Saturday, September 8, 2012

Maine’s Fourth Annual Lighthouse Day

©Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011, All rights Reserved

Sometimes referred to as North America’s castles, our lighthouses in the United States have, over the years, provided us with more than signals warning of impending danger along our coastlines. Each lighthouse serves as a little beacon of history and projects insights from the experiences of past “keepers” and their families we can learn from today. Much of our coastal history could have long been forgotten if it had not been recorded in a lighthouse keeper’s log.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights ReservedIn Maine alone, more than sixty unique beacons of history dot the rocky Atlantic coastline, both on and off shore. Wherever you happen to be along the Maine coast, there will be a lighthouse somewhere nearby. If you want to take a closer look at one, inside and out, mark September 15th on your calendar. More than 15,000 people visited Maine’s twenty-four open light stations during their 2011 open lighthouse event, which proved to be the largest effort of its kind in the nation with 4,100 people climbing up into the towers to experience first hand a lighthouse keeper’s view. I’m very happy to say, in spite of my fear of heights,  I was one of them.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights ReservedMy light of choice last year was Owl's Head, land based and southeast of Rockland (and pictured in this post). I’ve always enjoyed the pleasant walk in to the light and I adore the legends surrounding this station, especially tales of “Spot the Lighthouse Dog” whose final resting place is on the lighthouse grounds near the fog bell which brought him fame. And, I can’t help but love its legendary, and probably, downright, fibs. They, too, are charming in their own way and may contain a speck or two of truth. The biggest of such "fibs" I’ve heard is the tale of lighthouse keeper William Masters and his heroic rescue of Richard Ingraham and Lydia Dyerin in December of 1850. Both Ingraham and Dyerin were reportedly frozen alive into blocks of ice on the deck of their vessel during in a winter storm. Masters supposedly took them ashore and thawed them back to life in his kitchen. (If you believe that, I have a lighthouse for sale in Baxter State Park you can make an offer on.)
© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights ReservedThe Owl’s Head light tower, itself, is an easy climb as it is only 30 feet tall. However, it stands on top of a rock formation nearly 70 feet in height that provides a 100-foot focal plane for the tower’s Fresnel lens. You’ll find interesting historic facts and trivia on display in a kiosk, thanks to former lighthouse keeper, David Bennett, who generously constructed it for the entrance to the grounds. You’ll also be pleased with the beautiful picnic area and ample parking.

Many other Maine mid-coast light stations will be participating in the Open Lighthouse event and I myself, plan to take in several for a full day of lighthouse activity.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved

For more detailed information, maps, and tour guides for Maine’s Lighthouses and Open Lighthouse Day visit these links:

The U.S. Coast Guard, the State of Maine and the American Lighthouse Foundation will present the fourth annual Maine Open Lighthouse Day, September 15, 2012, rain or shine. Most of the lighthouses participating will be open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved
Blae hopes you'll pay your respects to Spot
while visiting Owl's Head Light.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved
One story on display in the kiosk is how
Owl's Head got its name. 

Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to 
theSCENE, a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart   All Rights Reserved

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