Round Island Foghorn Could Be Nearing Retirement

round island 2The haunting sound of Scilly’s Round Island foghorn could soon be silenced, depending on the outcome of a consultation exercise this autumn.

IFCA officer, Steve Watt, says he’s received a letter from Trinity House, who looks after the UK’s lighthouses and navigational aids, to say they’re considering decommissioning the signal and they’d like to hear locals’ views on that.

It follows a growing trend in recent years with dozens of the horns around the UK’s coast being retired.

Scotland’s last foghorn at Skerryvore was switched off in 2005 and there are just 24 left in England and Wales.

From Radio Scilly

Captain Roger Barker talks about the future of the Round Island foghorn

Captain Roger Barker, the Director of Navigational Requirements for Trinity House, says with modern traffic patterns, both commercial and leisure, they need to look at whether it’s appropriate.

Foghorns are expensive to maintain, he says, more so than modern lighthouses, because they use a lot of power.

And he says he appreciates the nostalgia that’s attached to the sound but any decision will be based purely on the needs of seafarers, not on cost or for sentimental reasons.

Roger says foghorns are no longer seen as navigational aids, but are kept as ‘hazard warning’ signals to avoid ships running into adjacent lighthouses.

He says traffic data around Round Island shows that this is unlikely to happen.

But former Ship’s Pilot, John Nichols, thinks it would be a shame if it went.

He says with two lighthouses, Round Island and Bishop Rock, so close together in Scilly, having one near a foghorn helps sailors differentiate where they are in poor visibility.

But the signal isn’t always reliable and John has had to contact the Coastguard in Falmouth on a couple of occasions when it hasn’t started sounding in fog. It’s switched on from London.

Trinity House would like to hear the views of locals by 27th November, on whether or not to keep the foghorn

The findings will be presented to committee that Captain Barker chairs and a decision should be made within a few weeks of that date.

You can send your thoughts to stephen.vanstone@thls.org