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HOME > Biographical > Life of Robert Stevenson > CHAPTER XII. CARR ROCK BEACON. 1810–1821.
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The Carr Rock is a tide-covered reef extending about 1? mile from the shore of Fifeness, and forming a turning point in the navigation of the northern-bound shipping of the Firth of Forth, and on Mr. Stevenson’s recommendation the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses resolved to erect a beacon of masonry to mark the danger.

It may seem to be unnecessary, after describing the Bell Rock Lighthouse, to notice so apparently small a work as this; but in such matters it is unsafe to generalise; each case must be considered on its own merits, and great difficulties were encountered in accomplishing the work. The formation of the Carr Rock rendered it impracticable to secure a base for a building of greater diameter than eighteen feet, and as part of that base had to be founded under the level of the lowest tides by cofferdams which were removed and taken ashore after each tide’s work, even the Engineer of the Bell Rock Lighthouse found all his resources taxed to a considerable extent, and he was in the end foiled in carrying out his design for the building. But irrespectively of these178 physical difficulties, the Carr Rock is a work of great interest to the lighthouse engineer, inasmuch as Mr. Stevenson at that early date conceived the idea of calling to his aid the power given by the rise of tide on the building to move a train of clock work to sound a warning bell; and again, when the destruction of the upper portion of his beacon by the sea obliged him to relinquish this plan, unwilling to be beaten, he suggested that the same tidal action might be made to sound a whistle; and failing that, he proposed to exhibit a phosphorescent light from the top of the building. All of these ideas suggested by Mr. Stevenson’s inventive mind have been from time to time revived by modern inventors.

The original design of the Carr Rock Beacon was made in 1810, and the work was commenced in 1813. After portions of the masonry had repeatedly been carried away by the sea, the original design for surmounting the building by a bell to be rung by the rise and fall of the tide was abandoned, and the beacon was completed in 1821, by raising an iron structure, as shown in Plate X. Fig. X-2, on the foundation that had escaped the fury of the sea, and that structure is still in perfect preservation. So great, indeed, was the difficulty that Mr. Stevenson, in 1818, contemplated using blocks of cast iron instead of stone to insure greater specific gravity—a proposal which is believed to have been then made for the first time.

The following is Mr. Stevenson’s own description of this interesting work:—

“The form and construction of the Carr Rock Beacon, as originally designed and ultimately executed, will be 179better understood by referring to Plate X. The motion originally intended to be given to the bell-apparatus, or tide machine, Fig. X-1, wa............
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