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Copyright 2003 Edit Friday August  29, 2014

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Flannan Isles Lighthouse Disappearance Christmas 1900

 

The lighthouse tender Hesperus approached the Fannan Lighthouse landing dock, to deliver supplies, return keeper Moore for his shift relieving another of the rotating keepers,  and find out why the light had been out December 26. 1900. 

Moore and the men operating the Hesperus discovered that the three men on duty, James Ducat, Thomas Marshall and Donald McArthur, had vanished.

   

 

 

When there was no answer to the supply ship's arrival and hail, Relief Keeper Joseph Moore rowed ashore in the dinghy to investigate.

Moore reported back and Captain Harvie sent four members of his crew  with Moore to search.

 

 

(Picture- The Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses)

"The West landing had been hit by bad weather. Iron railings were bent, a life buoy had been ripped from its mountings and a stone weighing over a ton had been displaced high up on the island and still there was no trace of the keepers.  ... To a lone keeper, the solitary life can be peaceful and idyllic but Ducat, Marshall and McArthur did not experience an idyllic life on Eilean Mor. To survive, they were required to raise and slaughter their own sheep and poultry, grow their own vegetables and catch their own fish. They had minimal contact with the mainland. Also, with three men confined to small quarters for lengthy periods personalities can clash and even turn deadly. ...

 ...  Ducat’s log was current up to December 13th, with details for the 14th written in chalk on a slate. He had noted weather conditions, state of the light, supplies and barometric and thermometer readings. He had also entered the time of extinguishing the light on the dawn of December 15th and wind direction at 9:00 a.m. Therefore, the light had been turned off on the morning of the 15th and had not been turned back on that evening when the Architor passed."   Lighthouse Digest

Many theories have been proposed for the disappearance from a huge rogue wave taking the men while they worked outside, and even murder suicide.  Two sets of rain gear were missing. The third man did not have rain gear but his outside coat, was still hanging in its place on a peg.  The reason proposed that there were only two full sets of rain gear is that one man had to remain in the lighthouse at all times while two could work independently or together outside.

Cleaning, trimming wicks, and refilling oil reservoirs on the light had been completed. It was ready to be lit again at nightfall.  So what ever happened did so before noon, the remnants of  breakfast were still on the table.  Chairs were pushed back as if the keepers finished breakfast, stood up, and walked out the door.  But doors had been closed.

 

Much of the speculation has been discounted   Although  there had been a heavy storm it had subsided. It was raining but the sea was calm without heavy waves. If there had been a heavy storm the lighthouse keepers would not have gone outside for any reason.

The damage recorded in the Lighthouse Digest account quoted above could have happened during the heavy storm but had not discovered to be written up in the log by the morning of the 15th.  The height of the damage, in particular the moved one ton rock, was so far above sea level it had to have happened during a violent heavy storm which had ended days earlier, long before  the 15th.  

The theory that two men encountered trouble and the third man rushed out to help was not possible. There was no communication method to reach a man back in the lighthouse to summon him. The distance was too great for someone to have heard voices that far.

 (Paused  ...)

I would propose that the confined living arrangements in a lighthouse eventually created Subliminal Distraction so that one man had a Subliminal Distraction mental event and ran out into a storm.  Given that emergency, the other two suited up to find him.  A severe Subliminal Distraction mental event will create a panic attack like episode with depression and hallucinations that can strike like lightening.  The lighthouse site had few places to run. The victim may have attempted to throw himself into the sea to commit suicide or to pursue a hallucinated situation.  All three men may have fallen into the sea as the two rescuers attempted to wrestle the mental break victim back to the lighthouse. 

It would not have mattered which man ran outside, the other two would have suited up leaving the third coat, the non waterproof outside coat hanging.

 

An entry in the log, is supposed to be dry observations, entries of weather conditions, dates, times, the height of waves and events in the operation of the light house.  Thomas Marshal, second assistant keeper, wrote the log entries and said in them that Ducat, the principal keeper, had been irritable.  The notation was out of place for the usual purpose of the log. 

Disagreeability and irritably could mark the onset of a Subliminal Distraction episode.   But it is possible that the statement is from Marshal's declining mental state and paranoia attributing his perception of events to the Principal Keeper's irritable mental state.