The gigantic 2nd order Fresnel lens that had been installed in Maine’s Monhegan Island Lighthouse in 1856 was removed from the lantern by the Coast Guard in 1959. But, to this day, its whereabouts remains a mystery, or does it?
How could a nearly seven-foot tall 3,000 pound Fresnel lens simply disappear? The most widely told story is that it was dropped when being removed from the tower and it was smashed to pieces.
However, the true answer to this question seems to have come from a chance meeting that Duane Prugh had in 2012 while giving a lighthouse talk in Saco, Maine. During the intermission, a man named Jim Seward came up to him and said that he was one of the Coast Guard men who carefully dismantled the lens at Monhegan Island Lighthouse in 1959. He said the lens was crated up and shipped to the South Portland Coast Guard base where it remained in storage for two years. Reportedly, his boss finally told him that, since the lens was of no real value, it was destroyed. This is almost incomprehensible. Even back in the early 1960s, surely most normal people would have seen the value of the lens. If nothing else, it could have gone to an antique dealer.
Monhegan’s Second Beacon Saved
When the 2nd order Fresnel lens was removed from Monhegan Island Light, it was replaced by a DCB-36 revolving beacon. Fortunately, when the DCB-36 was removed from the tower and replaced by a modern VRB-25 optic, the folks on Monhegan Island convinced the Coast Guard to give it to them and, although it is not always out on display, it has remained in the possession of the Monhegan Museum ever since.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2016 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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