showing the men dragging the fog bell were posted to the Facebook page "Grand Manan Old Photos 2" by Elliot Shepherd. The photo of the bell house, bell and mechanism was taken by Elmer Wilcox in 1958. The bell now sits behind the Grand Manan Museum beside the Deep Cove School. It is possible that in the future the Museum may be willing to have the bell returned to Swallowtail as part of our restoration of the light station.

According to Laurel Ingersoll Hinsdale, some of the men moving the bell are her father Grimmer Ingersoll, Allison Naves, Kenny Thomas, Frasier Shepherd and Bill Bass.

Laurel also recounts that the bell was rung by being struck by a huge hammer run by an engine inside the bell house. There is a crack and flattened area on the bell from this. When it was no longer used in this way, you could manually raise the hammer and drop it to make the bell ring. This used to be done when the ferry passed, and the ferry would answer back. The bell was rung each time the "Grand Manan" III went by, but was stopped when the "Grand Manan" came on. Laurel remembers ringing it for fun to the "Grand Manan", and the thrill when the ferry answered back!

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