Maine’s remote Mt. Desert Rock Lighthouse located 20 miles off Mt. Desert Island, marking the entrance to Frenchman’s Bay, suffered severe damage from a hurricane this past summer.
The damage is a severe blow and major set back to the College of the Atlantic’s Allied Whale research program that operates the Edward McCormick Blair Research Station at the isolated lighthouse station.
Mt. Desert Rock Lighthouse Station is no stranger to storm damage, especially in the days when it was staffed by the United States Lighthouse Service and the United States Coast Guard. George Putnam, who became Commissioner of Lighthouses in 1910 and served in that position for 25 years, once wrote that Mt. Desert Rock Lighthouse is the most isolated and exposed light station in the United States. In those days, the government would simply make the necessary repairs with federal money. This can not be said for College of the Atlantic and Allied Whale. It is estimated that the damage caused from Hurricane Bill to Mt. Desert Rock Lighthouse and the research facilities at the lighthouse are well over a half a million dollars. Because the damage was caused by the storm surge during a slow moving storm at high tide, none of it is covered by insurance.
The fury of the storm showed no mercy. The hurricane caused a tremendous high surge that literally pushed itself up and over the island. Waster smashed open a door and then some swept through the windows in the keeper’s house leaving its contents strewn all over the island and water damage to the interior of the building.
As we all know from witnessing recent events in the Gulf Coast, the power of hurricanes is literally unstoppable. When a crew returned to the light station and research center after the storm they were astounded by what they saw. Built with 10-inch square posts every two feet; the boat house was virtually wiped out. The eight-inch 1000-pound I beam and chain hoist that were inside the boat house, plus a 3,000 pound compressor, also inside the boat house, were no where to be found on the 3-acre island, apparently having been swept out to sea. Two walls of the generator shed were ripped from the building. It looked as if Mother Nature had simply taken a bite out of the structure and then not satisfied with its taste, spit it out.
Fortunately, unlike in the days of yesteryear when the keepers had no warning or weather bureau to reply on, the College of the Atlantic had taken certain precautions before the hurricane struck. They secured everything they could, boarded up the windows and evacuated all personnel.
The tower, built by famed architect, Alexander Parris, in 1858, and known as one of his wind-swept tower designs, easily withstood the hurricane, a testament to his knowledge and the workmanship of the men who built it.
Activities done at the lighthouse, which primarily includes research on whales, seals and other ocean life has been temporarily suspended.
Although the College of the Atlantic and Allied Whale plan to rebuild, they will need to do some major fund raising. Rebuilding and repairing the damage will not be an easy task, especially since the “Rock” is so far from the mainland and landing at the station can be extremely difficult and often dangerous. However, because their cause is so deserving, as well as important, it is hoped that those who can, will step forward with the financial resources to help them reestablish the light station as a research center.
Donations and other offers of assistance can be sent to Mt. Desert Rock Station Manager, Allied Whale-College of the Atlantic, 105 Eden Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609 or you can call them at 207-288-5644.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about the history of
Mt. Desert Rock Lighthouse, check out the book Lighthouses of Bar Harbor and the Acadia Region. It is available at www.LighthouseDigest.net or call (207) 259-2121. Also over the years, we have done a number of different stories about the lighthouse, including one by Richard Clayton in the August 2009 issue.
This story appeared in the
November 2009 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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