Returning to the mystery of the main mast….
We did not know whether the mast extended below the lower deck, or ended on that deck. Now the plans show us that the mast goes right down to the bilges. There is an impressive supporting structure around the mast at the main deck level. The first photo is of this structure taken in Cormorant and viewed on the lower deck.
The second picture is from Gull (R.I.P.) and taken on the upper deck, where graffiti artists obviously plied their lonely, sad trade.
According to the various historical documents:-
“There were two openings in the mainmast, one below the deck and another on the level of the lantern when hoisted up. Inside the mast was a ladder which the lamplighters climbed to trim the lamps. Both openings were stiffened round the edges with wrought iron frames.”
“In this mast were two openings, one below the deck nearly on the fore side, and another on the level of the lantern when hoisted up. Inside the mast was a ladder, up which the men climbed to trim the light when it was mast-headed. The lower opening was 5 feet 3 inches high, and 1 foot 4 inches wide, and was of rectangular form…”
Well there is no evidence of any wrought iron frames anywhere on the remaining piece of mast that stretches between decks, although there are a number of ‘layers’ apparent.
I think that when the original ‘hoist-able’ lamp was replaced by a fixed lamp with outside ladder access, the openings in the mast were welded up to improve strength.
On the plans we can see that one lamp operating procedure was to be carried out remotely and the mechanism for this includes a shaft which goes right through the mast. That steel projection which can be seen pointing towards the camera in the photo above might well be the remains of a supporting bracket for the mechanism and the small circular hole just above it was the entry point for the shaft.
I have enhanced the mast in the side views to make it clearer.
I have yet to work out what this mechanism actually does. It seems to be a manual system, so it would not be anything to do with rotating the light. Perhaps it swivels the mirrors and directs and/or focuses the beam(s). Are there any experts out there?