St. John River: Big Noise
Foghorn is invented for Partridge Island
The foggy entrance to Saint John harbour was a hazard to big sailing ships.
Captains often could not see the shore and depended on sound to help them find
their way. A cannon was placed on Partridge Island in 1791 and fired to guide
incoming ships through heavy fog for which the harbour was known. However, an
acceptable level of marine navigation safety had not yet been achieved.
Scottish immigrant, Robert Foulis, arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1821 to pursue
his career as an engineer. He was a multi-talented genius and inventor who help designed
the first steamboats for use on the Saint John River.
It was while perfecting his invention of a gas lamp for lighthouses that Foulis thought
of using steam to power a whistle loud enough to penetrate miles of fog. Foulis also invented,
among other things, a method of using the whistle as a means of receiving and transmitting
messages or telegraphy.
In 1859 Foulis' foghorn, which used a system of coded blasts, was erected at the western
end of Partridge Island. In 1860, when it first echoed out to sea, it was just in time to
make the harbour safe through a thick fog that lasted for more than 65 days.
St. John River (Adobe PDF document)
of Canada (All pages in a zipped file)