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Whitby Lighthouse and Fog Horn and their History
I can remember in the early 1990s when holidaying on the campsite just outside Whitby in a caravan, I would look out of the window at night time on stormy nights and see the reassuring intermittent beam of the lighthouse sending out his warning signal into the dark misty sea. If you were really lucky this would be accompanied by blasts from foghorn sending out its eerie sound a bit like a distressed bull.
Sadly the fog horn was decommissioned by Trinity House in 1988 with an electric hooter taking their place, but definitely not providing the same dramatic sound the horn began operating on January 4 and was known as the Mad Bull. Today the building is a private residential property. Back in the days when it was a working building the foghorn could have been inspected by visitors by arrangement, with the mechanism which worked the foghorn being of interest. In foggy conditions it used to send out the blasting sound four times every 90 seconds, with a few seconds gap between the blasts. The power provided to drive the horn was provided by 225 hp oil engines, providing 210 revolutions per minute. Their purpose was to compress large quantities of air which would then activate the horns. Each horn stood 8 feet tall and 20 feet long.
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The lighthouse was opened in 1858 with it being originally built on Ling Hill and designed by James Walker. There were originally two towers aligned north-south with fixed lights over Whitby Rock, bought in 1890 the station was altered with a more effective design of light installed in a smaller tower with the second one being closed down.
The original lighthouse would have been run on paraffin but in 1976 it was electrified and then fully automated in 1992, with the very last keeper of the lighthouse being a gentleman called Bob Vickers.
During working period the buildings attached to the main tower provided accommodation for the workers and controllers. The building would have been kept in extremely good order with the metalwork in the main light room consisting of brass and steel being polished on a regular basis. The light itself would have been an occulting white light, giving one occultation every 15 seconds, between the bearings of N 19 degrees W. Round two N 30.5 degrees, W. magnetic from the lighthouse, which meant in the direction of Whitby Rock the light would have shown red which could travel 16 nautical miles.
The main white light was 240 feet above the level of the sea and on a clear day would have been visible up to 18 nautical miles. The light was powered by three 250 W 24 V tungsten halogen lamps which were mounted on a LC45 to position lamp charger.
It still makes a lovely walk where you can start off from Whitby going of the 199 steps and then take the path to join The Cleveland Way path along the cliff top pass both campsites in the direction of Scarborough and after approximately 2 miles you will come to both of these interesting buildings.