In matters where life is in danger it becomes necessary to treat even unfounded prejudices with tenderness, as an accident, under certain circumstances, would not only have been particularly painful to those giving directions, but have proved highly detrimental to the work, especially in the early stages of its advancement.

At four o'clock fifty-eight persons landed; but the tides being extremely languid, the water only left the higher parts of the rock, and no work could be done at the site of the building. A third forge was, however, put in operation during a short time, for the greater conveniency of sharpening the picks and irons, and for purposes connected with the preparations for fixing the railways on the rock. The weather towards the evening became thick and foggy, and there was hardly a breath of wind to ruffle the surface of the water. Had it not, therefore, been for the noise from the anvils of the smiths who had been left on the beacon throughout the day, which afforded a guide for the boats, a landing could not have been attempted this evening, especially with such a company of artificers. This circumstance confirmed the writer's opinion with regard to the propriety of connecting large bells to be rung with machinery in the lighthouse, to be tolled day and night during the continuance of foggy weather.

[Thursday, 23rd June]

The boats landed this evening, when the artificers had again two hours' work. The weather still continuing very thick and foggy, more difficulty was experienced in getting on board of the vessels to-night than had occurred on any previous occasion, owing to a light breeze of wind which carried the sound of the bell, and the other signals made on board of the vessels, away from the rock. Having fortunately made out the position of the sloop Smeaton at the N.E. buoy--to which we were much assisted by the barking of the ship's dog,--we parted with the Smeaton's boat, when the boats of the tender took a fresh departure for that vessel, which lay about half a mile to the south-westward. Yet such is the very deceiving state of the tides, that, although there was a small binnacle and compass in the landing-master's boat, we had, nevertheless, passed the Sir Joseph a good way, when, fortunately, one of the sailors catched the sound of a blowing-horn. The only fire-arms on board were a pair of swivels of one-inch calibre; but it is quite surprising how much the sound is lost in foggy weather, as the report was heard but at a very short distance. The sound from the explosion of gunpowder is so instantaneous that the effect of the small guns was not so good as either the blowing of a horn or the tolling of a bell, which afforded a more constant and steady direction for the pilot.

[Wednesday, 6th July]

Landed on the rock with the three boats belonging to the tender at five p.m., and began immediately to bale the water out of the foundation-pit with a number of buckets, while the pumps were also kept in action with relays of artificers and seamen. The work commenced upon the higher parts of the foundation as the water left them, but it was now pretty generally reduced to a level. About twenty men could be conveniently employed at each pump, and it is quite astonishing in how short a time so great a body of water could be drawn off. The water in the foundation-pit at this time measured about two feet in depth, on an area of forty-two feet in diameter, and yet it was drawn off in the course of about half an hour. After this the artificers commenced with their picks and continued at work for two hours and a half, some of the sailors being at the same time busily employed in clearing the foundation of chips and in conveying the irons to and from the smiths on the beacon, where they were sharped. At eight o'clock the sea broke in upon us and overflowed the foundation-pit, when the boats returned to the tender.

[Thursday, 7th July]

The landing-master's bell rung this morning about four o'clock, and at half-past five, the foundation being cleared, the work commenced on the site of the building.

Records of a Family of Engineers Page 59

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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