We can’t let a second reference to a foghorn on October 20 go by without speculating on what kind of foghorn it might be. In the last podcast I put money on it being a Typhon, made by the Swedish foghorn specialists Kockums – a bit like this one:
But looking back at a previous reference to the foghorn on September 28, I find this:
‘A blast in my ear, like the voice of fifty trombones, galvanized me into full consciousness. The musician, smiling and tousled, was at my bedside, raising a foghorn to his lips with deadly intention.’
So Davies’s foghorn had no pump and didn’t use compressed air. It appears to have been more like a fog trumpet. Was there such a thing? And was it of any more use than the whistle that comes into play on October 22?
Well, a quick survey of ebay tells me there were indeed very basic foghorns that you blew like a trumpet back in 1898. It’s possible that they doubled up as musical horns for playing… er… hornpipes? The more bespoke horns worked a bit more like a clarinet or a bassoon, in that there’d be a vibrating reed as part of the mouthpiece, offering a more ‘wood-windy’ low frequency sound. Here’s one that looks more like something Davies might blast into Carruthers’s ear:
Happily, these more basic trumpets are about the tenth of the price of the Typhons on the antiques market, so if we wanted to take one on our trip we probably could (or we could take advantage of the enormous market for fake Typhons that apparently exists). Even cheaper still are spirit trumpets, used in Victorian times to amplify the voices of the dead at seances. One of these could be easily adapted to become a foghorn. And thus, with each blast, we could be helping to raise Carruthers and Davies from the dead.
1. Huge thanks to Club Member Jeff for this email about the history of foghorns:
Ask for fog signal information, and you shall receive. It’s a bit US-centric, but here is a 2-part article on the history of fog signals, because you can’t cover such a topic in a mere single article.
2. Here is the video about The Foghorn Requiem, performed at Souter Lighthouse, as mentioned in the last podcast:
Foghorn Requiem from Joshua Portway on Vimeo.
3 thoughts on “‘a foghorn, whose music roused hosts of sea birds’”
Or you could I suppose, borrow the Hornster from the ETA and combine cycling and foghorns. Might cause an upset to navigation on the Kiel Canal, though. Video with sound at
The AirZounds is much lighter, but the sound is just a loud squawk by comparison.
Dunno if you have seen any of these films but German TV has apparently got interested in RotS and has made some episodes. if nothing else, they give a good idea of what sailing a boat the size of Dulcibella might have been like. Though the boat in the films is a cutter, not a yawl.
Ahoy Tony! Yes we’re aware of the TV series. We discussed it a bit in a previous podcast and linked to the rather fabulous theme tune. “STRANGE FRIENDS!”