CREDITS: I would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont for providing much of the history one can find on this site. He is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England. For a story on Jeremy or to visit his site (New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide), use the corresponding link in the right hand information bar under "Related Links".

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I have set up this site as a means to share my photographs of lighthouses. Since retiring and finding more time to study photography, my interests have expanded a little. For some of my work other than lighthouses please enjoy my Facebook page at, John Shaw Photography. Come visit, enjoy, and 'LIKE' if you wish.

Also, for your enjoyment, I have provided a slideshow of our journey. To view it please use the link on the right under 'Site Navigation Tools'.

I sincerely hope you enjoy my efforts and use my site not only for information and education but also to provide directions for many enjoyable, inspirational visits to the beacons along our beautiful coas.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Narraguagus Pond Island Lighthouse

     In the nineteenth century, the little town of Milbridge was an important shipping point for lumber coming from the Narraguagus River. Shipbuilding and fishing in the area were also flourishing, and Congress appropriated $4,000 for a lighthouse to aid local navigation on March 3, 1851.

     The site chosen was the east side of 360-acre Pond Island. The small freshwater pond that gave the island its name, now mostly a swamp, is at the its northern end. Three acres of land for the light station were purchased for $270 from Benjamin C. Stanwood, who operated a farm on the island. The entire island had been in the Stanwood family since 1833, when it was bought from a Boston doctor.

     Narraguagus Light Station, established in April 1853, originally consisted of a tower and lantern in atop the center of a keeper’s dwelling. The first keeper was Joseph Brown. A fifth-order Fresnel lens replaced the original system of multiple lamps and reflectors in 1856. The focal plane of the light was 54 feet above mean high water.

     In 1875, the Lighthouse Board reported that the dwelling had become uninhabitable. A new five-room dwelling was built in 1876, and much of the original house was removed from around the tower. Around the same time, a ten-sided lantern and a new deck were installed, and a hand-rung fog bell was established.

     The 31-foot granite tower was connected to the dwelling by a workroom built from part of the original house in 1887. The rest of the original dwelling was removed at the same time.

     A barn and a fuel house, as well as a cistern in the dwelling’s cellar, were added in 1892. In 1894, the lighthouse was reinforced with a layer of brick, and a new lantern deck and interior iron stairway were installed along with an iron stairway inside the tower.

     Access to the station was difficult, requiring a half-mile walk across the island. A boat slip built near the lighthouse in 1900 was for emergency access to the island only and was not used by the keepers. Few of the station's keepers stayed more than a few years until William C. Gott, who arrived in 1893 and stayed until at least 1915.

     An inn and clubhouse was were built on the island in 1878, and the three-story Pond Island House continues to operate today. A golf course was added to the island in the 1920s. According to Anne C. Nash’s book Pond Island Heritage, visiting the lighthouse keeper and his family was a typical summer activity for guests at the Pond Island House, when they weren’t busy playing golf or croquet, or competing in wheelbarrow races.

     According to Nash, Elizabeth Hitchcock, an island resident, recalled girlhood visits with the Gott family at the lighthouse. “I would go to see the keeper’s tall, slender, red-haired wife,” she recalled. “She seemed always to be baking biscuits or yeast bread, and the kitchen smelled of bread, kerosene, and fresh paint.”

     One day, Keeper Gott was away fishing on the west side of the island when the lighthouse inspector’s boat appeared. Young Elizabeth, knowing a surprise inspection was imminent, ran to tell the keeper. She took along his uniform, which he donned as he hurried through the woods to the light station. He emerged from the woods in full uniform just as the inspector reached the station.

     Elizabeth Hitchcock also recalled Sunday evening hymn-singing sessions with the Gotts. Elizabeth’s mother played the organ while everyone sang loudly. “Mrs. Gott wouldn’t sing,” Elizabeth remembered, “but tears would roll down her cheeks. She was so happy to have friends come in the summer time. The winters were so lonely.”

     In 1886, Lucy Brown Reynolds described a visit to the light station during Gott's stay in her book Drops of Spray from Southern Seas:

     It was a dark, stormy night, and the keeper's cottage was very cheerful, with its glow of lamp and firelight. A capital supper having been partaken of, we were shown over the lighthouse by the keeper's wife, a cheery, bustling little woman, who seemed delighted to have us there. I had never been inside a lighthouse tower before, and was very much interested in all I saw. The brilliant light sent its warning far out over the troubled waters, bidding all mariners beware. At intervals we could hear the boom, boom, of the steam foghorn at Petit Manan, three miles or thereabouts outside.

     On August 4, 1929, a Nova Scotia schooner, en route to Salem and Boston, Massachusetts, was wrecked on Petit Manan Bar in a gusty rainstorm. The two keepers at Petit Manan Light Station attempted to aid the crew, but they found that the vessel had already been abandoned.

     The captain and three crewmen escaped in the schooner’s rowboat and took refuge at the Narraguagus Light Station, where the keeper, Charles E. Tracy, cared them for them for 12 days. On August 16 they left in the rowboat for a 95-mile journey to Nova Scotia, with food provided by Tracy. The British consul general at Boston wrote a letter expressing his thanks for the services of Tracy and the two keepers at Petit Manan Light.

     Narraguagus Light was discontinued in 1934, and the lighthouse and other buildings and the surrounding five acres were sold at auction to Wilbur Dameron. The property was later inherited by Dameron’s son, Wilbur Jr.

     According to Anne C. Nash, the lighthouse has been the scene of much ghostly activity. In the 1970s, two college friends of a member of the Dameron family spent the night in a downstairs bedroom. They reported hearing a woman speaking loudly and angrily in a foreign language during the night. The only woman present in the house, Wilbur Dameron Jr.’s wife, Nancy, spoke only English and claimed she had been asleep all night.

     On the following night, one of the young men was aroused by a loud noise next to him, as if something heavy had landed on his pillow. There was nothing on the pillow, and nothing in the room was disturbed. According to Nash, the spirit left the young men alone after they made it clear that they were there to help renovate the house, not to harm it.

     The lighthouse and keeper's dwelling remain, as well as the oil house and two storage buildings, still owned privately.  

     CreditsI would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont, webmaster of,, for sharing the above history.  Jeremy is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England.  To view a story on him, go to, (Jeremy D'Entremont).  

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Moose Peak Lighthoouse

     The body of water known as Moosabec Reach, off the northern Maine coast about halfway between Bar Harbor and Eastport, separates Jonesport from Beals Island and several smaller islands. The name “Moosabec” is believed to have had its origins in an Abenaki Indian word, possibly meaning “moose head.”

     Why the name was applied to the reach isn’t clear, but a number of spelling variations have appeared through the years: Mispecky Reach, Moose a Becky’s Reach, Muspecka Rache, Moose Peak Reach, and others. The name of approximately 30-acre Mistake Island, about four miles south of Moosabec Reach at the southwest side of the entrance to the shipping channel known as Main Channel Way, appears to be another corruption of “Mooseabec.” Mistake and several nearby islands were sometimes collectively referred to as the Moose Peak Islands. 

     Congress and President John Quincy Adams authorized the building of a lighthouse on the east point of Mistake Island, about five miles from Jonesport, in March 1825. Three acres of land were purchased for the station at a cost of $150.
The light served to guide mariners to Moosabec Reach and Beal’s Harbor to the north, and to guide direct coastal traffic heading east to the Bay of Fundy. The station was established for $3,955.60 in

     A 24-foot-tall round rubblestone tower was constructed by Jeremiah Berry, and a rubblestone dwelling was built 297 feet from the tower. The lighthouse was topped by a wrought-iron lantern, seven feet high, with a copper dome. A wooden footbridge made it possible to walk across a chasm between the house and the tower.

     The first keeper, Alexander Milliken, purchased the remaining 17 acres of Mistake Island for $75. He asked for, and received, a pay raise in 1829 because of the station’s isolation.

     Milliken was still in charge at $400 yearly when I. W. P. Lewis examined the station for his report to Congress in 1843. Milliken complained that the house was out of repair; the kitchen wall had cracked away from the main building, the house walls were cracked in several places, and the pointing between the stones had fallen away. Rain and snow entered through the walls of the house in storms.

     During a storm in February 1842, the lantern deck of the lighthouse was thrown out of level and the mechanism that turned the lighting apparatus was stopped. In a storm three years earlier, the high seas had washed away the footbridge and nearly destroyed the lighthouse.

     Joshua Walker was appointed keeper, succeeding Milliken, in October 1849. The condition of the station hadn’t improved by the following year, when an inspection report recommended the rebuilding of the tower and dwelling. In 1851, Luther Jewett, superintendent of Maine’s lighthouses, reported that a fissure in the tower had left it leaning to the west. The keeper had spent ten nights in a row, with another person, turning the lighting apparatus by hand.

     The records are vague, and some sources claim that the tower was repaired and not rebuilt in 1851. A letter from a contractor named S. Emeson, dated September 20, 1851, seems to confirm that the tower was rebuilt that year. Emeson’s letter was addressed to “Mssrs. Grose & McLaughlin, Moose Peak, Light Builders.” Emeson wrote (original spelling retained):

     I send all the lantern & all the belongs to it when you are ready to put it up. . . . Mr. Jewett sais it must be ready to light on the 1 of next month. I am to have the old Lightning Rod for the new tower. . . . I have got now the Best lantern for Moose Peak there is or ever was in this State.
The lighthouse was fitted with a second-order Fresnel lens in 1856. The tower developed cracks in the years that followed, apparently because inferior mortar was used in the 1851 construction.

     Some sources claim the tower was rebuilt in 1886, but the 1888 report of the Lighthouse Board is ambiguous:

     As a special appropriation for building this tower was made by the act approved August 4, 1886, an iron watch-room, a modern second-order lantern, and a flight of iron stairs were made and erected upon the tower in August and September.

     It appears that the tower may simply have been repaired and raised in height with the addition of, and a taller lantern and watch room added.

     Charles R. Dobbins was the keeper from 1887 to 1905. In 1898, after Dobbins and his son rendered “gallant assistance” to the crew of the Nova Scotian schooner Ashton, the keeper was awarded a gold watch by the Canadian government. Dobbins couldn’t accept the gift until he was authorized to do so by an act of Congress.

     By 1901, the keeper's house was in disrepair. Two years later, a new two-family house was completed and linked to the lighthouse tower by a walkway. For most of its history, the station had a keeper and one assistant, both of whom lived on the island with their families.  Life was usually harmonious, but there were times when the island seemed too small.

     In 1887, the local inspector wrote to the chairman of the Lighthouse Board that the “wife of the Principal Keeper and his grown up daughters” used “the vilest possible language” toward the assistant keeper and his family, visitors, and even toward the principal keeper himself. The principal keeper, Thomas Dodge, was soon removed and the assistant, Charles E. Dobbins, was promoted.

     Mistake Island is one of the foggiest locations on the Maine coast. In 1912, a fog signal house was erected with a powerful diaphragm fog horn. The signal had to be sounded for 181 consecutive hours in 1916.

     During the period from 1918 to 1934, the keepers at Moose Peak Light logged more hours of dense fog than any other Maine light station. The island averaged 1,607 hours per year, meaning it was foggy about 20% of the time.

     Tragedy struck the station in May 1920. The principal keeper, Henry C. Ray, and the first assistant, Maurice R. Beal, were attempting to land their dory on the island when the two men were tossed from the boat by the heavy seas. Ray scrambled back into the boat but was thrown into the water again when the boat capsized. Meanwhile, the second assistant, Harry E. Freeman, pulled Beal to safety. The tide quickly pulled Ray away from the island, and he disappeared in the waves within view of his wife and the other keepers.

     Albion Faulkingham was keeper for several years in the 1920s. He and his wife, Lucy, had three daughters. Their daughter Florence gave birth to a child, Albion "Tuddy" Kenney, on March 17, 1924, while on a boat headed for the mainland from Mistake Island.

     Moose Peak Light was automated in 1972 and the last Coast Guard keepers were removed. The Fresnel lens was replaced by a plastic optic. The dwelling was almost sold to a private party, but the high cost of a sewage system that would meet Environmental Protection Agency standards caused the sale to fall through.

     In 1982 a military team blew up the keeper's house as a training exercise. The Maine State Historic Preservation Officer had given his OK, saying that the 1903 house didn't have any particular historic value and it was in poor condition. The demolition didn't go exactly as planned. Stephen Perrin wrote in the Island Journal: About midnight a Coast Guard cutter carried 21 men . . . out to the vicinity of Mistake Island off Jonesport. Towing 500 pounds of TNT and some composition explosive in a rubber raft, an assault team swam to the landing site around 0500 and 'infiltrated' the vandalized dwelling. The exercise then went into an 'administrative mode' and classes were held in the art of demolition. The charges had been placed so that the walls would implode into the building, but as it turned out the timbers flew outward, breaking panes in the lighthouse lantern and damaging the helicopter pad.

     In recent years, a nonprofit group called Keepers of Moose Peak Light worked to gain ownership with the goal of restoring the lighthouse. The lighthouse was offered to a suitable steward in 2010-11 under the guidelines of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, and an application was submitted by Keepers of Moose Peak Light. The application was not approved, so the lighthouse was auctioned to the general public along with the boathouse and  5.89 acres of land. (The fog signal building remains under Coast Guard ownership.)

     The auction ended on October 31, 2012, with a high bid of $93,500. The high bidder was Donald J. Vaccaro of South Glastonbury, Connecticut.

     The remaining 23 acres of Mistake Island, apart from the lighthouse property, is managed by the Nature Conservancy. Moose Peak Light, still an active aid to navigation, can be seen distantly from Great Wass Island. It is best seen by private boat or from the air.

     CreditsI would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont, webmaster of,, for sharing the above history.  Jeremy is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England.  To view a story on him, go to, (Jeremy D'Entremont).  

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Libby Island Lighthouse

     Libby Island is at the entrance to Machias Bay, scene of the American Revolution's first naval battle.
       Libby is actually two islands connected by a sandbar, with a total area of 120 acres. The island had been farmed since about 1760.

      A wooden lighthouse may have been erected as early as 1817, but a new tower was built at the south end of Libby Island by the federal government in 1822, along with a wood-frame keeper's house.

      The first rubblestone tower fell down a few months after it was built due to shoddy construction; it was quickly rebuilt.

     In 1842, Keeper Isaac Stearns, formerly at Owls Head Light, offered a harsh picture of the light station for I. W. P. Lewis's important report to Congress on the Lighthouse Establishment:
On my taking possession of this place, I found the establishment in a ruinous condition. The lantern of the light-house was very dirty; I scraped off its floor three buckets of broken glass, clay, &c . . . There were, and still are, fifty panes of glass broken in the lantern . . . The lantern shakes very much in a gale of wind . . .

     The roof of the tower is a pavement of soapstone, which leaks at every joint. The tower was built in the autumn of 1823, and in April following tumbled down. The present tower was immediately after erected. The mortar used in its erection was so bad, that the tower has nearly fallen down a second time . . . The dwelling-house I occupy is built of brick . . . It is entirely out of repair and in a very uncomfortable state . . .

     The tower's original lamps were replaced by a fourth-order Fresnel lens in 1855. A new lantern and deck were installed in 1876.

      Libby Island is among the foggiest locations on the Maine coast. A fog bell gave way to a Daboll fog trumpet housed in a building erected in 1884. Before the addition of the fog bell, Libby Island had a single keeper.

     The bell required an assistant keeper, so the Lighthouse Board eventually built two new houses for the keepers and their families. In 1918, the fog signal was sounded for a total of 1,906 hours, the most of any Maine station.

     Despite the lighthouse and fog signal, the treacherous waters continued to claim vessels. In December 1878, the schooner Caledonia ran into the ledges near Libby Island. The captain, a deckhand, and the steward were killed.

      Only two passengers on the vessel survived to be rescued from the rigging by a volunteer lifesaving crew.

      In a September 1892 storm, Captain John Brown of the Nova Scotia vessel Princeport tried to take shelter in Machias Bay and ran into the bar connecting the two Libby Islands.

     The ship immediately began to break apart as the crew huddled on the bow. The keepers from Libby Island arrived and rescued the men, who probably would have been dead minutes later.

     Henry M. Cuskley became keeper in 1903. He later described the 1906 wreck in dense fog of the three-masted schooner Ella G. Ells to historian Edward Rowe Snow. All hands on the schooner were lost except the captain, who drifted ashore on the roof of the ship's cabin. The vessel had been headed from New York City to St. John, New Brunswick.

     Albion Faulkingham was keeper around 1915. He's seen here with his wife, Lucy, their three daughters and two grand nephews. Courtesy of Sharon M. Josephson.
Hervey Wass became keeper at Libby Island in 1919. His son Philmore Wass wrote a book about his years on the island called Lighthouse in My Life.

This delightful book provides a detailed record of life on an offshore lighthouse station. During this period there were as many as 20 people living at Libby among the families of the keeper and two assistants.

Many different games, including baseball, were played on the island. One of Phil Wass's favorite games was called "Grass is Poison." In this game the children had to walk around the perimeter of the island without touching any grass. This necessitated a climb down a 50-foot cliff near the lighthouse, without the knowledge of the parents, of course.

Phil Wass's sister, Hazel, was taught to play piano by the keeper's wife at their previous station, Whitehead Light, and Keeper Wass bought a piano for Libby Island. Music could often be heard drifting from the island. Hazel Wass once gathered the children on Libby Island and put on a musical revue.

     In his book, Phil Wass described his feelings of awe regarding the lighthouse inspector, Royal Luther. Young Phil sometimes confused the concepts of God and Luther in his young mind; they were both all-powerful figures to the lighthouse families. Inspector Luther would arrive unannounced on the Lighthouse Tender Hibiscus, and the children would tag along as he met with Keeper Wass and toured the station. The buildings were always in perfect order, with the entire family pitching in to make the place sparkle. Young Phil's job was to polish the brass in the keeper's house.

     At the age of 14, Phil Wass was assigned the duty of collecting information for Robert Thayer Sterling, who was writing his book, Lighthouses of the Maine Coast and the Men Who Keep Them.

      Phil explored the attic and discovered a box of old records, including accounts of many shipwrecks. Later all these records went to the Lighthouse Service office in Portland.

      The families at Libby Island supplemented their diet by catching fish and lobster. Cranberries grew in abundance on the island; blueberries and raspberries were available on nearby islands. The keepers also kept a cow and chickens for milk and eggs.

     In 1933, Jasper L. Cheney arrived as an assistant keeper under Hervey Wass. His daughter Ella remembered in a 2003 interview that a swimming hole was created by the men, who dynamited some ledges so that each incoming tide filled the hole with salt water. "The sun would warm the cold seawater so we could swim in it. It was a place where young and old all spent lots of hours cooling off and getting tanned."

     "The men worked very hard on the island," recalled Ella. "Every building was kept in A-1 shape always. Painting was an endless job both inside and out. The foghorn and light were gone over every day to make sure they were in perfect order. It's odd, but when the foghorn was running at night and stopped because it ran out of fuel, all three keepers would awaken and be there in a matter of minutes."

     A 1939 article by Richard Hallett in Technology Review described a visit of the lighthouse tender Ilex to Libby Island soon after a winter storm:

     Libby Island showed the mark of the storm. The wooden breakwater was stove in. The boathouse, high up on this high-shouldered island, was half a ruin. . . . Even now seas dropped aboard the west end of the island with a noise like a cartload of lumber being upset; and when we neared the slips, we saw that one of them . . . had been booted clean away.

     Libby Island's . . . high crags were hung with massive icicles, and the wagon tracks leading to the light were lumpy with brine ice. Even the trees were sheathed in ice to the last twig and looked half winterkilled. Lobster traps were blown all over the place.

     George Staples was still in his teens when he was assigned to Libby Island by the Coast Guard in 1955. The station had become a males-only "stag station" by this time. There were always at least two, sometimes three, Coast Guardsmen on the island at one time.  "You got to the point where you didn't talk to the other guy," Staples recalled in a 2013 interview. "There was nothing left to talk about." Although Staples has some nostalgia for his lighthouse keeping days, he sums it up by saying, "I can't say it was fun, because it wasn't."

     In 1974, the Fresnel lens was removed and the lighthouse was automated. Most of the buildings except the lighthouse tower and fog signal building have been destroyed over the years.

     The fourth-order Fresnel lens from Libby Island, manufactured by the Macbeth Glass Company in Pitssburgh, Pennsylvania, is now at the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland.

      Under the Maine Lights Program, the lighthouse was turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998.

     The Coast Guard completed an overhaul of the tower in the summer of 2000, including the conversion of the light to solar power. As part of the restoration the tower was returned to its original unpainted look. The lighthouse can be seen distantly from the mainland but is best viewed by private boat. 

     CreditsI would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont, webmaster of,, for sharing the above history.  Jeremy is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England.  To view a story on him, go to, (Jeremy D'Entremont).  

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Friday, August 7, 2015

Long Eddy Point Lighthouse (The Whistle), Grand Manan, New Brunswick, Canada

 On May 1, 1874, the following Notice to Mariners was issued:

     Notice is hereby given, that a steam fog-whistle has been erected on the north-west head of Grand Manan, in the Bay of Fundy – latitude 44 47 9 N., longitude 66 45 7 W.
The whistle is erected on the extreme north-west head of the island, and is elevated 80 feet above high water. In thick weather, fogs and snowstorms, it will be sounded, so as to give three blasts of four seconds duration in each minute, with an interval of sixteen seconds between each blast.
$8,318.43 was spent in constructing the steam fog whistle, whose activation was delayed due to the destruction by fire of the Allan Brothers foundry in Carleton. The firm received an extension, and the fog signal, which could frequently be heard in Eastport, finally commenced operation on July 1, 1874.

     James Tatton, who owned the land on which the fog alarm was built, was appointed the station’s first engineer at an annual salary of $700. In 1857, this same James Tatton, led by his dog, found the body of James Lawson in his barn. Lawson had survived the wreck of the Lord Ashburton, scaled a cliff face, and stumbled a mile to Long Eddy before collapsing in the barn. After discovering Lawson, Tatton initiated the search that saved seven other crewmen.

     Supplies for the station were delivered by steamer to a wharf that was connected to the station by a good wagon road with an easy grade. Both the wharf and wagon road were built by Tatton, who lived in a dwelling on the property. In 1875, the Department of Marine annual report noted, “An addition to Mr. Tatton's, the keeper's dwelling-house, is very much needed, to accommodate the assistant engineer's family. The house was only built for one small family, and there are now two families living in it. Were it not that the assistant is a son of Mr. Tatton it might be impossible for the two families to get along together. The assistant has a wife and two children.” A lean-to shed was soon added to the south side of the dwelling to house the assistant keeper and his family.

     The fog alarm building was built on a terrace, halfway up the cliff, and was situated above water tanks that were necessary to run the steam engine. Long Eddy’s steam whistle was quickly nicknamed “The Whistle.” A covered passageway connected the fog alarm building to a nearby coal shed, which was fed by an eighty-foot-long wooden chute that reached the top of the hill.

     In 1893 an abutment, sixty feet long, fifteen-and-a-half feet tall, and sixteen feet wide on top was built to protect the fog alarm building from debris falling from the cliff. That same year 125 tons of coal were landed at the station. A new abutment was built on the southeast side of the fog alarm in 1897 using 108 logs that varied in length from ten to thirty-five feet. The station’s boiler was replaced in 1899 with a larger one removed from Point Lepreau.

     After thirty years of use, the original fog alarm building required extensive repairs, and the Marine Department opted to build a new structure on the beach at the foot of the cliff, from where the sound could be better directed seaward. The new rectangular, wooden building stood sixteen feet above the high water mark and was painted white with a red roof. The fog horn projected from the building’s northern face and was put into operation on January 15, 1905. This 1954 photograph gives a different perspective on the beach-based fog alarm.

     The fog alarm building was built at a cost of $3,235 by day labour under the superintendence of R. Summers. The Canadian Fog Signal Company supplied the fog alarm plant consisting of a diaphone operated by air compressed by oil engines. The new signal initially sounded one 3.5-second blast every minute but was altered the following year to produce two 2.5-second blasts each minute.

     A new keeper’s dwelling was constructed at Long Eddy in 1948 at a cost of $13,627. After Long Eddy had been operating as just a fog alarm station for nearly a century, a combination lighthouse and fog alarm building was built atop the bluff at the northern end of the island in 1966. A red flashing light is displayed from the square tower that rises from the corner of the one-story, concrete fog alarm building.

     A keeper's dwelling remains standing near the lighthouse. This location is a favorite with locals and visitors alike for its spectacular sunset views.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Swallowtail Lighthouse, Grand Manan, New Brunswick, Canada

     Anyone who has ever traveled to Grand Manan has been welcomed to the island by the Swallowtail Lighthouse, which overlooks the entrance to North Head Harbour, but few today know the amazing history of this beacon or appreciate the hardships endured by its dedicated keepers.

     The 1,009-ton three-masted Lord Ashburton, which had been built near St. Andrews, was en route from Toulon, France to Saint John when it foundered on the northern shore of Grand Manan during a gale at 1 a.m. on January 19, 1857. A member of the crew, James Lawson, climbed the rocky headland, now named Ashburton Head, near where the ship grounded, and stumbled a mile to Long Eddy, where he collapsed in a hay barn. His body was discovered later that morning, and a search launched that resulted in seven other members of the crew of twenty-nine being saved, though they were badly frozen. A memorial to the twenty-one seamen aboard the Lord Ashburton who drowned at Grand Manan can be seen in the cemetery at the Anglican Church in North Head. James Lawson, a Dane, had both his feet partially amputated, and after spending over five years recuperating at the marine hospital in Saint John, he returned to Grand Manan, married an islander, and worked as a shoemaker.

     The Ashburton disaster punctuated the need for a navigational aid on the northern end of Grand Manan, and that same year, the House of Assembly of New Brunswick recommended “that for the better security of vessels navigating the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Saint Lawrence, that His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor be authorized to cause a Light House to be erected on the Northern Head of Grand Manan, in the Bay of Fundy, the cost of the same to be taken out of the Bay of Fundy Light House Fund.” The government authorized that steps be taken “to ascertain the propriety of establishing a Light House on the Northern Head of Grand Manan” and to pursue the construction of such a structure if advisable.

      Plans and specifications for the proposed lighthouse were drawn up in 1859, and a contract was entered into with John P. McKay of Saint John “for the construction of a Light House and a Keeper’s House at Swallow tail on the Island of Grand Manan” at a cost of £495. Mr. McKay and I. Woodward, Superintendent of Lighthouses in the Bay of Fundy, left Saint John on June 27th of that year aboard a steamer and proceeded to Grand Manan, where over the next two days they selected a spot for the contemplated buildings on “the Swallow’s Tail” and arranged to purchase up to four acres, at a cost of $25 per acre, from James Small, the owner of the property.

      John McKay then proceeded to construct the lighthouse and dwelling that year with the exception of a deck atop the tower that could not be built until the lantern room, which would not be finished until the next spring, had been put in place. When the work was complete, James Small and Joseph W. Drugan, a carpenter, signed the following certificate:

We the undersigned having been called by Mr. John P. McKay to examine a Light House and Keeper's House, built on “Swallow's Tail,” and having examined the Specification we find the work done in accordance therewith, in every respect, in substantial workmanlike manner with the exception of the outside of the Light House, which is specified to be clapboarded, but is shingled with the best pine shingles, which we consider is a much superior job and is done in a faithful workmanlike manner.

     After the lantern was successfully installed atop the octagonal tower, the lighthouse had its inaugural lighting on July 7, 1860. The wooden tower stands forty-five feet from base to deck and is perched 103 feet above the water, giving it a focal plane of 148 feet. When first lit by Keeper Jonathan Kent, the lighthouse employed nine lamps set in twenty-inch reflectors to cover three-quarters of a circle, but an additional lamp and reflector were added to light five-sixths of a circle to benefit vessels going to the western part of Long Island Bay. A bridge to connect the point on which the lighthouse stood to the headland was constructed in 1861.

     Swallowtail Lighthouse was in first-rate order when the Saxby Gale struck on October 4, 1869. The hurricane, accompanied by an unusually high tide, created a two-metre surge that caused significant damage in the Bay of Fundy. The station’s boat was destroyed, and a large portion of the landing slip washed away. The keeper’s dwelling was so shaken by the storm that two chains were strung over the roof and secured to the rock on each side to keep it in position. The foundation of the lighthouse was significantly damaged, necessitating the construction of a substantial stone wall, resting upon the underlying solid rock, beneath the tower. Keeper Jonathan Kent retired in 1873 and was replaced by his son, John W. Kent, who initially earned an annual salary of $400.

     Keeper Kent regularly received praise in the annual reports of the Department of Marine. The following example is from 1877: “Everything at this Station is in first class condition, and Mr. Kent takes great pride in keeping this Station, and its appurtenances in good order. He is a man of good taste, and this Station is visited by great numbers of strangers and excursionists who come to the Island during the summer season. Mr. Kent had given the lighthouse a coat of paint, which had lightened it up and greatly improved its appearance. Altogether, this Station may be considered the model station of the Department.”

     As noted by the Department of Marine in 1875, it was necessary to have a landing at the station, “as the lighthouse is situated on a high cliff of rock, nearly perpendicular on all sides, and there is no approach from the main land except over a deep gorge, which has only a small crossing for foot passengers.” Landing ways, measuring two hundred feet in length and three feet six inches in width, were built on a very steep grade to reach the top of the hill where a shed, nineteen by twenty-two feet was located. Besides housing the station’s boat and supplies, the shed also contained a capstan and winch for hauling a car up the landing ways.

      In 1887, the illuminating apparatus was changed from the catoptric principle, which employed reflectors, to the dioptric principle through the installation of a lens. The signature of the light remained fixed white. A fourth-order, 360° French lens was put in place in 1907 along with a Chance vapour installation, and the signature was changed to occulting white.

     A wooden building was completed in 1914 by G. N. Breen for $974 to house a fog bell. This structure was moved in 1920 from the extreme tip of the peninsula to a spot adjacent to the tower, where it could be more readily serviced by the keeper.

     Tragedy struck Swallowtail Lighthouse in August of 1936 when Elodie Foster was tending the light while her husband was away at Southwest Head Lighthouse. Elodie accidentally overfilled the light’s alcohol burner, and when she attempted to ignite the fuel, her clothes caught on fire. She managed to make it down the tower’s stairs and outside the lighthouse where she soon received help from her son Leonard and two daughters. Leonard raced up the tower and managed to extinguish the flames in the lantern room before the fire spread to the tower. Sadly, Elodie passed away the next day from her burns.

     A new dwelling was constructed for the lighthouse keeper in 1958, and the old one was torn down. Keeper Grimmer Ingersoll moved the old boathouse from Grand Harbour Lighthouse to a spot up the hill from the Swallowtail Lighthouse in the 1960s and then in 1980 organized the relocation of the fog bell used at the station to the grounds of the Grand Manan Museum. The beautiful twelve-over-eight windows that adorned the sides of the lighthouse were removed by the Coast Guard in the 1960s to reduce maintenance and prevent water leakage. Ingersoll was the final lightkeeper at Swallowtail, leaving the station in 1986 when it was automated.

     Ownership of the lighthouse property was transferred to the Village of North Head in 1994 and then to the Village of Grand Manan in 1996, when the villages on the island were amalgamated.

     After filming the horror film Hemoglobin at the lighthouse in 1996, the movie producers paid to have the keeper's dwelling restored. Soon thereafter, the dwelling opened as the Swallowtail Inn, a bed and breakfast run by islanders Catherine Neves and her sister Crystal Cook. After operating for nearly a decade, the inn was shuttered in 2004, and the dwelling now sits vacant.

     In March of 2008, the village council announced that the keeper's dwelling would be sold as upkeep was proving to be too expensive. Repairs had cost the community $80,000 in recent years. A well-publicized meeting was held on April 4th to come up with ideas to save the dwelling and resulted in the creation of the Swallowtail Keepers Society whose mission is to rejuvenate Swallowtail Lighthouse and make it a symbol of civic pride for the island. The village council, a bit surprised by the islanders' feelings on the matter, rescinded the motion to sell the keeper's dwelling during their April 7th meeting.

     The Coast Guard initiated a cleanup effort in 2008 to remove soil from the station that had become contaminated due to the use of lead paint on the buildings. This project was completed in May of 2009, and later that summer members of the Seminole Rotary Club from Florida arrived on the island to help the society paint some of the station’s buildings. On November 2, 2009, the Village of Grand Manan signed a twenty-year lease with the Keepers Society that will enable the group to apply for grant money to maintain the site.

      Swallowtail Keepers Society organized a celebration at the lighthouse on July 7, 2010, one hundred and fifty years to the day since the beacon was first activated. During the festivities, it was announced that the provincial government would contribute $55,000 to further the goals of the society. Laurel Hinsdale, daughter of Keeper Grimmer Ingersoll, was on hand to share her memories of living at Swallowtail. Laurel related that during the Groundhog Gale in 1976 she and her father had to crawl across a wooden bridge to get to the dwelling. On another occasion, she was blown off her feet while walking and holding her mother’s hand.

      During the fall of 2012, a wooden deck was built near the keeper's dwelling to display the station's 900 kg (2000 lb)fog bell, which the Grand Manan Museum had generously donated to the Swallowtail Keepers Society. A boom truck from M. G. Fisheries was used to transport the bell from the museum to the hill overlooking Swallowtail Lighthouse, but the difficult task of moving the bell the final 300 metres remained. The Canadian Coast Guard was contacted to see if they could move the bell one of their helicopters. While no promises were made, the Coast Guard told the Keepers Society to have everything ready in case a helicopter was in the area.

     In November the Coast Guard required a helicopter to transport material to Partridge Island to construct a new landing pad, and the Keepers Society received a call at 8:30 a.m. on November 21, informing them that the helicopter would come to Grand Manan at 1:30 p.m. that day to move the bell. About a dozen onlookers watched as the bell was hooked to a cable and then lifted high into the air before making a wide arc and being gently lowered onto the new platform. The bell will be part of a tribute to the keepers of Swallowtail Lighthouse.

     In February 2013, a concrete block, that supported the transition between the bottom of the concrete stairs and the wooden footbridge, broke loose and became lodged in one of the metal support legs for the footbridge. Access to the lighthouse was restricted while the condition of the stairs and footbridge was assessed, but it was restored later that year as the Swallowtail Keepers Society, which now has a long-term lease on the light station, began offering limited tours of the lighthouse. During 2013, the society received over $200,000 from various sources, including the provincial and federal government, to improve the footbridge, construct a boardwalk, produce marketing materials, and cover administration costs.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Great Duck Island Lighthouse, New Brunswick, Canada

     Great Duck Island is located 3.4 kilometres (2.1 miles) off the eastern shore of Grand Manan near Woodward’s Cove and helps define the outer limits of the Grand Manan Archipelago. Companion Low Duck Island and High Duck Island lie just north of Great Duck Island, before Long Island.

      In the early 1880s, a petition signed by over two-thirds of the inhabitants of Grand Manan was sent to Ottawa calling for the establishment of a steam fog whistle on Great Duck Island. Parliament responded to the petition with an appropriation in 1884 for a fog alarm on the island that is also commonly known as Big Duck Island. Tenders were invited for the necessary buildings, and a $2,070 contract was awarded to G. S. Mayes. A T-shaped engine house with a pitched roof was erected at the southern end of the island to house the fog alarm equipment, and a small keeper’s dwelling and boathouse were built nearby. Samuel G. Dinsmore was appointed the first engineer or keeper, and the fog alarm was put into operation on October 1, 1886, sounding six-second blasts followed by thirty-five seconds of silence. The annual report of the Department of Marine for 1887 noted that the fog alarm was “giving great satisfaction to the fishermen and vessels coasting around the south and east sides of the island.”

     It was noted in 1891 that the dwelling house at the station was “altogether too small for the needs of the engineer” and that additional accommodation for coal was also required. After plans and specifications for the necessary additions were prepared, tenders were invited. The bids received, however, were considered excessive so the work was instead carried out in 1892 under the supervision of David Ross, carpenter of the Dominion steamer Landsdowne. Keeper Dinsmore added a ten-foot-long and seven-foot-wide porch to the dwelling in 1894, and David Ross returned to the island that year to build two reservoirs for the steam engine and install a new coal derrick.

     Due to acid in the water, the tubes in the fog alarm’s boiler used to heat the water to create high-pressure steam had to be replaced about every four months. A second boiler, made by Messrs. Carrier, Laine, & Co. at a cost of $1,386, joined the old boiler at the station in June of 1896. A two-story addition, containing five rooms, was attached to the keeper’s dwelling that same year at a cost of $400. A new steam boiler was substituted for the old one in 1905.

     In 1915, the steam plant was converted to oil, and a Class “B” diaphone fog alarm installed under the direction of F. J. Lewis for $2,469. The station lost its boathouse to fire on February 25, 1926, and the keeper’s dwelling burned down on October 5, 1955, due to a defective chimney. Two replacement dwellings were soon added to the station, and in 1966 a combination lighthouse and fog alarm building was constructed on the island. This was the same year that similar structures were erected at Long Eddy Point on the northern end of Grand Manan Island and at Long Point on White Head Island.

     Today, the light in the lantern room atop the square tower that projects from a corner of the one-story fog alarm building produces a white flash every ten seconds, while the fog alarm sounds a four-second blast every sixty seconds when needed. The station was automated in 1984.

      Kelly Anne Loughery, founding president of the New Brunswick Lighthouse Society, had the opportunity to visit the island. "To date," she said, "this has been my most uninspiring, inhospitable lighthouse visit. The lighthouse is located on a flat barren island infested by muskrats. Every step is either in one of their holes or something even less appealing, and the inside of the lighthouse was laden with mold. I couldn’t wait to leave. I can’t imagine being a lightkeeper there."

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Gannet Rock Lighthouse, New Brunswick, Canada

      "This iconic lighthouse is scheduled for demolition by neglect" - Chris Mills

      Named after the black and white gannets that formerly nested there, Gannet Rock lies eight miles south of Grand Manan Island and is one of a large number of rocks and ledges that litter the western side of the entrance to the Bay of Fundy. Murr Ledges, a cluster of navigational hazards, are found between Gannet Rock and Machias Seal Island, while a dangerous rock called the Old Proprietor is located seven miles northeast of Gannet Rock.

     A bill was brought before the New Brunswick government in 1824 calling for the establishment of a revolving light “upon one of the islands or rocks near the southeast coast of the Island of Grand Manan.” After the bill was agreed to, the Commissioners of Lighthouses examined the southeast coast of Grand Manan in 1825 to ascertain the best site for a lighthouse. Part of their investigation reportedly included leaving rafts of logs on various rocks and ledges over the winter to determine safe locations. In 1830 the commissioners gave £1,000 “to be applied towards building, establishing and maintaining a floating light off the Old Proprietor, near the Island of Grand Manan, provided it may be found practicable to carry it into effect, and if not, the sum to be applied towards building a Light House on the Gannet Rock.”

     Construction of Gannet Rock Lighthouse won out, and work on the exposed rock, which rises to a height of forty feet and is about 300 feet in length at high tide, was carried out in 1831. Thomas Reed and John Cunningham received £31 for surveying the site. Crawford, Gray & Purvis were paid £630 for erecting the lighthouse and keeper’s dwelling, and David Hogg was given £155 for providing the lantern. The original lighthouse stood forty-one feet six inches from base to vane, and each face of the octagonal tower was painted with a black and white vertical stripe. When the light was first lit in December of 1831, the lantern was fitted with red glass, but as this greatly diminished the power of the light, the characteristic was changed in 1843 to eleven seconds of white light followed by nine seconds of darkness. The flashing characteristic was achieved by a shade that was raised and lowered by a weight-driven mechanism that had to be wound every six hours.

     The first keeper of Gannet Rock Lighthouse was Captain Thomas Lamb, who received £165 per year, from which he had to pay an assistant. E. G. Miller took over when Captain Lamb was transferred to Quaco Head in 1835 and served at Gannet Rock until 1837, when he drowned while rowing back to the station after having procured a fresh supply of water on nearby Kent Island.

     Lauchlan Donaldson inspected Gannet Rock Lighthouse in 1839 and reported that it was “a fearful place in storms.” During a gale the previous winter several shingles were washed off the lower part of the tower, and Donaldson concurred with Keeper Jonathon Kent’s opinion that only the iron braces and chains that had been put in place in 1838 to anchor the tower to the rock saved it from being swept away. Donaldson suggested that a wall of cut stone, four feet thick and at least twelve feet high be built around the tower for protection. As Keeper Kent was responsible for one of the few mechanical lights in New Brunswick, lived on a mere spot of rock where grass never grew, and was cut off from all contact with the world, Donaldson also recommended that he receive an increase in salary. At that time, eight lamps and reflectors were being used in the lantern room. In 1840, the station was given a signal gun, and a chute was chiseled into the rock so the keeper could easily launch and take up his boat.

     A twelve-foot granite wall was built around Gannet Rock Lighthouse in 1845 at a cost of £1,426 to render the station “perfectly secure” and bring additional comfort to the keepers at the “desolate and dreary station.” The contractors for the work were John Purvis, master carpenter, and Robert Barbour, master stonecutter and builder. Under their supervision, a crew of roughly twenty men labored on the rock for just over two months.

     Walter McLaughlin was appointed keeper of Gannet Rock Lighthouse in 1853 and spent the next twenty-seven years at the lonely outpost. Fortunately, he was a journal keeper, and his writings captured some details about the station that otherwise would have been lost.

     W. McLaughlin: July 9, 1856 Mr. Pettingell and 3 other carpenters landed with 12 ½ thousand shingles last night. This was the first time the lighthouse and dwelling had been reshingled since they were constructed in 1831.

     W. McLaughlin: July 9, 1867 We discontinue the light today and begin to take down the old lantern.
August 1, 1867 We lit the new light and were well satisfied with it. A new lantern and fourth-order Fresnel lens for Gannet Rock were acquired at a cost of $2,598 in 1866, but the attempt to install them that year was defeated by a period of rough seas and unfavorable weather, which delayed the landing of the valuable property at the station until the next year.

     The Saxby Gale of October, 1869 caused much damage to lighthouses on the Bay of Fundy. Given its exposed location, Gannet Rock was especially vulnerable to the storm surge. The Department of Marine report for 1870 noted that the buildings at the station would have been completely swept away had the wind not veered during the height of the gale. Repairs costing $253 were quickly carried out.

     W. McLaughlin: October 11, 1871 We have detected a strong smell of burning buildings, and I am of the opinion that some large city such as New York or Boston is burnt. October 18, 1871 The boat came today and brought news of the burning of Chicago.

     On September 1, 1876, Keeper McLaughlin wrote to John H. Harding, the agent for the Department of Marine in Saint John to congratulate him on the successful erection of a thirty-one-foot iron spindle, topped by an iron cage, on Old Proprietor Rock.

     I have the honour to report that the iron spindle recently erected on the Old Proprietor Ledge, seven miles to the eastward of this station, is a great success. I have made enquiries of the fishermen of the Dominion and the United States who unanimously testify to its great utility. It can be seen from this station seven miles distinctly, even in somewhat hazy weather, and is in my opinion worth $10,000 a year to navigation in the Bay of Fundy. I have seen vessels stranded on this dangerous ledge in clear weather without being able to warn them of the danger which they wore approaching. I witnessed the loss of the British barque Parkfield at noon-day, May 13, 1863, with a ship and cargo worth £100,000 sterling.
In 1880, Keeper McLaughlin, who had been described in reports as “a careful and painstaking servant of the Department and well acquainted with the dangers of this coast,” was transferred to the newly constructed Southwest Head Lighthouse on the southern tip of Grand Manan Island, and Oliver A. Kent, an assistant keeper at Gannet Rock for many years, was appointed his successor. A house of refuge for the keepers was built in 1884 in case a fire broke out on the rock.

In 1894, the fog gun, which had been fired every hour, was replaced by a cotton powder cartridge exploded every twenty minutes. A twelve by fourteen foot platform was built at the south end of the station and atop this a small building was erected for the electric firing apparatus. Pilots and shipmasters were “loud in their praise” of this new fog signal, whose reports were sharper than those of the gun. Starting July 1, 1901, the firing interval of the cotton powder fog signal was changed to fifteen minutes, and when the keeper heard a vessel’s fog signal in dangerous proximity, he was to fire one shot immediately and continue firing at five-minute intervals until the vessel had passed.

     Elsie Clark lived on Gannet rock with her father, Keeper Lincoln Harvey, from 1898 to 1904. When Elsie was in her late 90s, she related the following to Deborah Dagett:

[The house] was timbered up like a ship – made with beams just like the beams of a ship – two beams came out on the floor about two feet. I remember sitting on them in front of the stove. The stove was off a vessel, the Gertrude E. Smith, I think, and was made of thick iron – it burned soft coal. (The Gertrude E. Smith, a three masted schooner bound from Rockland to Windsor, ran ashore on Gannet Rock in 1883. All hands aboard, including the wife and daughter of the captain, were saved and looked after by Keeper Kent until they could be picked up.) The kitchen was about eighteen feet long. … The living room wasn’t so big and from there was a big thick door into the lighthouse. Stairs went up from the kitchen. Upstairs was one big bedroom. From that room you went down a long hallway to the lighthouse. There was a big bedroom on the second floor of the lighthouse and two big closets. Then on the third floor of the lighthouse was another smaller bedroom.
Elsie recalled that her father had installed a wire from the fog signal to the house so that he could just push a button to explode the cotton bombs, though he still had to venture out every hour or so to reload the gun. One day a freak wave struck the rock. The door to the dwelling was open, allowing an inrush of seawater that moved the heavy stove and rose to a height of two feet.

     In 1905, the wooden octagonal tower was increased in height, placed atop an octagonal, concrete, twelve-foot-tall wall, and topped with a new red, circular lantern. These improvements brought the height of the tower, as measured from the base of the wall to the vane on the lantern, to ninety feet. A second-order Fresnel lens was mounted in the new lantern room and produced two bright flashes of 0.562-second duration each, separated by an eclipse of 1.94 seconds, and followed by an eclipse of 11.9 seconds duration, to give a total period of 14.964 seconds. The illuminant was petroleum vapour burned under an incandescent mantle.

     Work on a new keeper’s dwelling commenced in 1906, and the following year day laborers constructed a new fog alarm building to house a five-inch diaphone plant, purchased from the Canadian Fog Signal Company of Toronto for $9,245. The rectangular wooden building was placed on the southern end of Gannet Rock, about forty feet from the dwelling, and its horn, elevated thirty-seven feet above high water, pointed due south.

     An electric lighting plant was installed at the station in 1913, a year before the outbreak of World War I, and amazingly that conflict would reach remote Gannet Rock. The four-masted schooner Dornfontein departed Saint John on its maiden voyage on July 31, 1918 bound for South Africa with a load of lumber. Just after she passed Grand Manan, a German U-boat surfaced and fired two shots across her bow. The schooner’s crew was taken aboard the submarine while the Germans looted the vessel and set it ablaze. After being fed a dinner of bully beef and rice, the crew of the Dornfontein was put into dories and left to reach shore on their own. The men safely reached Gannet Rock the next day, where Keeper Allen Wilson took them in.

     In August of 1930 or 1931, work began on a new keeper’s dwelling. Keeper Donald Wilson and his family received word on a Friday that they had to move their belongings out of the house and into the tower by Monday, when a crew arrived and began tearing down the old dwelling. Twelve workmen lived in the tower with the keepers until the construction work was finished in November.

     During a two-year period starting in 1967, a temporary tower was erected at the station to display a light while the old lantern room and Fresnel lens were removed and a new lantern room and modern beacon were installed. The second-order Fresnel lens is now on display in the Grand Manan Museum.

     The last keeper, Barry S. Bagley, left Gannet Rock in April of 1996, and in 2002, the Coast Guard solarized the light as part of major renovation that included gutting the attached dwelling that was rapidly falling prey to the elements. The large DCB lens removed from the tower was donated to the Grand Manan Museum that same year.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Southwewst Head Lighthouse, Grand Manan, New Brunswick, Canada

     John H. Harding, agent of the Department of Marine for New Brunswick, visited Grand Manan in 1876 and reported that a lighthouse was needed on the island’s southwest point to serve as a guide in approaching the island and to assist vessels passing up and down the North Channel of the Bay of Fundy. A contract for the lighthouse was awarded in 1878 to Angus W. Fisher, who sent his master builder, B. J. Austin, and seven workmen to the site.

     The southern end of Grand Manan Island is known for its precipitous cliffs, and Southwest Head Lighthouse was built atop one of these known as Gull Cliff. The builders worked on the lighthouse during the fall of 1879 and incorrectly oriented the structure running east-west instead of north-south. This mistake placed a blank panel in the lantern room facing seaward instead of landward.

     The first lighting, scheduled for January 1, 1880, had to be postponed while the whole lantern was taken apart in December and the blank section in the southeast portion of the lantern was exchanged with a glass section in the northeast section. The lighthouse, which consisted of a square, wooden tower, measuring forty-three feet from its base to the vane on its lantern, with an attached keeper’s dwelling, was finally placed in operation on February 1, 1880. The catoptric light in the lantern room made one revolution every two minutes, producing three white flashes and three red flashes with intervals of eclipse of ten seconds. With a lofty perch of over two hundred feet, the light could be seen in clear weather at a distance of twenty-four miles. The total cost for the lighthouse, including the lighting apparatus, came to $4,164.

     Walter B. McLaughlin, who had previously served at exposed Gannet Rock for twenty-six years as head keeper and another eleven years as an assistant keeper, was appointed the first keeper of Southwest Head Lighthouse at an annual salary of $500. Keeper McLaughlin “found the buildings badly constructed, in fact a perfect sham. The storms beat through in every direction, the shingles and clapboards were nothing better than refuse for lumber. The top of the tower was only covered with one thickness of cotton duck with one coat of paint. The rain and snow beat through both roof and walls...”

     “Into this lighthouse,” Keeper McLaughlin later wrote, “I removed my large family during Christmas week, 1879, and ... spent the worst winter of my life.” The living space had just one sleeping room in the first story and one room in the upper, half-story that was supposed to have been partitioned into three rooms. Keeper McLaughlin procured lumber and doors from Saint John to finish the upper story, and then during the rest of 1880 proceeded to build an addition to the dwelling and a large barn onto the eastern side of the lighthouse. He also cleared and drained the lighthouse lot and built a two-mile-road to connect the station with the highway road on Grand Manan. Keeper McLaughlin claimed he spent $2,820 of his own money for these improvements and even listed land and bonds he had sold to do so. Although he wrote several letters to the Department of Marine asking for reimbursement and even sent this photograph showing his additions to the lighthouse, Keeper McLaughlin was never compensated. Rather, the department replied, “if a keeper leaves a station no allowance will be made him for any private buildings nor can he exercise any right of property over such.”

     During McLaughlin’s tenure at Southwest Head, the station was injured by a whirlwind in 1890, and the flagpole was damaged during a gale on January 26, 1895 and then destroyed the following year. A pump in the kitchen could be used to draw water through ninety feet of galvanized iron pipe that led to the station’s well. A telephone was added to the station in 1897, using an old telegraph line. In 1900, a hand foghorn was provided so that the keeper could respond to the fog signals of vessels in the vicinity. After forty-eight years of service, Keeper McLaughlin retired at the age of seventy-two, and his son-in-law, Turner Ingalls, Jr., was appointed keeper in January of 1901.

      Keeper Ingalls submitted his letter of resignation to the Department of Marine on June 17, 1907, asking that his last day be June 30, less than two weeks later. He was chided for giving such a short notice and was replaced by Clyde S. Ingersoll, a fisherman, on July 10th. Turner Ingalls asked $100 of Keeper Ingersoll for the station’s barn that McLaughlin had built and willed to him. Keeper Ingersoll complied with the demand not wanting it to be removed from the station, but when he submitted a request for compensation, he was informed that he should have consulted with the department, as they already owned the barn.

     The lighthouse tower had to be rebuilt in 1928 as it had become badly decayed. A new drain and septic tank were also installed at that time. Thirty years later, in 1959, a modern lighthouse was built adjacent to the old one, and when the work was complete, the old lighthouse was torn down. The new lighthouse is a single-story structure, built of cinder blocks, and has a square tower rising from one of its corners. Two new dwellings were built for the keepers while the new lighthouse was under construction, and a third dwelling was later added to the station. Ottawa Benson, who was keeper at Southwest Head during this transition, was the great-grandson of Walter McLaughlin, the first keeper.

     During the night of February 26, 1963, Ottawa Benson and his wife Hildred heard a thump at the their door. Upon opening, Hildred found a man covered with snow who stammered, “Me and my brother’s been blown ashore. I got up the bank, but he’s still down there.” Keeper Benson was dumbfounded. Others had wrecked at the base of the towering cliff before, but no one had ever managed to scale it.

     Billy and Floyd Jones had left Haycock Harbor, Maine the previous morning in a leaky motorboat to gather periwinkles. Their engine failed just as a gale struck, and the two were blown out to sea. After twelve hours of bailing, vomiting, and praying, they ran aground below the blinking light at Southwest Head. The brothers managed to climb to a ledge above the pounding surf, but Floyd, numb with cold, could go no farther. Billy pressed on and managed to reach the lighthouse three hours later. A rescue party of seventeen men, including the bandy-legged Vernon Bagley, was soon summoned to the scene. The group consensus was to wait until morning as it would be murder to send anyone down the cliff in the dark, but Vern Bagley protested, knowing that Floyd could not survive the night down there.

     With a nylon rope tied securely about his waist, Vern ventured over the edge of the cliff, but after a short distance, he lost his footing, took a spill, and was forced to clamber back to the top in defeat. Dejected and a bit embarrassed, Vern thought for a while then said, “Yessir, I sure would!,” and headed straight back to the edge of the cliff.

     With renewed determination, Vern Bagley started down the bluff, and this time he succeeded in locating Floyd, whose clothes were stiff with ice. Wrapping Floyd’s arms around his waist and jamming them under the rope, Vern told Floyd to hang on and gave three sharp tugs on the rope to initiate the haul-up. Twenty-five feet from the top, Vern’s legs gave out, and he was forced to wedge the then unconscious Floyd behind a bolder and proceed to the top alone. Exhausted from the ninety-minute rescue, Vern collapsed in a snowbank. Assistant lightkeeper Sid Guptill used another rope to go after Floyd and returned a half hour later with the body.

     The Jones brothers were wrapped in coats and rushed to the island’s hospital where they quickly recovered from exposure. The next day, the brothers tearfully thanked Vern Bagley, who declared the pair to be “tougher’n tripe.” A year after the ordeal, a crowd of 300 packed the gym at the island’s high school to see Vern Bagley receive the Carnegie Silver Medal for heroism. (Sid Guptill received a bronze medal.)

      After the ceremony, Vern was asked about his strange announcement of “Yessir, I would!,” before he went over the cliff a second time. “Wal,” he replied, “I'd been tellin' myself all the reasons why I couldn't go back over that cliff. But then this idea hit me so hard, ‘Would you go if it was your own brother?’ that I answered out loud. Then I just had to go. Cause when you get right down to it, we're all suppose to be brothers.”

     The heroic story of Vern Bagley was recounted in the March 1968 edition of Reader’s Digest, and has even been turned into a song entitled Southern Head Rescue.

     For several years, Southwest Head Lighthouse served as a fueling station and command center for the Coast Guard helicopter that ferried supplies out to Gannet Rock, but this ended after the automation of both lights. Southwest Head lost its final keeper with the retirement of Doug Daggett in October of 1987.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

U.S./Canada 17 Lighthouse Grand Slam Photography Tour

     July 25, 2015 Cruise operated by the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. out of Bar Harbor, Maine, around Grand Manan Island in Nova Scotia, and down the Maine coast back to Bar Harbor almost 10 hours later.  Below please find one photo of each of those lighthouses.

     Jeremy D'Entremont and Chris Mills autographing their books.

Egg Rock Lighthousse

Petie Manan Lighthhouse

Machias Seal Island Lighthouse

Soputh West Head Lighthouse

Gannet Rock Lighthouse

Great Duck Island Lighthouse

Swallowtail Lighthouse

Long Eddy Lighthouse

Lubec Channel Lighthouse

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse

Little River Lighthouse

Libby Island Lighthouse

Moose Peak Lighthouse

Nash Island Lighthouse

Narraguagus Pond Island Lighthouse

Prospect Harbor Lighthouse

Winter Harbor Lighthouse

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