Book Signings

We will be discussing and signing copies of our book Long Island Oddities at the following dates and locations:

10/23/13 7PM Carle Place, Barnes and Noble

10/24/13 7PM Bay Shore, Barnes and Noble

10/30/13 7PM Lake Grove, Barnes and Noble


Great Gull Island sits between Plum and Little Gull Island's, just East of the North Fork. Since 1809 Little Gull Island possessed a lighthouse, with the most recent of the two being built in 1869. One of the early lighthouse keeper's was Frederick Chase. Chase used neighboring Great Gull island as a grazing ground for his cattle, however the island’s use would be far different by the end of the century.

In 1896 with the Spanish American War looming in the distance the military needed to secure the Long Island Sound from a foreign sea invasion. Great Gull Island offered a perfect strategic advantage because it sits at the entrance of the Sound. Therefore the US Military turned the island into a coastal fortification called Fort Michie. Gun emplacements and support buildings were constructed throughout the island. After the Spanish American War ended the base was continually expanded with new batteries being added.

Battery Palmer was built in 1900 and contained two 12-inch disappearing carriage guns. This means that upon firing the gun recoils back and downward. With a counterweight being used to pull it back into firing position. Under the gun emplacements are the batteries where the ammunition was stored. These batteries form an extensive network throughout the island. Battery Palmer is named after Colonel Innis Palmer who served in the Mexican and Civil Wars. Battery Palmer was later retrofitted with two rapid-fire antiaircraft guns. All the guns from the island were removed long ago but the batteries are still remain today. Directly behind Battery Palmer is a control building which was used for underwater mines. It was placed behind the battery for protection.

Battery Davis held a 16-inch disappearing carriage gun, the largest gun on the island. It fired 2,340-pound rounds a distance of 22 miles and could do so at a rate of one per minute. The counterweight used to hoist the gun back into place weighed 610,000 pounds. The ammunition was loaded into the battery’s magazines (storage areas) from a wharf, via a standard gauge railway. Inside the battery an overhead rail system moved the shells onto a cart. From there the shell would be taken to the loading platform and shoved into the guns breech. Interestingly an old rotted Ford sits inside the battery. As attack by air became more of a threat, Battery Davis was fitted with an aircraft spotting station, which became antiquated with the invention of radar.

Other batteries on Great Gull contained smaller pedestal mounted guns. The pedestal allowed for the accurate tracking of faster ships such as mine sweepers and destroyers. Ships would be spotted from towers and their exact position calculated through triangulation performed in a calculating room. The coordinates were then communicated to the guns for precise aiming and firing. These watch towers are called fire control towers.

Since 1966 the island has been owned and managed by the Museum of Natural History. Their ornithologists are engaged in the study and preservation of Terns, a migratory seabird. Every year museum faculty spends the spring and summer living on the island. They sleep in the unused military structures and use the mine control building as a kitchen.


Loading the 16" gun (Battery Davis).


Firing the 16" gun (Battery Davis)


Battery Davis' loading platform in 2006


A Vintage Ford rots inside Battery Davis


Tool storage area inside Battery Davis.


This room in one of the batteries is believed to have been used as a brig. Notice the tally marks chalked on the wall.


Inside a Fort Michie battery.
Battery Palmer seen from a fire control tower.
Fire control tower.
Click map to make it bigger.
Tracks going into Battery Davis
Overhead rails for bringing shells to the loading platform.
Pedestal for a 6" gun.
Anti-aircraft spotting tower. These were used prior to the invention of radar.

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