HONNNK...HONK...HONK
July 29, 2019 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Ships passing under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge generally give a horn salute that's answered in turn by the bridge operator. Get your horn on with some salute compilations: Captain's Salute 2018 Shipping Season: Part 1 | Part 2; Ship Salutes in Duluth, MN - 2009-2017; and A Decade of Captain's Salutes. For a current view of ships (with sound) heading into or out of the harbor, there's the Duluth Harbor Cam, with a live bridge view view and canal view, along with an upcoming ship schedule. [Potential volume warning for all video links]

Video collections:

Dennis O'Hara's extensive collection of videos of arrivals and departures from Duluth and other Lake Superior ports.

Videos from the Twin Ports region - Duluth Minnesota and Superior Wisconsin.

Lift Bridge Boat Signals explained:

There have been a few questions about the boat and bridge signal horns when the boats are entering and leaving the Port of Duluth.

In most cases, once radio communication with the bridge has been established, use of the boat and bridge sound signals are not necessary and operation of the sound signals is left up to the captains. Often, boats will not use the loud horns after dark as a courtesy to city residents.

So, most often when you hear the customary horn-blowing sequence of "long-short-short" it is a friendly salute to the Port of Duluth from the ship captain and is responded to by the lift bridge operator with the same sequence.


What's it like to operate the aerial lift bridge?

Life on Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge: Lots of ups, few downs

Ups & Downs: My 8 Years Operating Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge
posted by mandolin conspiracy (13 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love this post!

There's nothing quite like hearing THE BRIDGE IS ABOUT TO GO UP. PLEASE CLEAR THE BRIDGE when you're a pedestrian halfway across, to put a little pep in your step.

Visiting Duluth as a teen, I would run under the bridge and stand directly under it as it came back down, staring straight up until the final CLANG and then hearing the vzzzzz VZZZZZ vzzzzzz of the cars driving overhead again.
posted by castlebravo at 12:14 PM on July 29, 2019 [5 favorites]


long-short-short is Morse Code "D", is that specific to Duluth?
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:09 PM on July 29, 2019


Excellent post, many thanks!
posted by carter at 1:09 PM on July 29, 2019


Lovely city, lovely bridge. It dominates the landscape, but since the road stays at roughly the same level it feels cozy when going across.
posted by whuppy at 2:45 PM on July 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


This is so cool. My apartment overlooks a high drawbridge and tankers are always going in and out ("call me before you leave if you want to know if the bridge is up") but other than the signalling toots from tugboats and the siren when it goes up and down, there's no horn blasts from the ship itself so I am envious. I'm also under the flight path to the airport which follows the tidal river. Except for the three or four scheduled to arrive before it closes for the night around midnight, I don't notice them too much.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:59 PM on July 29, 2019


Awesome! My brother and I both lived in Duluth for a few years, and while he came to see the whole Canal Park area as strictly for the tourists I never got over my love of all this. Was just back there a couple weeks ago on vacation and it's still just as thrilling to wave to the crew of the big 1000-footers as they come through.

(I too used to stand under the bridge as it came down, getting closer and closer and CLOSER!) For people who don't know, the bridge deck is made of an open steel grating which causes that vzzzzz sound and also makes your car wander strangely under your steering wheel as you drive across, something about the interacting with tire treads. It's pretty spooky to look down when you're up there.

I remember when the horn signal was long... short... long... short. I don't know what they mean exactly or why they changed it. I also remember when there was no schedule: any boat, even a little daysailer, could mosey up to the bridge and honk the signal from a handheld air horn, and up the bridge goes. Eventually the impact on traffic was too much so now the little guys can only go through on the half-hour, or tag along after a scheduled big 'un.

It's still a recognized excuse for people living on the far side that you might be late for something because you "got bridged".

Falling in love with Duluth as a child was a big part of my decision to go there for college, and it's been years but I still love that city and dream of maybe moving back someday.
posted by traveler_ at 6:54 PM on July 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


Visiting Duluth as a teen, I would run under the bridge and stand directly under it as it came back down, staring straight up until the final CLANG and then hearing the vzzzzz VZZZZZ vzzzzzz of the cars driving overhead again.

Have you ever looked at your hands? I mean really looked at them?
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 7:56 PM on July 29, 2019


Thanks for this. I want to go and hear that now. I live close to trains, they have personality. I imagine the noise is to the core of being. Yes.
posted by Oyéah at 8:19 PM on July 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Is there any explanation somewhere about why so many of these boats are named Firstname M Lastname? Are they named after the owner of the boat, or some favored semi-famous shipping-related person?
posted by that girl at 9:04 PM on July 29, 2019


The Interlake Steamship Co. has been hauling ore for 100 years. The MV Paul R. Tregurtha and the MV James R. Barker are both named after former CEOs.
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:13 AM on July 30, 2019


long-short-short is Morse Code "D", is that specific to Duluth?

It's been a long time since sailing school, but I remember "long, short-short" being the signal used by sailing ships in low visibility (fog, etc) to say "Here I am." Powered ships would use a single long blast. Maybe it's a local thing?
posted by xedrik at 6:59 AM on July 30, 2019


Is there any explanation somewhere about why so many of these boats are named Firstname M Lastname?

Mainly just coincidence that there are a lot of "M" middle names, I think. If you look up a particular laker on Boatnerd, you can find the provenance of its name.

The Arthur M Anderson is named for a director of US Steel (middle name Marvin). It was returned to service this July, which is pretty amazing considering it was launched in 1952, and considering it survived the same storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald.

There's audio of the communication (mp3 link) between Jesse Cooper (the captain of the Anderson at the time) and the US Coast Guard after he lost contact with the Edmund Fitzgerald, and the Coast Guard asks him to turn around and start a search:

USCG: "Well, again, do you think you could come about and go back and have a look in the area?"

Cooper: "Well, I'll go back and take a look, but God, I'm afraid I'm going to take a hell of a beating out there... I'll turn around and give 'er a whirl, but God, I don't know. I'll give it a try."

USCG: "That would be good."

Cooper: "Do you realize what the conditions are out there?"


On a happier note, here's the Anderson leaving Duluth last week, returning to service for the first time in a few years.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:41 AM on July 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


long-short-short is Morse Code "D", is that specific to Duluth?

It's been a long time since sailing school, but I remember "long, short-short" being the signal used by sailing ships in low visibility (fog, etc) to say "Here I am." Powered ships would use a single long blast. Maybe it's a local thing?


On lake freighters, one long, two short is a salute. The Barker was departing, so three-long is a farewell, although she has such a sonorous horn I think the captain was showing off a little too.
posted by Preserver at 5:53 PM on July 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


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