Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fog Bell Has Landed

As part of a grant from the Legacy Fund of Heritage Canada, celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Swallowtail Lighthouse, we have been renovating the trails and preparing a tribute to the lightkeepers.  Part of this includes returning the bronze fog bell that was used for many years to alert mariners in times of restricted visibility.  With the propensity of fog in the Bay of Fundy, many months of the year, fog alarms were as important as the light.

Bell house prior to 1922 at the extreme easten end of the peninsula. 
The photo was posted to the Facebook group - Old Grand Manan Photos
Reference to the fog bell begins in 1915 when a building was built at the extreme end of the Swallow Tail peninsula, although the date on the bell is 1904.  In 1922, the bell was moved to sit beside the lighthouse to make it easier for the light keepers to keep the winding mechanism operating which in turn rang the bell.  Originally, fog bells, horns, guns were only sounded in response to a fog horn or bell from a passing vessel but with the development of an automated system, similar to what is used with spring wound clocks, the fog bell could be sounded throughout inclement weather that restricted visibility.

Close-up of bell house on northern side of lighthouse.  Elmer Wilcox photo, 1958.

Bell house and fog bell on northern side of Swallowtail light house.  Elmer Wilcox photo, 1958
Both the bell and the bell house were moved to the northern side of the lighthouse where the bell sat until 1980.  A fog horn had replaced the fog bell at an earlier time. The bell had developed a small crack where it was continuously rung and the tone of the bell had changed. The lightkeeper at the time, Grimmer Ingersoll, organized the removal of the bell from the point to the Grand Manan Museum where it sat in front of the Deep Cove School House.  Moving the bronze bell was not an easy feat.  At 900 kg (2000 lbs), it took brute force and lots of ingenuity to accomplish the task.  Unfortunately, the bell did suffer some damage when it was moved in 1980 and two chips can be found on the edge of the bell where chains were wrapped around it.
Light keeper, Grimmer Ingersoll, and friends moving bell in 1980,
eventually getting it to the Grand Manan Museum
When the Swallowtail Keepers Society was formed in 2008, the Museum agreed to donate the bell back to Swallowtail.  A large deck was built by Terry Davidson, George Best and Ken Ingersoll, over the concrete base of the old flag pole and a stand was attached to hold the bell.  Repairs had to be made to the top of the bell and modified to include an eye and shackle for lifting. Michael Brown of Waterfront Fabricating drilled through 6.5 inches of steel at the top of the bell to install two new plates and an eye.  The bell originally had two bolts that held the bell on an I-beam but these were not appropriate if the bell was to be lifted and then lowered onto the stand. The bell could have been strung in a cargo net but that complicated the moving process and recovering the cargo net afterwards, given the weight of the bell.
Terry Davidson and George Best beginning the bell deck

Finished bell deck awaiting the bell
Once the bell was ready to be moved, Randy Brownlee and the M.G. Fisheries boom truck picked up the bell and drove it to the top of the hill at Swallowtail, leaving only 300 m (1000') to move the bell but with 54 steps, a wooden foot bridge, a gravel path over undulating terrain, and a flight of stairs up to the deck, that was not an easy feat.
M.G. Fisheries boom truck that moved the bell from the Grand Manan Museum
 to the top of the stairs leading to Swallowtail.  Randy Brownlee photo.
Inquiries went out to the Canadian Coast Guard and a military base to see if they might be able to use one of their helicopters to move the bell.  No promises were made but it was suggested that if everything was in place, if a helicopter was available, it might happen.  In the middle of November, the Canadian Coast Guard needed their heavy lift helicopter to move building material to Partridge Island in Saint John, NB to construct a new helicopter pad.  Since that is only 25 minutes by helicopter, we were asked to be ready on short notice.  A call at 8:30 on November 21 set the final process in motion.  The helicopter would arrive at 1:30 to move the bell.  This in part was to take advantage of the decreasing wind in the afternoon and to allow myself to be present since I was booked to make a right whale aerial survey the next day with the Fisheries and Oceans Canada as part of the Lobster Mitigation program for Lobster Districts 36, 37 and 38.  locations of right whales are provided to lobster fishermen to help them avoid conflicts with right whales and their fishing gear.

Calls were made to a few people to pass the word about this special event.  Over a dozen people watched as the helicopter arrived to survey the pick up location and the bell deck.  Because of the weight of the bell, only the pilot and one crew member was aboard to do the lifting.  One person was at the bell to hook up the cable and two were at the bell deck to position the moving bell onto the stand.
Jamie McCavour grabbing hook from Canadian Coast Guard helicopter

Jamie McCavour, Canadian Coast Guard,  hooking up cable to bell before lifting
With great anticipation and a bit of trepidation hoping that nothing would happen and the bell wouldn't be lost into the ocean, the helicopter moved into position.  The bell slowly rose off the wooden pallet where it had been sitting.  The pilot then took a long wide circle to approach the bell stand from the south, just as the Grand Manan Adventure ferry rounded Swallowtail.  After a few false approaches, the bell finally was positioned accordingly and was quickly unhooked from the helicopter.  A cheer went up from the onlookers.
The Grand Manan ferry, Grand Manan Advenutre going around Swallowtail as bell
was being brought in a wide arc to the bell deck.  Note the bell house is attached to the lighthouse.

Bronze fog bell lifting into air.  Martha Eaton photo.

Canadian Coast Guard helicopter taking bronze fog bell to the bell deck in a wide arc.

Steve Lloyd and Bob Hebert (Canadian Coast Guard) coordinating the landing of the fog bell on the stand

Bob Hebert (Canadian Coast Guard) unhooking the cable on the fog bell once it was positioned on the stand.

Here are two videos taken of the move
(pick up of the bell from the top of the hill by the Coast Guard helicopter).

I walked down to the see the bell in position and had a great sense of accomplishment as I came over the rise and saw the bell.  While the bell is slightly off centre, that can be fixed.  I took great pleasure in ringing the bell for the first time since it had been removed from Swallowtail.  The tone echoed nicely and while I don't have perfect pitch, the tone is supposed to be an F, according to the manufacturer, Meneely Bell Company of West Troy, NY.

Canadian Coast Guard crew - Bob Hebert, Jamie McCavour, Paul Mosher (pilot) and Steve Lloyd

Saturday, October 1, 2011

International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend

Over three days in August, 19, 20 and 21, we hosted ham radio operators for the third year as part of the International Lighthouse/Lightship weekend.  Sterling Carpenter, Rick MacMillan and Art Gunn brought their equipment and set up in the keepers house.  Because we have worked hard to make it livable, removing the mould, repairing damage and making it water tight, we were also able to offer them the house for the weekend.  While there is running water to the house, the plumbing system hasn't been activated since 2004 so "camping" was what was offered.
Rick, Sterling and Art in the western side of the keepers house

Despite the fog, the three thoroughly enjoyed themselves, welcoming visitors to the house and reaching the following ham radio operators, set up in lighthouses:

VE7FE Nootka Island Lighthouse, BC (1911)
DA0LCC  Lighthouse at Wehldorf Upper , Germany (1968)
N2MO Lighthouse at Sandy Hook , NJ, USA (1764)
W4JUP Lighthouse at Jupiter, FL, USA (1860 but continued disputes had the light dark until 1866)
KP3RE Fajardo Lighthouse, Puerto Rico (1882)
W2GSB Fire Island Lighthouse, NY, USA (1826)
W4A Tierra Verde Lighthouse, Tampa Bay, FL, USA (2005)
W9LY Michigan City Lighthouse, IN, USA (1858)
V3CL Oakville Lighthouse, Oakville, ON (1837)

Rick MacMillan using his computer as part of the calling procedure for his ham radio

Sterling Carpenter setting up one of the antennae for their ham radio
Sterling's only comment when asked what could be better, was to be able to set up in the lighthouse.  That could be sooner than we think.  We look forward to next year's International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend.

Colouring Sheet have a wide range of activities from colouring sheets to games, fun facts, history, and other Canadian related material on their web site.  It is "a growing project that aims to make exploring Canada fun". One of the colouring sheets is Swallowtail Lighthouse as seen from the top of the hill.

Download the colouring sheet and have fun.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Swallowtail Now

About 30 people attended the evening presentation at the Grand Manan Museum, Thursday August 4, entitled Swallowtail Now.  It was fun and a challenge to put together the talk from hundreds of photos taken over the last year, as well as some historic photos to set the tone.  This is the 25th year since the de-staffing of the lighthouse, November 1985, and the 75th anniversary of the death of the lightkeeper, Elodie Ingalls Foster.

The Museum graciously split the door donations with Swallowtail Keepers Society.  The evening talks are a part of their annual fund raising and public education series.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chimneys Getting Repaired

Joe and Ken wrapping the chimney with plastic
for the winter to stop some of the water from getting in
and protecting the chimney from further damage
Brian McLanahan is staying at the keepers house this week and will be repairing the chimneys.  The chimneys are in great need of repair and the leaking flashing has been the cause of much of the water damage in the house.  It will be great to have them functional again and the two stoves moved out to the house.

While waiting for the Rotary Festival fireworks tonight, we could see the lights on in the house.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Boathouse Gifts

If you haven't been to Swallowtail lately, there are some new additions.  We have two summer students, Geoffrey Hadaway and Robyn Guptill.  They are keeping the building at the top of the hill open daily, the former boat house from the decommissioned Ross Island light house, Fish Fluke Point.  They are greeting visitors and selling a few items to help raise funds to maintain the property, pay the utilities, etc.

 The t-shirts have the same design as the very popular cotton tote bags sold last year for the 150th anniversary.  They are available in four adult sizes and several children's sizes.  There are also matted photographs, notecards, postcards, bookmarks, jars of beach treasures and some used books for sale.

We also have two picnic tables loaned to us from the Anchorage Provincial Park.  One is on the deck and the other is near the stairs.  We do have water for sale and you can bring your picnic lunch and enjoy the view.

Come visit!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Flag Raising and Memorial Service 2011

July 7, 2011, saw another gathering of those keenly interested in the Swallowtail Lighstation.  The flag was raised for the first time this year with an RCMP officer in attendance as O Canada was sung.  A plaque was also unveiled to commemorate the sacrifice of Elodie Ingalls Foster in her role as a lightkeeper in 1936.  Family members were in attendance to unveil the plaque that was later installed on the lighthouse where a terrible accident resulted in her clothes catching fire in the evening of August 7.  Despite medical care, she died the next day. 

 Text on the plaque reads:

In Memory Of

Elodie Ingalls Foster

19 February 1892 - 8 August 1936

In the early evening of August 7, 1936, Elodie Ingalls Foster in her capacity as second keeper at Swallowtail attempted to light the lamp in the lighthouse tower. She had carried out these duties previously and for unknown reasons the flammable liquid used soon engulfed her in flames. She was able to get out of the tower and reached the living quarters of Swallowtail. She was quickly found by family members and medical attention was called. Despite their best efforts Mrs. Foster died from her injuries the following day.

The death notice in 1936 read:

Swallow Tail Light

Mrs. Thos. Foster, Wife of Lightkeeper, Suffers Fatal Injuries in Performance of Duties As Second Keeper


North Head, Aug. 10 – (Special) – Death came to Mrs. Thomas Foster late Saturday afternoon as the result of severe burns received while lighting the lamp at the Swallow Tail Lighthouse here. Friday evening directly following the accident it had been hoped and believed that she might survive but as the hours passed medical advice saw that the end was only a matter of a short time.

As second keeper of the light and alone at the time with the exception of her three-year-old granddaughter, Wilhelmina Knyff, Mrs. Foster had taken her young company to the light tower. She adjusted the lamp parts and applied wood alcohol with a torch and somehow, not thoroughly understood, the second application spilled the inflammable liquid which quickly spread, catching her clothing. In a moment she was a mass of flames and tearing at her clothes to rid her body of the fire, raced down the long winding flights of stairs to the living quarters of the light.

The terrified little girl left in the light started from the tower which was now afire and fell down the deep stairs. She was injured slightly about the head.

Just at that time Mrs. Foster’s two daughters, Miss Ruth and Mrs. Eddy Knyff, her son, Leonard, and Junior Ingersoll, a companion, rushed in. Horror stricken with what they found Len had presence of mind enough to immediately seek medical attention and his father at Southern Head Light, and to extinguish the fire in the tower.

Suffering intense pain, Mrs. Foster was conscious at times, relating as nearly as could be, what had happened. A greater part of her body had been seared by flames and on through the night and during Saturday her condition changed but little with the exception of a general weakening. Just a few hours before “lighting time” the end came.

Mrs. Foster was born at Ingalls’ Head, the daughter of the late Capt. and Mrs. Loran Ingalls and when her husband took over the appointment as keeper at the Southern Head Light, entered zealously into the work with him. She was considered as able and efficient second keeper in her own right and when changes in appointments came and they transferred to Swallow Tail she was made assistant keeper until Mr. Foster would be enabled to leave the light at Southern Head when that would be taken over by his successor. Their son, Leonard, has been acting as keeper at Swallow Tail.

The suddenness and painful conditions of her demise came as a shock to the entire island, to her family and immediate friends. She leaves to mourn her husband, Thomas H. Foster, one son, Leonard, two daughters, Ruth, at home, and Mrs. Eddy Knyff of Eastport, one brother, Paige Ingalls, of Black’s Harbour and Ingalls’ Head.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Deck Extension on Keepers House

When the keepers house at Swallowtail was leased as a bed and breakfast, a wonderful cedar deck was added on the southern side with access from the house through two patio doors.  The deck was only accessible from the western side and while some people did walk up on the deck, to get to the lighthouse it was necessary to walk back around the northern side of the house.

Beginning the extension of the deck on the keepers house.
This winter while restoration work was being carried out at the keepers house and boat house, the deck railing on the eastern side was knocked over by the wind during one of our northeast gales.  Although the railing was stood back up again and secured, the next gale took the railing and shook it so violently that all the pickets and rails were taken apart and flung onto the ground.

Joining the old and new decks.
It was then that I decided that forces beyond us were giving us a message - the railing had to go and the deck extended so people could walk across the deck to the lighthouse or come back over the deck to the keepers house.  This would more closely mimic the board walks that had connected the keepers houses (both old and new) to the lighthouse.

The rock outcrop was incorporated into the deck extension.
The deck is sculpted around the rock to match the observation deck.

Bench incorporated into the deck under construction.  The deck
extension allows access to the lighthouse from the southern side of the keepers house.
 Because the ground was frozen we had to wait until the spring to build the extension.  We also needed to make it strong enough to withstand the ferocious winds so it didn't get stood on end as the old boards walks were after an October hurricane in 1963.  We skirted the side facing the north to reduce the amount of wind that could be forced under and the deck, hopefully reducing the amount of uplift and keeping the deck in place.  We incorporated a bench instead of a railing so people could enjoy the views.  Because of a rock outcropping, the deck had to narrow as it extended to the east.  To match the observation deck, the deck was sculpted around the rock.
Upended board walk after an October 1963 hurricane.

Wooden Lobster Trap Style Benches

I have always admired the wooden lobster trap style benches at the Anchorage Provincial Campground.  With funding from the Canadian Heritage Legacy Fund for ground work related to a tribute to the former light keepers, we were able to have six installed at Swallowtail.
Truck load of bench parts to be taken to Swallowtail.

Ken Ingersoll putting a lobster trap style bench together
on the deck of the keepers house.

Joe Ingersoll and Ken Ingersoll carrying a bench to the lighthouse
from the keepers house construction site.
We were able to borrow the pattern from the Anchorage and purchased the lumber to make the benches.  Some of our volunteers cut out all the components which were then carried out and built on site.  They are very heavy, which is ideal for the windy conditions at Swallowtail, but it also makes it a bigger challenge to  put them in place if they are fully constructed.

Newly construction wooden lobster style bench immediately in use.
I am not the only one who loves these benches and there have been several people ask to have one made for their own gardens.

We also have a great older bench that was donated and refurbished in the red lighthouse paint colour. This bench was owned by the former owners of the Anchorage Provincial Park, the L'Aventures. It is on the observation deck surrounding the greeting centre and is accompanied with a picnic table on loan from the Anchorage.
Donated bench on the observation deck.

Help in Unexpected Ways

Swallowtail is a beautiful location but getting things to and from the keepers house or lighthouse is always a challenge even when the tram way was functional and things were brought by boat.

Keepers buildings and lighthouse seen from Net Point.
A couple of weeks ago we needed to move some heavy items out to the keepers house from the former Ross Island boathouse because that is now our greeting centre and gift shop.  We had organized some of our volunteers to help but many of us are getting up in age although are still very active and always up to a challenge.

It just so happened that the Hampton Sea Cadets were visiting the island to go whale watching and arrived just in time to carry some items down the 54 steps across the bridge and along the trail.  Thank you!

Some of the Hampton Sea Cadets aboard the whale watching
vessel, "Elsie Menota"

One of the Sea Cadets leaders chatting with the captain of the
"Elsie Menota", Sarah McDonald.
And just to remember the light keepers motto at Swallowtail - never go empty handed, they graciously carried some items back up the steps!

The Sea Cadets taking unused insulation back - never go empty handed
The gift shop/information centre is starting to look great, thanks to many people who have been involved hiring students, organizing schedules, ordering stock and painting signs.  We have two picnic tables on loan from the Anchorage Provincial Park for the summer.
Former boat house from fish Fluke Point Lighthouse on Ross Island
moved to Swallowtail after that lighthouse was decommissioned in 1964.
It is our welcome centre and gift shop.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Four years after the almost tragic grass fire at Swallowtail.

April 1, 2007 fire as seen from my deck.
The April 1, 2007 grass fire at Swallowtail almost saw the buildings (light tower and keepers house) burned to the ground if it had not been for the fast action of the Grand Manan Volunteer Fire Department.  Their hoses just reached the keepers house but to protect the lighthouse itself, they set back fires and used sheets of plywood to keep these fires from getting out of control.  The creeping juniper burned very hotly and were just ashes afterwards.  None of the tamarcks survived.  Here is a link to some pictures taken that day that I found recently while looking for other information about Swallowtail:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Royal Tea a Success

The day began with a spattering of rain but it didn't damper spirits of those attending the Royal Wedding Tea. Approximately 65 came to the tea bedecked in their finery. Laura Buckley and her crew outdid themselves as usual with enough sweets and sandwiches to feed three times the people.
Portions of the Royal Wedding were played throughout the tea on a wide screen TV and while we had countesses, duchess and ladies, not many counts, dukes or lords made an appearance but those that did certainly enjoyed themselves.

The hats came in all shapes, sizes and colours and while flowers dominated, butterflies, fish, dories and resplendent fabrics made appearances. But it didn't stop with hats, fancy dresses, shoes and gloves also finished the look.

Take away packages were available and several containers of cupcakes were taken to the Grand Manan Nursing Home after the tea.

Anticipating the Royal Tea.  Tables and television set up.

Laura Buckley coordinating the layout of the buffet with
Jana, Emmy, Megan and Harley
Whale Cove Cottage crew: Laura, Megan, Jana, Emmy and Harley
Buffet layout.

Some of the people attending the tea in Covert Hall.

Hats came in all shapes, sizes and colours -
Dawn, Janie, Elaine and Ginny.

Laura, Hallie and Bessie

Mary and Sandra

Evelyn, Kaye and James

Megan, Sidney, Taylor, Annie, Harley, Haven


During the tea with the Royal Wedding  playing in the background


Cleaning up after the tea.

Everyone went away feeling they had a wonderful afternoon and we were able to raise some money to continue the restoration work at Swallowtail.  Many thanks to Laura Buckley, Emmy, Jana and Megan Greenlaw, Harley Bass, Diane Jaillet, Fredonna Dean, Marilyn Cronk and Bryant Eaton for serving and/or cleanup;  Ken Ingersoll, Lloyd MacFarland and Bryant Eaton for setting up the tables; Clare Toyer, Cecelia Bowden, Marilyn Cronk, Diane Jaillet, Pam Cronk and Pam Charters for additional cooking. 
Back view of the Countess of Pettes Cove's hat.