Monday, November 30, 2009

Flying Santa visits Canada, 1949

My friend Chris Mills in Nova Scotia has alerted me to a great audio clip available online on the CBC Archives site. The clip is from Nov. 21, 1949, and concerns the visit of the Flying Santa, Edward Rowe Snow, to Atlantic Canada lighthouses that year. Click here to go to the page.

This year's Flying Santa flights to lighthouses and Coast Guard stations will take place over the next couple of weeks -- you can read all about it on the Friends of Flying Santa website.

Photo of the Day: Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, Rhode Island

This little island in the Providence River has a storybook look to me. It looks like something you'd stick into a model train setup.

The Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, has done a tremendous job with this lighthouse in recent years; an exterior restoration was completed in 2006, leading to the relighting of the lighthouse after many years in darkness. You can read more about Pomham Rocks here and here.

Portland Head Light and the Lighthouses of Maine's Casco Bay Documentary Trailer

Producer Vince Salvatore will be at the Arts & Crafts Fair for Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse next Sunday, December 6, to sign copies of his excellent DVD documentary on the lighthouses of Casco Bay. You can see a trailer for the documentary on Youtube - click here.

Anyone interested in Maine lighthouses should own this DVD. The visuals are spectacular, and there's lots of interesting human history packed into it. It's been a pleasure working with Vince and his wife, Lina, and this and their upcoming documentary on the lighthouses of Southern Maine. You can read more about them on their website.

Click here for more on the December 6 Arts & Crafts Fair.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Photo of the Day: Saybrook Breakwater Lighthouse, Connecticut

I took this photo on a blustery day in October 2004. I was part of a group that was supposed to go inside the lighthouse that day, but it was obviously impossible with the seas breaking right over the breakwater. I hope I get another chance one of these years.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lighting of the Nubble Today!

The annual Christmas lighting of the Cape Neddick "Nubble" Lighthouse in York, Maine, takes place today.

Festivities get underway at 5:00 p.m. at Sohier Park with entertainment including the York High School Chamber Singers. The event includes traditional Christmas melodies along with kiddie carols - something for the whole family. The United Divers of New Hampshire will raise the lighted tree from the ocean, and there will be a visit from Santa, who arrives by way of a York Beach Fire Dept. ladder truck.

At the proper time, everyone will count down the seconds before the lighthouse is lit in its holiday glory. holiday lights. There's plenty of hot chocolate and cookies for all.


Lighthouse of the Week: Fort Point Light, Maine

In the 1800s, the peaceful town of Stockton Springs was a lumber port and a shipping point for Maine’s potato industry. Cape Jellison, a triangular wedge of land about two miles long, occupies the southern portion of the town. At the eastern corner of Cape Jellison is Fort Point, which juts far out far into the west side of the entrance to the Penobscot River. The point gets its name from adjacent Fort Pownall, built by order of Massachusetts Royal Governor Thomas Pownall (Maine at that time was part of Massachusetts) in 1759 to guard against the French.

As Bucksport and Bangor—located on the Penobscot River to the north—flourished as important lumber ports, Congress recognized the need for a lighthouse at Fort Point. The first lighthouse, 24 feet tall to the lantern deck, went into service in 1836. It was Maine’s first light station on a river. The initial keeper was William Clewley, who had sold his land to the government for the station.

In 1855, while the master mariner John Odom was keeper, the Lighthouse Board called the station “entirely worn out” and recommended that it be rebuilt. After a $5,000 appropriation in August 1856, a new tower and dwelling were built. The work was completed in 1857 and a fourth-order lens replaced the old multiple lamps and reflectors. The 31-foot-tall square brick tower is attached to the two-story, wood-frame keeper’s dwelling. The lighthouse’s lantern was replaced in 1868.

Hiram Grant, who was wounded in the Civil War, was keeper from 1866 to 1882. Because of its beautiful and accessible location, Fort Point Light was a sought-after station for keepers. A total of only four men kept the light from 1882 to 1952: Adelbert Webster (1882–1902), John Thurston (1902–19), Edward Farren (1919–29), and Arthur B. Mitchell (1929–1952).

Arthur B. Mitchell, who was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1879, went to sea as a young man and eventually became the captain of the two-masted schooner George W. Collins. When he married his wife, Elizabeth, in 1908, the two sailed the schooner to Duxbury, Massachusetts, for their honeymoon.

Mitchell’s experience before he arrived at Fort Point included several years at the isolated Matinicus Rock Light Station. His era at Fort Point encompassed the installation of an incandescent oil vapor lamp in 1935; Mitchell said it made more light but also more work.

In June 1950, the light was converted to electricity, making the keeper’s work much easier. With the change to electricity, the light was intensified to 4,500 candlepower.

Mitchell once made the newspapers when a weather prediction turned out to be nearly on target. At the start of the winter of 1937–38, Mitchell predicted the unusually high total of 38 storms. A brief news item in May 1938 confirmed that there had been 35 such storms, and Mitchell was “waiting anxiously for three more snowstorms.”

Mitchell’s grandson, Arthur Curtis, spent a good deal of time at the light station as a boy. One morning, he raised the American flag in an effort to help out. Later in the day, his grandfather got a call from Bangor asking what was wrong at the station. Young Arthur had accidentally raised the flag upside down, a universal signal of distress. A person on a passing ship had reported the signal.

Fort Point was long a regular destination of New England’s “Flying Santa,” who dropped Christmas presents from a plane for lighthouse keepers and their families. In a 1932 letter printed in the Rockland Courier-Gazette, Mitchell expressed his gratitude to Bill Wincapaw, who started the flights in 1929. “Our dog was the first to hear the sound of the motor,” Mitchell wrote, “and then we all rushed out in time to see the plane circle over the reservation and go sailing down over the Penobscot again. We all join in wishing you and yours the happiest New Year ever.”

Shortly before Mitchell retired, his wife was quoted in the Maine Sunday Telegram: “We never really felt cut off here because we have the telephone, radio and books. We have mail service now and during the winter the town keepers the road plowed out so we are never snowed in for very long.”

The light was automated in 1988, and Larry Baum was the last Coast Guard keeper. After automation, the Coast Guard leased the station to the State of Maine, and the keeper’s house became housing for a park ranger and his family. The ranger turned out to be Terry Cole, who had been the Coast Guard keeper at the station years earlier. He was thrilled to return to his old home.

Keeping an eye on the lighthouse and fort, giving impromptu tours, and maintaining all of the buildings keeps Cole busy in summers. In the off-season, he also works as the archivist in charge of special collections at the Belfast Public Library. He enjoys historic research and has documented much of the light station’s history.

Under the Maine Lights Program, the station became the property of the State of Maine Bureau of Parks and Land in 1998. To support the preservation of this light station, contact Friends of Fort Point State Park, c/o Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor, ME 04401.

The Coast Guard maintains the active light and automatic fog signal; the fourth-order Fresnel lens remains in service. There are signs on U.S. Route 1 in Stockton Springs pointing the way to 120-acre Fort Point State Park and the lighthouse, and a 200-foot pier is available for visitors arriving by boat.

For more, see

For photo prints, see

Photo of the Day: Whaleback in a Storm

Whaleback in a Storm, originally uploaded by nelights.

As I sit hear listening to the wind howling outside today, it seems like a good idea to make this the photo of the day.

This photo of Whaleback Lighthouse in Kittery, Maine, was taken at high tide during a storm on April 16, 2007. The lighthouse is over 60 feet tall. This photo was taken from Great Island Common in New Castle, New Hampshire. The image is grainy because the visibility was very bad during the storm; it was raining heavily.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Photo of the Day: Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, Maine

Took this last year during a sunset cruise from Rockland. Happy Day After Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

In honor of the day, here's a photo I took of two wild turkeys near the entrance to Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor in New Castle, NH, a short distance from Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'll be signing some of my lighthouse books this Friday, November 27, in Rockland, Maine, at the gift shop/interpretive center of the American Lighthouse Foundation. Award-winning graphic artist Alan Claude will also be there, signing prints from his Maine Collection series.

Click here for more info -- I hope to see you there!

Photo of the Day: Ida Lewis Yacht Club in Newport, Rhode Island

This building began its life as the Lime Rock Lighthouse, built in 1857. Ida Lewis, daughter of the light's first keeper, lived here for 54 years and became the most famous lighthouse keeper in U.S. history. She was credited with the rescues of 18 people from drowning in Newport Harbor, but the true number was much higher. Celebrated in story and song, she was one of the most famous women of the 19th century. You can read much more on my website at

Producer Marian Gagnon is currently making a documentary on Ida Lewis; see

Monday, November 23, 2009

Neil Odams receives 2009 Len Hadley Volunteerism Award

Neil Odams, owner of Captain and Patty's Cruises, honored with a 2009 Len Hadley Volunteerism Award at the American Lighthouse Foundation's annual Lighthouse Gala & Volunteer Awards Dinner at the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, Maine, on November 7. The award was given in recognition of his donation of fundraising cruises for Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse every Tuesday evening.

You can click here to read the whole story. Congratulations to Neil for an award that was well deserved!

Photo: Captain Neil Odams aboard the Sir William Pepperrell

Photo of the Day: Prudence Island Lighthouse, Rhode Island

I took this photo a decade or so ago, during my only visit to Prudence Island. I barely made the ferry from Bristol, RI, arriving about a minute before it left. The other memory that stands out is that I met a couple of people who lived in homes neighboring the lighthouse, and they couldn't have been nicer.

For me, this lighthouse stands as a memorial to the five people who died when the keeper's house was swept away in the hurricane of 1938. See and this article.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Photo of the Day: Nobska Point Lighthouse at sunset

I've made Nobska Point Lighthouse in Woods Hole on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, my photo of the day because I also want to pass along this information about 2010 open houses, just passed along by Sandy and Don Abt of Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 11-2.

The lighthouse will be open to the public in 2010 on the following days and times, weather permitting, all 9:30 to 11:30 a.m:

Saturday, May 15; Saturday, June 19; Thursday, July 1; Thursday, July 15; Thursday, July 29 ; Thursday; Aug. 5 ; Saturday, Aug. 14; Thursday, Dec. 4. Also, there's still one more open house in 2009: Saturday, Dec. 5, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.


- Children must be at least 6 years of age AND 45 inches tall to enter
- Shoes and shirts required
- No food or drink permitted in the lighthouse
- No smoking permitted in the lighthouse
- Backpacks, large purses, large camera bags not allowed in the light room
- Infants in carrying pouches not allowed in the lighthouse
- No liability is accepted for personal items left unattended in or on the grounds of the lighthouse

Lighthouse tours are conducted by United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 11-2. Admission is free. For more information, email

For more on this lighthouse, see

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Photo of the Day: Windmill Point Lighthouse on Lake Champlain in Alburg, Vermont

This photo was taken back in the '90s during my first visit to beautiful Windmill Point. This lighthouse is owned by the Clark family, true lighthouse keepers and preservationists.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Arts & Crafts Fair Update

As mentioned earlier, Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse is holding an Arts & Crafts Fair on Sunday, December 6, from 9 to 3 at the Casey Function Center, 1950 Lafayette Road (Route 1) in Portsmouth, NH. Details are available at Here's the latest lineup of vendors:

Tammy Dobrosielski, Dragon's Eye Photography and Papercrafts: Photographs, handmade cards, bookmarks, stationary and other items made with papercrafting techniques, including rubber stamped magnets, gift card holders, stocking stuffer items and ornaments. (

Cynthia Legere - Kiln-formed glass and dichroic jewelry.

Pam Sawin, Sawin Arts - Unique custom products, including reproductions of original works and recreations, for decorative home accents, collectibles, gifts, and stationery. (

Donna Mangeri - Crocheted items; bags and baskets.

Amy Wallace, Just Not Right Greetings - Jewelry, greeting cards, and photography.

Harold Whitehouse - Harold will be signing copies of his book "Home By Nine: The Real South End," about growing up in Portsmouth, NH, in the 1930-50 era.

Virginia Souza - Lighthouse Christmas prints, cards, and original miniature paintings.

Marci Barnes, Yours and Mane - Handcrafted hair accessories; headbands, barrettes.

Sheryl Tichy - Photographic prints (matted and framed), 2010 calendars, other small lighthouse items.

Pam Newman, The Bead Lady - Jewelry w/ semi-precious stones, pearls, sterling and gold-filled beads and chains.

Joan Scialdone, Sea Jay Designs - Tied fleece blankets in 3 sizes, handmade dog beds, crate mats, tug toys, wine gift bags. (

Vince Salvatore, Lighthouse Productions Films & Entertainment - Lighthouse documentary DVDs, photo prints of lighthouses.

Eve Huston - Hand-knitted scarves, hats, purses, needle-felted ornaments, pins, animals, framed art pieces.

Ross Tracy - Lighthouse and scenic photography. (

William Marshall - Photography inspired by the coast of New England. (

Jeremy D'Entremont - Lighthouse books and photography. (

Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse - Lighthouse pins, magnets, postcards, t-shirts, polo shirts, baseball caps, books, ornaments, and more. (

Photo of the Day: Aerial view of Thacher Island Twin Lights

I took this photo of Cape Ann's famous twin lights on Thacher Island from a helicopter, piloted by Dale Hardy, in June 2002.

The Thacher Island Association had contracted Campbell Construction to renovate the assistant keeper's house near the south tower. Dale was hired to fly in supplies and to take debris off the island. I was lucky enough to get a ride along with Paul St. Germain of the Thacher Island Association.

This was among my most memorable lighthouse experiences. For more on Thacher Island, see

Here's some video from that day:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Photo of the Day: New London Ledge Lighthouse, Connecticut

New London Ledge is one of the coolest lighthouses anywhere, in my humble opinion. Not only is it architecturally beautiful and unique, but it's haunted to boot! What more could you want?

The latest good news is that the New London Ledge Lighthouse Foundation has become the newest chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation.

Monomoy Lighthouse Slated for Restoration

$1.5 million in 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds will be used to restore the isolated Monomoy Lighthouse, off Chatham on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The 1849 lighthouse has been in the care of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) since 1977, as part of the 2,750-acre Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.

Monomoy was first separated from the mainland around 1800, but it was later rejoined. It was separated again by winter storms in 1958. The ferocious blizzard of February 6-7, 1978, cut Monomoy into two islands, North and South Monomoy. The ever-shifting contours of South Monomoy have left acres of sand between the lighthouse and the shore, leading some to liken it to a “minaret in the Sahara.”

In 1988, the USFWS hired K&K Painting of Baltimore to carry out a major overhaul of the 40-foot-tall cast-iron lighthouse and keeper’s house. The work was funded mostly by money left over from the rebuilding of Great Point Light on Nantucket, funneled to Monomoy with the help of Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy. The buildings were again in rough shape by 2001, when a new effort at rehabilitation was announced. Because of a lack of funding and the remote location, however, only minor repairs have been completed.

The new restoration project is one of at least four lighthouse upgrades across the U.S. funded by Recovery Act money. The others are Roanoke River (NC), Jupiter Inlet (FL), and Fire Island (NY). The funding for Monomoy is the largest of the four.

Oak Point Associates has been hired to assess what's needed, and their report will be finished in the next few weeks. The contract should go out for bid in the early part of 2010.

The present lighthouse at Monomoy was among the first cast-iron lighthouses in the United States; towers at Boston's Long Island Head (1844) and Vermont's Juniper Island (1846) were among the earlier ones. Among surviving American towers of this type, only Juniper Island’s and one at Biloxi, Mississippi (1848) are older.

Capt. Keith Lincoln offers a variety of cruises on the Monomoy Island Ferry, including a visit to South Monomoy and the lighthouse. See

Percival The Lighthouse Mouse

Word comes from Elaine Jones at Maine's Burnt Island Lighthouse about a wonderful new children’s book called Percival the Lighthouse Mouse, written and illustrated by Burnt Island volunteer Bob McKay.

The setting for the story is of course, Burnt Island. The book contains a vocabulary section to help readers understand the terms associated with lighthouses. The book is being printed right now and will be available in a couple of weeks, just in time for Christmas. You can visit Bob’s website for a sneak preview at

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lighthouse of the Week - Graves Light, Massachusetts

Austere and weather-beaten, Graves Light might appear to the uninformed observer to be a more ancient structure than Boston Light, its neighbor in Boston’s outer harbor. Surprisingly, it’s actually one of Massachusetts’ youngest lighthouses.

The Broad Sound Channel into Boston Harbor, passing north of the Graves Ledges, was improved in the early twentieth century so that larger ships could enter the harbor. Before then, the main entrance to the busy harbor was through the Narrows, between Point Allerton in Hull and the outer harbor islands, which joined the President Roads channel farther inside the harbor. The Broad Sound Channel was rarely used at night, largely because of the dangers posed by the Graves.

In 1902, Congress appropriated funds for a lighthouse and fog signal. A shanty for the workmen, constructed of hard pine, was erected on a high ledge southwest of the lighthouse site and was accessed by means of a 90-foot walkway. The shanty had living quarters, a storeroom, a blacksmith shop, and a kitchen, and up to 40 men lived there in the summers of 1903 and 1904.

An area on the ledge was leveled by blasting, and a landing stage was prepared. A schooner transported the granite to the site. The foundation was laid just 4 feet above the low tide mark, and the lower courses were bolted 3 feet deep into the rock. By the time the summer of 1903 was over, the first 42 feet of the tower were completed, with the blocks having been put into place with the aid of a hoisting engine and derrick. The tower is just over 30 feet in diameter at the base, and the lower stones—held to each other with strong bolts—are 7 feet thick. The lower 42-foot section of the tower was filled with concrete, with a space left for a cistern.

While the tower was under construction, interior ironwork for the lighthouse was being prepared in Boston, interior woodwork was fashioned at a facility in Portland, Maine, and a huge first-order Fresnel lens was being created in Paris, France. The summer of 1904 saw the lighthouse reach its ultimate height—not including the lantern—of 88 feet, with a total of 882 granite blocks in 44 courses.

On the night of September 1, 1905, the first keeper, Elliot C. Hadley, first lighted what was then the most powerful lighthouse in the state’s history. The gigantic lens rotated on 400 pounds of mercury. The total height of the tower—lantern included—is 113 feet. The focal plane of the lens is 98 feet above mean high water. The light was initially rated at 380,000 candlepower. It was later upgraded to 3.2 million candlepower, and it was for many years the most powerful light in New England.

The entrance door to the tower was at the top of a 30-foot ladder, which made entry difficult in rough weather. The first story was the landing and storage space, the second was the engine room containing the fog-signal equipment, and the third floor was the kitchen. The fourth and fifth levels contained the keepers’ beds and a library. Handgrips were built into the outside of the lantern, which made the treacherous job of cleaning the outside of the glass a little easier.

In 1910, Keeper Hadley described the conditions in storms, which generally weren’t as much of a problem as the practice shots fired at nearby forts.

I’ve looked up at solid water rushing in towards the ledges. . . . I don’t know how far up the solid water comes. I’ve been knocked down by it on the wharf beside the light, and opening a window to look out more than halfway up the tower, I’ve had as much as three buckets-full dashed in my face. Sometimes, the seas go clean over the magazine [oil house] set at the end of the bridge. They never shake the tower. That stands as firm as the ledges. The only vibration it gets is from heavy firing at the forts, once when the gun goes off and again when the shot strikes. . . . The way we found out first was by having all our dishes broken.

Four keepers were originally assigned to the station, with two being on at all times. One of the early assistants was Hadley’s son, Elliot C. Hadley Jr. The two Hadleys alternated two-week stints at the lighthouse with the two other assistants. The Hadleys lived a few miles away, in the Point Shirley section of Winthrop, and the trip to the lighthouse via dory was arduous in rough weather, sometimes taking as much as two hours.

In April 1938, the 419-foot British freighter City of Salisbury, recalled as the “Zoo Ship” for its cargo of zoo animals, struck an uncharted rock about one-half mile from the Graves. The vessel’s cargo also included rubber and tea. There was no loss of human life. It was reported that three honey bears and several hundred rare birds from India and Ceylon were rescued successfully, but many monkeys and snakes died later from the effects of the accident. The ship became a tourist attraction for a few months before it finally split in two and sank.

Coast Guard keepers took over the operation of the station in the early 1940s. During the Coast Guard era, there were generally two keepers on duty at all times, with; each man spending spent two or three weeks at the lighthouse followed by a week off.

The light was automated in 1976 and the keepers were reassigned. The light was converted to solar power in the summer of 2001, which eliminated the need for a submarine power cable. Graves Light remains an active aid to navigation, with two white flashes every 12 seconds and an automated foghorn. You can get distant views of Graves Light from the shores of Winthrop, Nahant, and Hull.

For more, see

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Photo of the Day: Great Captain Island Lighthouse, Greenwich, Connecticut

I took this photo circa 2000, during my one and only visit to Great Captain Island. For many years, the ferry to the island was restricted to Greenwich residents and their guests. That has changed recently -- now anyone is permitted to ride the ferry. Click here for more info.

And there's more good news! The lighthouse was recently restored. The caretaker had moved out in 2003 because of the poor condition of the building. In May 2009, Greenwich native Mike Nickerson moved in as caretaker, with his wife and 10-month-old son. The Nickersons plan to live on the island year round.

New England Lighthouse Tours 2010 schedule

I've been working on my "New England Lighthouse Tours" schedule for 2010. I've got some of the tours up at -- check on the lower left where it says "More activities by this seller."

I'll be adding more tours soon, and I'll also be revamping my own tour site.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Photo of the Day - Eastern Point Light, Gloucester, Mass.

00057_n_9aeeg3wjf0084, originally uploaded by nelights.

I took this photo quite a few years ago, somewhere in the mid-1990s. My wife and I were driving home from somewhere or other, and it had been raining all day. Near sunset, the clouds lifted a bit and the sky was quite striking. We were near Gloucester, so I suggested we go to Eastern Point. We were rewarded with a great photo opportunity, with dramatic overcast skies but sunlight on the lighthouse.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Photo of the Day: Seguin Lighthouse, June 2001

00175_n_9aeeg3wjf0052, originally uploaded by nelights.

I took this photo in June 2001 on Seguin Island, off the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine. I was visiting the island along with Jean Guichard, the great French photographer. We visited the caretakers on the island that summer, Jim Woods and Kris Pescatore (below).

The neat thing was that Jim was a huge fan of Jean's work. He said he grew up with Jean's famous "La Jument" lighthouse print on his wall, and it had inspired him to want to live at a lighthouse.

Left: (L to R) Howie Marston of Kennebec Charters, Jim Woods, Kris Pescatore, Philip Jermain of the Friends of Seguin Island, and Jean Guichard.

Click here to read the story I wrote in 2001 about Jim and Kris.

For more on Seguin, visit and

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Photo of the Day: Nubble Up Close in 2003

Anyone who's gone to see Cape Neddick Lighthouse in York, Maine, better known as the Nubble Light, knows that very few people get on the island -- most view it across a narrow channel from Sohier Park.

I was lucky enough, back in August 2003, to get the opportunity to get on the island with two Coast Guardsmen who were inspecting the fourth-order Fresnel lens. I might never get on the island again, so I treasure the memory of that day.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Photo of the Day - Oh Buoy! (189_8994adj)

Oh Buoy! (189_8994adj), originally uploaded by nelights.

I thought I'd throw in a change of pace today, with something other than a lighthouse. You can buy prints and cards with this image at my new account with Imagekind at

I think this photo might make a good jigsaw puzzle.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Imagekind prints & cards now available!

Prints and cards of some of my photos are now available at - click here.

A Dive from Minot's Light, 1962

MNOT2, originally uploaded by nelights.

This clip shows Edward Rowe Snow (1902-1982), the popular New England maritime historian and "Flying Santa" to lighthouse keepers, diving from Minot's Ledge Lighthouse, off Boston's South Shore, in 1962. I believe it was his 60th birthday. The door he's diving from is approximately 60 feet above the water.

For more on the Flying Santa, see For more on Minot's Ledge Lighthouse, see

Photo of the Day: Boston Light, Massachusetts

Boston Light, Massachusetts, originally uploaded by nelights.

This photo was taken during the same sunset cruise as yesterday's view of Minot's Ledge Light. This was one of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen, and to be out in a boat near lighthouses at the time made it especially memorable.

Lighthouse of the Week - Dice Head Light, Maine

Castine, occupying a peninsula on the east side of the entrance to the Penobscot River, is a quiet town of only about 600 year-round residents. As shipbuilding and lumber traffic on the Penobscot River flourished, Congress appropriated $5,000 for a light station in May 1828. The site chosen was Dice Head, the southernmost point of the Castine peninsula. The spot is on land once owned by a family named Dyce. Although both spellings have often been used, the “Dice” spelling has predominated.

A conical rubblestone tower—42 feet tall from its base to the focal plane—and an adjacent one-and-one-half-story rubblestone dwelling were soon built, and a newspaper notice on November 5, 1828, announced that the light would go into service that evening. An octagonal wrought-iron lantern held 10 lamps and 14-inch reflectors, showing a fixed white light 129 feet above mean high water. The first keeper was Jacob Shelburne, a former sea captain.

The Lighthouse Board considered discontinuing the light around 1857, but instead major repairs were carried out in 1858. The entire tower was surrounded with a six-sided wooden sheath, and a fourth-order Fresnel lens replaced the lamps and reflectors. The wooden sheath was removed in the late 1800s. A 1,000-pound fog bell was installed in 1890, to be rung by hand in response to signals from passing vessels. A new hand striker for the bell was installed in 1897.

The lighthouse was mentioned in George Augustus Wheeler’s 1896 history of Castine. “A visit . . . can easily be made to the light-house at Dyce’s Head,” he wrote. “The gentlemanly keeper of the light, Mr. Charles Gott, will admit visitors to the tower at all reasonable hours except on Sunday.”

Edward T. Spurling, formerly at Avery Rock and Franklin Island, became keeper in 1911. After years of island life, the Spurling family’s move to the pleasant village of Castine was a welcome one. In a 1974 interview, one of the keeper’s six children, Beatrice Spurling, recalled life at Dice Head:

For us children it brought us an amazing new life. We could go to an organized school for the first time, and play with other children. Summer life on Dice’s Head was a new world for us. There were ladies with parasols, men in white flannels, buckboards to take them on quiet rides through the Witherle Woods and lots of chances for us to make pin money. I had a summer job at the “Dome of the Rocks” at 50 cents a day. And I could make extra money by going to the houses and helping out. I’ll never forget scrubbing bathtubs for 10 cents a ring.

When the Spurlings first moved to Dice Head, 11-year-old Beatrice attended the grammar school in Castine, which was within walking distance of the light station. It was the first time she had seen a schoolhouse after years of home-schooling at offshore stations. Beatrice took piano lessons for 12 years from Nina Macomber, a Castine resident. After a while, she was playing the piano at weddings and funerals at the local Episcopal church, and providing accompaniment for silent movies at the theater in town.

Maritime traffic in the area had fallen off, and in 1935 the light was discontinued. It was replaced by a skeleton tower closer to the shore. The keeper’s house and surrounding land became the property of the Town of Castine a short time later. In 1956, the lighthouse tower was turned over to the town.

The tower lost some chunks of mortar over the years. Inspectors found interior disintegration in the lighthouse that could have eventually caused serious problems. A method of repair called “slurry injection” had to be employed. This process involved slurry—clay or cement mixed with a liquid—being injected through holes in the tower. In 1997, the voters of Castine approved spending $98,000 to repair the lighthouse. Another $25,000 was approved in March 1998. The town also received $52,000 from the Maine Historic Preservation Committee, and Marty Nally, a contractor from the Campbell Construction Group, carried out the renovation.

The keeper’s house is rented by the town to help pay for the upkeep of the property; an artist, Nancy Carr, has lived in the house for over 30 years.

In September 2007, a windstorm or “microburst” toppled the skeletal tower that carried the navigational light. A few weeks later, the Coast Guard announced that it would install a new 300-millimeter optic in the lighthouse tower, making it an active aid to navigation again after 72 years in darkness.

Dice Head Light, a short distance from the Maine Maritime Academy, is easily reached by driving to Castine on Route 166 and turning right on Battle Avenue. The grounds are open to the public daily until sunset. A path leads around the tower, affording good views.

For more, see

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lighthouses of Portsmouth and Portland Tour on

My company, New England Lighthouse Tours, is featured on a new website, I've announced the dates for my "Lighthouses of Portsmouth & Portland" tours for 2010, and I'll be announcing more tours soon. I plan to offer some new trips, including some 2-day trips to various parts of New England.

Photo of the Day: Minot's Ledge Light, Massachusetts

357_5720adj, originally uploaded by nelights.

I'm always drawn to offshore, wave-swept lighthouses like Minot's. I'm fascinated by the lives the keepers led at these places. Lighthouse keeping at these places was rough, physically and psychologically -- not the romantic picture many people have of the job.

I took this photo during a sunset cruise I narrated for the Thacher Island Association a couple of years ago. We left Gloucester, Mass., at 6 p.m. and got to Boston Light about sunset, and it didn't look like we'd have time to make it all the way to Minot's, a few more miles south, off the shores of Scituate and Cohasset. But the captain decided to go for it, and we still had some light left when we got to Minot's, as you can see. Because the light was so low, my photos were very noisy -- I had to reduce the noise in Photoshop in order to make this photo presentable. But I did very little manipulation of the color -- this is a pretty accurate picture of the beautiful sunset that evening. You can see the Boston skyline in the distance.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Photo of the Day: Pemaquid Point Light, Maine

pemaquid1, originally uploaded by nelights.

I never get tired of clambering round on the rocks at Pemaquid Point looking for good photographic views. I'd say it's one of the top 5 lighthouses in New England, photogenically speaking.

Wood Island Lighthouse Restoration Begins

I just received the following from the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation. Wood Island Lighthouse is located off Biddeford Pool on the southern Maine coast.

Dear Friends of Wood Island Light Members,

As many of you know, work on the beautiful tower has begun. We have contracted with Stone Age Masonry to strip, repair and repaint both the inside and outside of the tower. Weather permitting, the tower will be completed this fall.

You will be able to watch progress via our webcams, two on island and one overlooking Wood Island Harbor from the mainland. This is our first attempt at running the webcam system ourselves, in the past it was in the hands of GOMOOS (Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System). To view the webcams, go to the Wood Island Light website and click on the webcam link at the top of the page, this will get you to the links for all three cameras. The webcams are sensitive to the numer of viewers online at the same time. If there are too many viewers, you may have some difficulty, if this happens, we suggest you try back later.

Thank you for your continued support as members.

Poll results

I ran a poll over the past week or so asking, "In the next year, which of the following are you most likely to do?" Here are the results:

Visit one or more lighthouses within a couple of hours of home - 72%

Visit one or more lighthouses more than a couple of hours away - 81%
Take a lighthouse cruise - 72%
Take a lighthouse bus or van tour - 18%
Read a book about lighthouses - 72%
Read about lighthouses online - 81%
Volunteer for a lighthouse organization - 27%

These results aren't very surprising, but I am disappointed that only 27% said they'd volunteer. Granted, only 11 people responded, and that's not a very representative sampling. Still, I'd be more optimistic about the future of lighthouses if more people realized that preservation takes time and effort. I should have also included "Donate money to a lighthouse organization" as one of the options. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who professes to love lighthouses needs to do something for their preservation, whether it's a donation of time or money. It doesn't have to be a huge amount of money -- every dollar counts.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Photo of the Day: West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, Lubec, Maine

I've visited West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, at the easternmost point of the U.S. mainland, many times over the years. I've been there at sunrise and sunset, in sun, fog, rain, and snow. The day I took this photo in June 2004, the weather was gorgeous and the sky was photogenic. I haven't been to West Quoddy in two or three years and I miss it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Lighthouse Photo of the Day: Marshall Point, Maine

marshallpoint-187_8763adj2, originally uploaded by nelights.

I took this photo of one of Maine's prettiest lighthouses at sunset on a very cold day a couple of years ago.

Sakonnet Lighthouse to be Restored in 2010-11

Wonderful news yesterday on the site -- Rhode Island's 1884 Sakonnet Lighthouse, in desperate need of help, will be restored in 2010-11. The bidding process for contractors will take place this winter, and it's hoped that the work will begin in the spring. John M. Wathne, a structural engineer and principal with Structures North Consulting Engineers of Salem, Mass., will manage the project. You can click here to read the story.

This is one of New Engand's most fascinating wave-swept lighthouses. Here's part of Keeper William Durfee's account of the great hurricane of 1938:

By three o'clock the wind blew a gale and the sea began to go higher and higher. Pounding with such a force that it smashed up all the boats and by four o'clock we had lost part of our rain shed, one oil tank, a boat landing, also smashing in the engine room and flooding the engines and putting the fog signal out of commission.

At five o'clock all outside doors had been carried away and all windows from the first floor to the third floor were stove in, so that we were practically flooded out of our home.

At five-thirty I went into the tower to light up. While there, we took what was called a tidal wave. There were seas that went by that completely buried the tower. The first sea that came along was the one that caused the most damage. That one broke seven plates out of our upper deck, which is fifty-six feet from the average high water. That sea, when it hit the tower, sounded like a cannon. And it hit with such a force as to knock me off my feet. . . . But when I finished lighting up and started to go downstairs I was some surprised to find that I had to crawl through some broken deck plates that had fallen over the stairs. . . .

At sunrise Mr. Bouley put the light out and called me to see the beach. And we were surprised when we looked to the point and saw that everything had been washed away.

For more history, see this page.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Plum Beach Lighthouse Tour and License Plate Artwork Presentation

The Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse, deed holders for the historic lighthouse located beneath the Jamestown Bridge in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, are pleased to announce the passage of legislation allowing the group to sell Plum Beach Lighthouse license plates to interested Rhode Island registered passenger vehicle owners. To celebrate, the group is offering media and other interested parties the rare opportunity to tour the lighthouse on Thursday, November 12.

On October 29, during the special fall legislative session, the state Senate approved their version of the House bill that had been passed during the regular session. After a short grace period, the bill becomes law and the Friends welcome local media and other guests on a tour of the lighthouse to celebrate the passage of the PBL license plate bill. On the day of the tour, the bill, because it was passed by both legislative branches, automatically becomes law without the Governor’s signature, making the lighthouse trip a special day for the Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse.

The lighthouse was opened in 1899 to protect vessels from the Plum Beach shoal. Active for only 42 years, the lighthouse was abandoned in 1941 by the Coast Guard after the opening of the original Jamestown Bridge in 1939. The structure deteriorated for 62 years until the Friends, with the help of a RI Department of Transportation grant, renovated it in 2003. Now, a short six years later, the lighthouse is once again in need of a painting. The Friends have tried to raise funds for the past six years and have now turned to the General Assembly, the Division of Motor Vehicles, and the general driving public for help.

The proposed specialty plate will cost drivers a one-time fee of $41.50. $20 from each plate fee collected will go directly to the painting project to help cover the $50,000 estimated painting cost. The state General Fund will benefit from the other $21.50 of each plate sold after the plate costs are deducted. The Friends will need to sell 900 plates before the DMV will commit to making any, but the group is confident they will quickly reach this number. They have already compiled a list of over 450 “pre-orders” from interested drivers, and this was done before the group had the right to sell the plate. Now that the General Assembly has approved the group’s request to create the plate, the Friends can now truly offer this unique RI plate design.

The Plum Beach Lighthouse plate is one of several new specialty plates approved by the General Assembly in the last year, but the group would like to point out that the lighthouse plate is one that has only local roots, and all of the funds collected would stay in the state to repair this local historic icon. Any funds earmarked for the lighthouse will go directly to the repainting project.

The group assembling at the town dock at 8 a.m. on November 12 will board the 50-foot certified passenger vessel Sea Princess of Wickford. Piloted by Coast Guard licensed Captain Doug Somers, the vessel will motor out of Wickford Harbor, turn south outside the harbor breakwater, and travel approximately three miles to the lighthouse beneath the Jamestown-Verrazzanno Bridge. The Sea Princess will circle the lighthouse several times for a photo-op before rafting to the “Lightship,” a 26-foot aluminum-hulled landing craft with a retractable bow piloted by Coast Guard licensed Capt. Keith Lescarbeau, the contractor of the 2003 lighthouse renovation. The group will transfer from the Sea Princess to the Lightship to make their way across the rocks to the lighthouse.

The Friends want to stress the danger and difficulty of this adventure. Very few have ever visited the property as it sits in some of the most treacherous waters of Narragansett Bay. Of the 90 official members of the Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse, few have ever visited; at the most, only six current members have ever set foot there. It is surrounded by seaweed and moss covered rocks that become slick as ice when wet, which is most of the time. Once you have cleared these rocks, one must be capable of climbing fifteen feet up a ladder and through an opening no larger than two feet wide. Heavyset overweight people will have a difficult time making their way through this opening.

Proper outdoor waterproof clothing and proper shoes are required for the visit to the lighthouse. If one should slip on the rocks you must expect to get wet or dirty from the growth. Once in the lighthouse the interior walls are rust covered and the floors are dusty. Although the guano was abated during the 2003 renovation, the pungent smell from the years of being inhabited by generations of pigeons and cormorants is ever present. However, the views from the lower deck and the upper lantern room are spectacular and well worth the trip.

The decision to access the lighthouse property will be made jointly by Captains Somers and Lescarbeau. Sea conditions vary greatly from inside Wickford Harbor to the Plum Beach shoal, and the lighthouse is situated in water that has some of the strongest current on the bay. There is no guarantee that the group will make a landing at the lighthouse, but the best effort will be made to get everyone onto the property. Failing to make the landing won’t deem the trip a failure because there will be opportunity to get plenty of great, close visuals from the Sea Princess of the lighthouse.

Don’t miss out on this rare opportunity to visit this RI historic icon. Space is limited to 40 on the Sea Princess, so please reserve your reporter and photographer’s spot now. The Friends expect it to be a full ship. This is an extremely rare event and will not be repeated any time soon.

RSVP REQUIRED by November 11 to Dee Hoebbel, 295-7665

Friday, November 6, 2009

Arts & Crafts Fair on Dec. 6

The list of vendors for the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse's Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair on December 6 is shaping up nicely. Here's who we have so far:

Virginia Souza, artist - Lighthouse Christmas prints, cards, and original miniature paintings. Virginia's paintings and illustrations have been published in books, magazines and products. Her Christmas lighthouse prints have been featured and sold internationally in Lighthouse Digest magazine and the Lighthouse Depot catalog.

Tammy Dobrosielski, Dragon's Eye Photography and Papercrafts - Framed prints, matted prints, notecards, coaster sets, magnets, and more.

Harold Whitehouse - Harold will be signing copies of his book Home By Nine: The Real South End, about growing up in Portsmouth, NH, in the 1930-50 era.

Pam Sawin, SawinArts - Artist/Designer Pamela Sawin captures the appeal of the playing card theme with unique sophistication and style. Pamela is pleased to offer unique custom products, including reproductions of original works and recreations, for decorative home accents, collectibles, gifts, and stationery. See

Amy Wallace, Just Not Right Greetings - Jewelry, greeting cards, photography.

Donna Mangeri - Crocheted items; bags and baskets.

Tammy Shackford - Jewelry, crocheted scarves, Patriots and Celtics aprons.

Heidi Barnes, gold specialist - Bring your unwanted gold for a free appraisal. If you decide to sell, Heidi will write you a check on the spot.

Marci Barnes, Yours and Mane - Handcrafted hair accessories.

Ross Tracy, photographer - Original framed and matted prints of lighthouses and other subjects. See

William Marshall, photographer and artist - Works inspired by the craggy coast of New England. See

The Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair will be held 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Casey Function Center at 1950 Lafayette Road (Route 1) in Portsmouth, NH. See you there!

Click here for more info and a vendor form.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lighthouse Art Raffle continues

Just a reminder that there's just over a month remaining to buy tickets for the art raffle benefiting Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse. Click here for all the details.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lighthouse of the Week - Wickford Harbor, Rhode Island

Wickford is a charming village of the town of North Kingstown. Established in 1663, the community is a tangle of small old streets and lanes with an impressive collection of late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century homes. Wickford’s cozy, protected harbor developed as a shipping point for goods from the area’s large plantations. Foreign trade from Wickford also blossomed. Congress appropriated $3,000 for a light at the entrance to Wickford Harbor, and a light at Poplar Point went into service on November 1, 1831.

With increased ferry traffic between Wickford and Newport, the Lighthouse Board’s annual reports in 1878 and 1879 recommended, “Additional aids to navigation to mark the entrance to Wickford Harbor are required. A granite pier surmounted by a small light should be established on Old Gay Rock. . . . The light at Poplar Point could be discontinued if one on Old Gay is established.” On June 15, 1880, Congress appropriated $45,000 for a lighthouse on Old Gay Rock, about 200 yards offshore from the 1831 lighthouse at Poplar Point.

The lighthouse superstructure was an eight-room wood-frame Gothic Revival house. A square lighthouse tower was attached to a corner of the dwelling. A fifth-order Fresnel lens, showing a fixed white light 52 feet above the water, was first illuminated on November 1, 1882. The old light at Poplar Point was simultaneously discontinued. A fog bell and striking machinery were also installed.

The first keeper of the new lighthouse was Henry Sherman, who had been the keeper of Poplar Point Light since 1874. The light would have only three keepers in the course of its 48 years of service.

Keeper Edmund (his name was often reported as Edward) Andrews, who came to Wickford in 1893, was born in 1868 in Providence. He was the son of an English carpenter and an Irishwoman. Andrews went to sea aboard the George W. Darrison out of Block Island, and by 1891 he was working as an assistant lighthouse keeper at Whale Rock Light. While in that position Andrews married Lillian A. Sprague, 17, of Block Island.

Edmund and Lillian had one child when they moved to Wickford, and three more children were born at the lighthouse during their years there. The children made the most of their waterbound home. Their son, Edward, later said that his knuckles were frequently banged up from riding his bicycle in circles around the lighthouse, bumping into the iron railings that surrounded it.

(Right: Keeper Edmund Andrews, 1868-1939. Photo courtesy of Jo Ann Tarbox.)
Andrews was recognized for the rescue of a drowning man in 1898, and a 1905 inspection showed the station in “excellent order.” There were to be some rough times, however. In 1907, Andrews was accused of stealing a neighbor’s chickens (he was later cleared), and was reprimanded for housing his brother-in-law and a friend at the station. The keeper pointed out in his defense that he had been ill and that his wife’s brother was there to row the family’s children ashore to school each day. The friend who had been staying at the lighthouse was a keeper of Block Island North Light. Andrews was told that he would have been allowed to have another person at the station if he was ill, but that he should have notified the authorities of the situation.

In 1909, Andrews was offered a transfer to Eatons Neck Light on Long Island, New York. He turned down this transfer, saying, “I would like to have a land station where there is no vapor lamp or an assistant keeper, not too far out of Rhode Island.” His request was never granted. Andrews spent the rest of his long lightkeeping career at Wickford Harbor.

In June 1930, Andrews requested a retirement with a pension, saying he suffered from “heart trouble and stomach trouble.” He retired after 40 years of service in 1930 and was granted a pension of $969.66 yearly. A medical exam recorded that Andrews had been suffering from heart disease, rheumatism, and a nervous tremor, among other ailments. Andrews died in Massachusetts at the Chelsea Naval Hospital in 1939, the year the Lighthouse Service was taken over by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The lighthouse was destroyed in 1930. As a cost-saving measure, it was replaced by a small, unmanned, automatic light. Today, a square skeleton tower showing a flashing green light tops a pile of rocks on the old lighthouse site.

Visit for more information.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wickford Lighthouse presentation on Nov. 19

The North Kingstown Free Library is pleased to be the current residence of a magnificent model of Wickford Lighthouse built by Dominic Zachorne. The original lighthouse was located outside of Wickford Harbor, Rhode Island, from 1882 until 1930.

Join local historian Tim Cranston and Captain Dominic D. Zachorne in a talk about the history of the lighthouse and the process by which the model was created. Doug Somers of the North Kingstown Arts Council, which commissioned the project, will introduce the speakers. Please register for this program.

This event is on Thursday, November 19, at 7 p.m. For more information, call

For more on the Wickford Lighthouse, click here and here.