Casco Bay Fog Horns Fall Silent

Notice anything different lately? Perhaps last weekend when you couldn't make out the Observatory from the Hilltop Market for the pea-soup fog?

Munjoy Hill has "gone quiet" following the Coast Guard's recent decision to switch Maine and New Hampshire fog horns from fog-activated to radio-activated beacons. Gone now is the heavy, plaintive carpet of sound during foggy days and nights. The new normal is no sound at all-- unless a mariner activates the horns via radio when in distress.

"One day many years ago a man walked along and stood in the sound of the ocean on a cold sunless shore and said "We need a voice to call across the water, to warn ships; I'll make one.I'll make a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door, and like the trees in autumn with no leaves.A sound like the birds flying south, crying, and a sound like November wind and the sea on the hard, cold shore.I'll make a sound that's so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their souls, and to all who hear it in the distant towns.I'll make me a sound and an apparatus and they'll call it a Fog Horn and whoever hears it will know the sadness of eternity and the briefness of life."
-Ray Bradbury, The Fog Horn, 1951

17 lighthouses in Maine, including Cape Elizabeth, Portland Head and Spring Point (Ledge) lights have gone silent in the past few weeks, only to be heard from when a discombobulated boater next activates the horns via marine radio. The Coast Guard has pointedly stated that its mission is not to fund the quaint ambience of coastal residents, but one can't help feel wistful at the loss of such a longstanding Maine icon as the foghorn.

Fog Horns at Portland Head Light

In order to activate the foghorn for up to 60 minutes, a boater can key a standard VHF-FM radio five times consecutively on VHF channel 83A.