In the days before radar and electronic technology, fog was a far greater hazard to shipping than it is today, and men were constantly at work to find some device, almost certainly acoustical, which would reduce the hazard. Lightships, by definition the focal point for marine traffic, were particularly suitable for sound signals as they were usually clear of the echoes of the land. While the diaphone formed an efficient sound signal in the air, scientists were groping for an underwater method of signaling. The use of acoustical devices operated indirectly by the sea, such as bell or whistle buoys, had been in common use for many years when, in 1905, the Department became interested in submarine signaling.

The submarine signaling bell was an American invention which had been installed, with some success, in the Boston lightship and other places. It had been satisfactorily reported on by the Commissioner of Lights, Mr. J. F. Fraser, and by the Commander of the Marine Service, O. G. V. Spain, who reported:

"I personally heard in the chart room . . . the lightship's submarine bell at a distance of six miles. It was perfectly audible and I had no difficulty whatever in locating the position from the ship at that distance."

"The last Cornfield L/S was # 118, WAL 539 and is at Lewis, Del. carries the name Overfalls ( which it never was )"
Said James Rutledge  who served  on the LV# 118

J. T. Rutledge also served  on the LV #118

The Gillmen thanks these sailors for their additional information .

What was it like to be stationed  on a Light Ship?

From experiences some fifty years ago, as a seaman on a lightship

Memories of The Cornfield Lightship
by James T. Rutledge and S. Leigh Somerville

boredom
just plain
dull

but
there could be
a worse place
and a more difficult situation

put in your time
have your choice of duty
and go back to
civilian life
if  that is your desire

meals and coffeetime,
bridge watch,
scrape and paint
read and sacktime
wait for rotation
of leave

fed like kings
at the first of the month
for about fifteen days
and then cut back
to cabbage and beans
cash food allotment
changed to booze for the cook
and officers in charge

sheltered waters grow rough

on the bridge on a high four legged stool
hold on with both hands to a desk
or table tied to the bulkhead
hold on or be thrown from the stool and across the deck
stand back against the bulkhead
hold on to a brass rail
bunk in and hold on to the two side rails
and a few dry soda crackers

out the porthole
on the lee side
blue fox  fire plays six to twelve inches
from the top of the mast
up into the night sky

sea cold
warm air moist and moving in
fog settles across the water
boats pass by as only the tops of masts
and no boat at all

deck at break of day
covered with dead birds
gold finches flown against the main light
as they migrated to die

but
there could be
a worse place
and a more difficult situation

MORE  CORNFIELD LIGHTSHIP MEMORIES
by James T. Rutledge and S. Leigh Somerville

fog horn
heard five miles away
metal ship horn
day and night for days on end

draw in the chain
flake it down
into the locker
wet, slimy, stunks to high heaven

magic brass key
cut with a file
to fit and open the food locker
passed from one seaman
on the night watch to the next
to visit the food locker
for a little soup on the mid watch

leave the ship
down one very long ladder
in the middle of the night
down a long ladder to dry dock
in the dark of the night.

to a small boat in a heavy sea
in fog the compass
a ball of paper dropped off the bow
time noted as the paper passes the stern
on the drift of the tide

run one half hour
stop the engine
listen for the fog horn
of the lighthouse on the outer jetty
head for the sound
follow the jetty to the town docks

Christmas several days away
don't take the bone from the dog

water over the bow
built up over the deck plates
no bilge pump aboard
no life jackets
everyone in the stern
and keep the bow high
water still came in but at a smaller
rate.

don't take the bone from the dog.

We got soaked completely but we did make the trip. Don't think for a moment that prayer didn't pay a big part in that event just as I am sure it does many time for those that go to sea. There was no changing cloths, just cloth to dry out by body heat as we boarded trains in what ever
direction.

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