Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Radio Fog Signals

Radio beacons cropped up very early in the development of radio. But that makes some sense. radio is a strictly non-visual medium, and so it was imagined to solve problems without a visual interface: audio communication, remote control, and navigation without visual aids. It's almost impossible to imagine what the world was thinking when it was first on the verge of these possibilities but that's my theory.

The first radio beacons testing began in 1916  courtesy of the United States Light House Service. These same units (more or less) were placed into regular service in May of 1921.  Other tests began at Navesink Lighthouse Atlantic in the New Jersey highlands but were rudely interrupted by WWI. Those tests resumed in 1919 but they were late to the party so to speak. They installed those original three experimental units at three stations. These were as follows:
  1. Ambrose Channel Lightship (New York harbor)
  2. Fire Island Lightship
  3. Sea Girt Lighthouse.
Lightship Ambrose was a name given to numerous different lightships that served as sentinel beacons to mark the Ambrose Channel in New York Harbor.  Some even operated at the same time in different locations around the harbor. This is the Main Shipping channel on the Hudson River. The first of these lightstations was actually established south of the Ambrose Channel in 1823 just off of the coast of Sandy Hook, NJ.It was relocated in 1906 nearer to the channel. In 1967 it was replaced by a stationary platform the Texas Tower. The ship in service at the time of the radio experiments was the LV-87 also called "the Ambrose"

The Fire Island Light ship was situated about 40 miles east of the entrance to New York harbor, and about nine miles off the shore of Fire Island. It was originally stationed in 1896. But it had been borrowed from it's original duty as a lightship on Nantucket Shoals where it returned the following year. Interestingly it installed experimental Marconi wireless in 1901. The new ship that relieved it at Fire Island was the LV-68 in 1897.
It's fog signal was installed in 1906 and it's own Marconi Wireless in 1916 will the call sign NLS. It operated until 1930. More here.

The Sea Girt LightHouse marks the inlet leading to the Wreck Pond in Sea Girt, NJ south of Asbury Park. It first came into service in 1896. It was just one of the 40+ stations along the Jersey Shore. When this station was equipped with a radio beacon it was probably the first such station on shore. Because there were three stations a ship could fix its position through triangulation. In 1928, Sea Girt’s transmitter was shut down and the towers dismantled. The transmitter was transferred to Barnegat Lightship off Cape May, NJ. More here.