Very Plymouth explanation for ‘mysterious’ horn sound

The source of a persistent and mysterious honking sound which has been periodically going off all morning in Plymouth has been revealed.

Plymouth residents were left frustrated this morning after a mysterious horn was honked sporadically for over an hour in the waterfront area of the city.

Multiple residents in the areas of Greenbank, Lipson, St Judes and Stonehouse reported hearing the annoying sound, which persisted for up to three hours.

Unbeknown to them, the sound was probably the fog horn sounding at the breakwater, as well as safety blasts from vessels in the Sound..

Initially, one resident in the area said it sounded like a fog horn out at sea, but after some time, decided it sounded more like a car horn being sounded repeatedly.

A PlymouthLive Facebook follower suggested it was actually a lorry with a broken horn driving through the city centre.

The port control station at Plymouth Queen’s Harbour Master have confirmed that the droning sound people had been hearing for much of this morning was likely the breakwater fog horn, which understandably sounds off automatically when there is fog.

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A spokesperson from the port control station said the horn goes off when fog reduces the visibility in Plymouth Sound, which is the case today, as Storm Ellen moves into the region.

Sean Marshall, Second Coxswain at Plymouth RNLI, gave another explanation for the infrequent pattern of the horn sound.

He said: “It’s been pretty foggy this morning and certain vessels have to sound one prolonged blast and two short ones as in the video every two minutes to comply with international regulations for prevention of collisions at sea – these vessels include craft not under command, restricted in their ability to manoeuvre due to their work, constrained by draft, sailing, engaged in commercial fishing and towing or pushing another vessel.

“Given where it was it was probably a tug and barge.”

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Sean also confirmed back in April that the sound people had been hearing at the time was an automated fog signal from the Western Breakwater Lighthouse, “which sounds one tone every 15 seconds”.

He said: “It is designed to sound an audible warning to mariners about the presence of the breakwater in times of restricted visibility, such as mist and fog.

“It’s activated automatically when visibility drops and it has been hazy at sea of late.

“I think it can also be manually activated by the Queen’s Harbourmaster Port Control station at Longroom that are responsible for the vessel traffic services (a bit like air traffic control for ships).”

Some people said they thought the sound was coming from a lorry that had got its horn stuck, and was driving through the city.

Earlier this morning, one disgruntled resident said: “It is driving me up the wall. It’s been going on for over an hour. It sounds like a fog horn out to sea, but for that long? I think it’s a car horn.”

And Marco Gianetti, who lives near Union Street in Stonehouse, said: “It’s been going off since about 8.30am. I’ve heard it five times so far.

“It sounds like the dockyard siren. That’s what I thought it was but then it’s strange for it to go off outside of its normal weekly time.

“The sound is quite distant. I can’t pinpoint which direction it’s from but have heard it roughly every half hour since 8.30am.”

You can find updates on the weather, and traffic on the roads today in our live blog here.

Plymouth Live