A fog cannon sounds like a good idea– at first

I give you an antebellum cannon, long on display in USCG’s PACAREA. This vintage 24-pounder siege gun was first used as a fog signal on Point Bonita, California, the entrance to San Francisco Bay, during the time of the Gold Rush clippers.

USCG Heritage Asset Collection 170601-G-XX000-352

Beginning on 6 August 1855, a retired Army sergeant was detailed to fire this gun every half hour whenever fog prevailed. What they didn’t take into account is that Point Bonita averages 1040 hours of fog signal operation every year, which placed a considerable burden on said sergeant.

A vintage image of the gun on its correct mount, note the Point Bonita lighthouse in the background

As noted by the U.S. Lighthouse Society:

Armed with his marching orders Sergeant Mahony set about his task. What the service didn’t know was that Point Bonita experienced over 1,000 hours of fog or “thick” weather a year.

In short order, the district office received a letter from the good sergeant stating, “I cannot find any person here to relieve me, not five minutes. I have been up three days and nights and had only two hours’ rest, and am nearly used up. All the rest I would require in the twenty-four hours is two, if I could only get it.”

During the first year, he fired 1,390 rounds, expending 5,560 pounds of black gunpowder at a cost of $1,487. The district did send him an assistant, but in the second year of operation, there were 1,582 discharges expending $2,000 of black powder, three times the sergeant’s salary.

This procedure was discontinued in March 1858 due to the high cost of powder. No mention of what happened to Mahony, who likely said “What?” a lot when spoken to.

About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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