View Full Version : Historic Bowditch Ledge Beacon Collapses

11-28-2018, 09:50 AM
Boaters beware: Bowditch Ledge tower collapsed
Historic ocean marker vanishes overnight
By Dustin Luca Staff Writer

Report: Salem News (https://www.salemnews.com/news/local_news/boaters-beware-bowditch-ledge-tower-collapsed/article_d2cad924-82d3-5d0a-b8f7-c872d2340ca7.html)


SALEM — For hundreds of years, a towering granite marker in Salem Harbor has kept boaters from running aground on the perilously high Bowditch Ledge.
That was until last weekend, when the Bowditch Ledge daybeacon apparently collapsed. Now, it’s only visible during the lowest of low tides, when massive blocks jut out from the ocean where the marker once stood.


Now, professional boaters based in Salem are working to get the stone daybeacon replaced before there’s a crash.

“People enter the harbor, and here you have a very shallow spot — a shoal — right next to deep-water navigation in your area,” said Bob Blair, chairman of the Salem Port Operating Committee with the Salem Marine Society. “It’s just so easy to drift out into that channel, and now what used to be a huge granite tower marking this spot isn’t there.”

The daybeacon is a thing of lore around Salem, and there are conflicting stories on why it was built. The version most frequently told is that William Bowditch, the great-grandfather of famous navigator Nathaniel Bowditch, wrecked the ship Essex Galley on the ledge in 1700.

It’s unclear when the daybeacon was built, but sources point to it being in the 1800s. It stood about 30 feet tall and eventually had a reflective diamond-shaped daybeacon on top of it.
Paul DePrey, superintendent of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, wasn’t aware the daybeacon had collapsed.
“I’m surprised to hear about it,” he said, “but I’m not surprised, because it wasn’t a bomb-proof marker.”



The daybeacon was made of granite blocks, some as long as 10 feet, DePrey said. But Blair said he didn’t think anything held the blocks together.
As time has gone on, the continued wear and tear of New England weather had pulled the blocks apart, according to Capt. Bill McHugh, Salem’s harbormaster.
“I don’t remember the last time it actually saw maintenance,” McHugh said.

Blair said the Salem Marine Society frequently lobbied for the U.S. Coast Guard to make sure “that this gets put on the maintenance program and tightened up before it falls over,” he said.
A photo provided by the harbormaster’s office, taken a week or two before the collapse, shows it starting to lean in one direction.

Then, on the evening of Nov. 15, McHugh said, the windy weather “was too much for her.”
Blair compared it to a game of Jenga.

“The blocks started getting pushed around and sliding, and nobody went out there to tighten them up,” Blair said. “Here we are, on the verge of the port of Salem (being revitalized) and changes to the port, the moving toward more cruise ships, more commercial traffic coming into the harbor... and the last thing we need to do is start losing aids to navigation.”
With the daybeacon gone, Blair said he’s worried someone will hit the ledge — especially since the remains of the tower vanish as the tide rises.

“Now, you have a pile of rocks sitting on top of the rock,” he said. “It isn’t too unlikely that somebody will run this thing over and scratch up the bottom of their boat or rip out a propeller shaft... or create some other reason for Bill (McHugh) to go out and rescue somebody.”

Jeremy D’Entremont, a maritime historian and author of several books on New England lighthouses, said there are only about a half-dozen granite daybeacons still standing around New England.

“I always liked seeing it. I’m going to miss it when I’m around there,” D’Entremont said of the Bowditch daybeacon. “It’s just an interesting, old structure that certainly added to the historic seascape out there.”

McHugh said the U.S. Coast Guard, which maintains control of the daybeacon, will likely put a temporary obstruction buoy out where the tower used to stand until a permanent marker can be installed.

“I doubt they’d put a 19th-century daybeacon back,” McHugh said — masonry on the open ocean is cost-prohibitive, he said — “but it needs to have a spindle on it.”
Still, Blair said he hopes that a stone marker will be erected instead of a metal pole with a diamond-shaped sign on top of it.
“From my viewpoint, with the history of the port, it’s an important, historic landmark,” he said. “I’d hate to see that replaced by an iron pole... It wouldn’t be the same, but I understand there is a practical nature to some of this.”

Then again, Blair said, “all the material is sitting right there.

Prince of Whales
11-28-2018, 10:39 AM
Call the masons union asap!