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Foghorn will keep on sounding

Don't like the foghorn? Put wet cotton in your ears. Duluth's foghorn doesn't have a volume control, and it can't be pointed at Superior, but it does have enough support from the council to keep its current operating hours. A long line of residen...

Don't like the foghorn? Put wet cotton in your ears.

  Duluth's foghorn doesn't have a volume control, and it can't be pointed at Superior, but it does have enough support from the council to keep its current operating hours.

A long line of residents -- most anti-foghorn -- testified at Monday night's City Council meeting.

People opposed to the horn's fog cutting sound were clear with their complaints. It's shattering their sleep, shaking their walls and putting them under stress, they said.

"My windows rattle and my ears hurt," Sally Larson said. "I need to be up at 6, but I can't get to sleep until after 11."

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"I do not like it," said shift worker Robert Johannessen, who compared it to fingernails on a blackboard or chewing tinfoil. "It sounds like the Jolly Green Giant vomiting in a washtub."

Another man compared it to a dripping water torture, and one woman complained she has to wear earplugs in her house.

The foghorn can currently blast between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. Council President Donny Ness proposed changing the hours to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The current hours came out of a compromise after similar complaints several years ago.

A resolution to silence the horn altogether was withdrawn.

Though historic in nature, the diaphone foghorn has only been operating in Duluth since the mid-1990s. It works under a unique arrangement between the Coast Guard, the city and TOOT Inc., a private group which owns the horn.

And neither TOOT nor the Coast Guard were inclined to make any changes.

"It took years to bring this old foghorn back to Duluth. It's the only one in the country," TOOT spokesman John Ringsred said. "They can stuff wet cotton in their ears or use other types of protection. You can't turn it down; there's no volume control."

Coast Guard Chief Scott McAloon, in charge of safe navigation, said the Coast Guard has a two-mile standard and the horn has a range of about 10 miles.

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Councilor Neill Atkins said he wanted to keep the horn functioning but acknowledged it was driving some people nuts. "If we could point it more toward Superior, I'd be happy," he said.

But Ringsred pointed out that aiming it elsewhere wasn't an option.

Councilor Russ Stewart said it was an ambience issue, and there had already been one compromise. So he amended the motion to maintain the current hours.

The amended motion passed 5-3, and the foghorn will keep sounding off.

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