Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rockland Breakwater at Dusk during 2/25/10 Storm

We've been through a very stormy week in New England -- heavy snow inland and several inches of rain along the coast, along with tropical storm-force winds. I wasn't able to get any photos during the storm, unfortunately. I'm sure there was spectacular surf at many lighthouse locations along the coast.

At the height of the wind and rain on Thursday evening, I gave a lighthouse presentation at South Portland (Maine) City Hall. On the way there in my minivan, I drove through some major flooding and lost my power steering. I made it to city hall and gave my presentation, and I was then towed all the way back to Portsmouth, NH. It was an adventure I'd rather not repeat, but I made it home safe and sound.

The following text and photos come from Bob Trapani, executive director of the American Lighthouse Foundation:

I decided to go back over to Rockland Breakwater this evening to see if I could improve on my storm photos from this morning.

This time I took my tripod with me, which offered more stability for focusing in the face of a good wind, but the benefit of the tripod was offset a tad by the fact that the winds had grown much stronger than in the morning. They were blowing at sustained gale force this evening, which made keeping both myself and the tripod
balanced / still a mixed bag :)

I only wish there had been about one more hour of daylight to work with since the tide was on the flood, but with high tide not until 8:00 pm this evening, there wasn't quite enough in volumes of water being driven against the breakwater to create the more dramatic wave explosions.

As it was, the wind-swept spray of the waves was a cool thing to see, wispy and far-reaching as it broke against the wall and carried through the air well over the breakwater....sometimes obscuring the flashing beacon of the lighthouse from land.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Photo of the Day: Boston Light, Massachusetts

I had overlooked this photo and just found it as I was skimming through my files. This was taken in July 2004 during a cruise I was narrating for the Friends of Plum Island Light. I like the clarity and color, and the fact that you can see the second-order Fresnel lens pretty well.

Back when I lived in Winthrop, Mass., in the late '80s through the '90s, I often helped give tours of Boston Light for the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands. I haven't been on the island in several years now. I miss it, and it will always be one of my favorites.

Presentation on Feb. 25 in South Portland, Maine

I haven't been blogging as much lately, as I'm currently working a temporary full time job for the US Census. It's hard to squeeze all my lighthouse stuff, writing, photography, etc., into my spare time. I'll be making occasional posts when I get the chance.

This Thursday evening, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m, I'll be speaking in South Portland, Maine, on the lighthouses of Casco Bay (Portland Head, Cape Elizabeth, Halfway Rock, Ram Island Ledge, Spring Point Ledge, Portland Breakwater). The talk will be at the city hall council chambers at 25 Cottage Road, South Portland.

There are more details here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Race Point Light’s Wintertime Secrets

There was nothing at first to indicate that my latest trip to Race Point would be much different than previous ones, except that the calendar marked a mid-January day and it was bitter cold.

Click here to read the rest of this essay by Bob Trapani, executive director of the American Lighthouse Foundation.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Photo of the Day: Owls Head Lighthouse, Maine

I like this one because you rarely see photos of Owls Head Light from this angle. This was taken during an American Lighthouse Foundation cruise a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Photo of the Day: Heron Neck Lighthouse, Maine

I like the contract of the rocks and lighthouse against the deep blue sky in this one.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Photo of the Day: Head Harbour Lighthouse, New Brunswick, Canada

This one's technically not in New England, but it's just across the International Bridge from Lubec, Maine, on Campobello Island. Because it's a few miles to the east of West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Lubec, this one is also known as East Quoddy Head Light.

This photo was taken around 10 years ago -- I chartered a boat ride with a local fisherman to shoot several of the local lighthouses. You can't see them in this shot, but a pair of bald eagles was perched on a rock near the lighthouse.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Lighthouse - animated film

Another cool lighthouse-related animated film:

Watch more cool animation and creative cartoons at Aniboom

Maria Bray: Heroine of Thacher Island

Alexander Bray became the principal keeper of the twin light station at Thacher Island, off Rockport, Massacusetts, in 1864. Bray—a Civil War veteran—and his wife, Maria (Herrick), were both descended from old Gloucester families. Bray had been an assistant keeper since 1861.

Maria Bray was described as a woman of unusual literary abilities. She contributed articles to the local newspapers and wrote short stories, and for a time she served as the editor of a literary magazine called Magnolia Leaves. During her time on Thacher Island, Maria developed an interest in the classification of marine plant life. She assembled an important collection of sea mosses and algae, and became a recognized authority on the subject. She also learned to perform all the light-keeping duties of her husband.

On December 21, 1864, one of the assistant keepers fell ill with a fever. Keeper Bray and another assistant left for the mainland to take the ailing man to a doctor. They left Maria in charge of the station. The only person with her was her 14fourteen14-year-old nephew, Sidney Haskell.

A heavy snowstorm blew in later that day, making it impossible for Alexander Bray to return to the island. Maria Bray and Sidney Haskell braved the high winds and heavy snow to light the lamps in both towers. Each tower had 148 steps to the top, and Maria had to repeat the trip three times that night to keep the lamps supplied with oil and the lantern room panes free of soot.

A second night passed before Alexander Bray could return to the island, and not once did Maria allow either light to go out. It was a happy Christmas as the Brays were reunited. The Brays left the island in 1869.

In the spring of 2000, a new Coast Guard “Keeper Class” buoy tender was launched, the Maria Bray. On its way to its homeport in Mayport, Florida, the vessel stopped for a ceremony near Thacher Island. Members of the Thacher Island Association were on board and a wreath was placed in the ocean in Maria's honor.

Click here for more on Thacher Island.

Photo courtesy of the Thacher Island Association.

Photo of the Day: Maine schooner Steven Taber with added texture

Another non-lighthouse image today. This is a photo of the Maine schooner Steven Taber that I shot on a foggy day a couple of years ago. I've added a texture to give it a mysterious look. Someone suggested that it looks like an 1812 privateer in the smoke of battle.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lighthouse Presentation on Feb. 10

For anyone in the NH Seacoast region -- I'll be speaking about local lighthouses at the North Hampton Public Library this Wednesday evening, February 10, at 7 p.m. Details are on the library's web site at

Friday, February 5, 2010

Photo of the Day: Plum Island Lighthouse, Massachusetts

Taken on a fall afternoon a few years ago, with really beautiful light on the lighthouse and garden.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Photo of the Day: Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, New Hampshire

Took this at sunset last June. The color of the sky was really unusual.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Photo of the Day: Camden Harbor, Maine, from Mount Battie

Camden Harbor is my pick as the most beautiful harbor in Maine, and the view of it from the top of Mount Battie is spectacular. If you look really closely at Curtis Island on the upper left, on the left side of the island you can see Curtis Island Lighthouse and the keeper's house.

Click here for more on Curtis Island Lighthouse.

Herbert Spinney - Lighthouse Keeper and Naturalist

Left: Keeper Herbert Spinney and his family at Seguin Island, Maine. Courtesy of the Friends of Seguin Island.

A 1904
Boston Globe article profiled Herbert Spinney, who had been an assistant keeper at Seguin Light Station in Maine beginning in 1893 and was principal keeper from 1903 to 1907.

Spinney, who was a native of nearby Georgetown, also served as president of the Maine Ornithological Society. He had collected and mounted birds since boyhood, and he also collected birds’ eggs, butterflies, minerals, and corals. He always carried a camera, and he developed and printed his own photos.
Spinney’s collection filled much of the dwelling’s wall space from floor to ceiling.

This makeshift museum drew increasing numbers of visitors to the island, and eventually the keeper began charging an admission fee of a dime to keep the crowds more manageable. Included in the collection was a stuffed monkey, and a visitor once asked the keeper if he had shot the monkey on the island. “No madam,” replied Spinney, “I didn’t, but I’ve seen little monkeys on this island that I should like to shoot.”

Many of the birds Spinney collected were found dead after flying into the lantern glass of the tower. On one memorable morning, Spinney found 275 birds dead around the lighthouse. Spinney kept a journal of his observations; here’s the entry for September 3, 1899:

Midnight, wind northwest, very dark, not a star to be seen; the air so impregnated with smoke as to make my throat smart in breathing; at this hour I came on duty, the birds were flying around the light; on going into the lantern I found about 75 birds on the outside; pine warblers, black and white yellow throats, oven birds, two hermit thrushes and one yellow-bellied flycatcher; all seemed to alight on the glass as fast as they appeared; very few seen flying around the light.

At 3 a.m. came a light shower, which seemed to check the flight. Those on the lantern remained until morning. All the mortality occurred with the yellow throats, 10 of this species being found dead. This seems odd, as I could hear many birds strike the dome of the lantern, the concussion when they struck sounding like a body of several hundred pounds weight.

Click here for more history of Seguin Lighthouse.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Trade Winds

A nicely done lighthouse-related animated film.

World's Shortest Keeper?

This is one of my all-time favorite photos of a lighthouse keeper. The man on the left is Charles H. Hinckley, keeper of the Bishop and Clerks Lighthouse off Hyannis on Cape Cod 1892-1919. Hinckley, who was 4 feet 9 inches (or 4 feet 6 inches in his stocking feet, according to one account), has been called the shortest lighthouse keeper in the world.

With Hinckley in this photo is local ferry captain Walter Carney (6'7") of Hyannisport. Hinckley referred to himself and Carney as the "long and short of the service."

In 1909, the magazine Along the Coast quoted Hinckley:

There ain't a great deal of me so far as height goes but I am all right from my feet up. I've laid many a man bigger than me on his back if I do say it myself.

You can read more about Hinckley and Bishop and Clerks Lighthouse on my website.

Photo of the Day: Schooner Steven Taber in the fog

I like the mysterious quality of this photo, which was taken druing a lighthouse cruise in the Rockland, Maine, area.