Built in 1811
Boon Island, about nine miles from the York coastline. Can only be viewed by boat.
|Latitude: 43° 07' 18" N
||Longitude: 70° 28' 36" W|
Being a tiny desolated island or rocks, Boon Island became the point of many stories of shipwrecks, one especially regarding the Nottingham Galley in the winter of 1710, where the survivors had to struggle on the rock for three weeks to survive by resulting to cannibalism. In fact, the name “boon” came from packed food and clothing called boon that fishermen placed on the island for those mariners who may have found themselves shipwrecked on the rocky island.
When a lighthouse was built in 1811, its lonely desolation and constant over pouring of the waves, as it was only 14 feet above sea level, caused the first two Keepers to resign within weeks of being installed there. Eliphalet Grover, the fourth Keeper who started in 1816, managed to stay on the island for the next 22 years.
|In 1846, the schooner Caroline shipwrecked on the island during a storm and Keeper Nathaniel Baker saved the entire crew. He was later dismissed in 1849 due to "political reasons" in being outspoken against some of the government practices. This was usually the case for some keepers in those times, regardless of their heroic deeds.||
Early Boon Island Light
Over the years, the constant cold and rogue waves that would often encompass the island, and the constant thrashing of these waves against the lighthouse kept its desolate location an erie sight. Many Keepers and mariners have reported seeing the ghost of a woman on the rocks amongst other paranormal activities and sounds. In the early 1970’s, a Coast Guard keeper and fellow crewman went off fishing a short distance from the island when they noticed they had drifted too far from the island to make it back in time to turn the light on before dark. Although no one was on the island, the light was turned on and glowing brightly by the time the keepers returned.
During the great Blizzard of 1978, as the gale force winds forced huge waves to crash and cover over the island with blinding snow, three Coast Guard keepers were clinging to the spiral staircase inside the tower that was swaying in the storm. They survived that day and were rescued by helicopter the following the day during a lull in the blizzard. They were the last lighthouse keepers to staff the tower. The buildings were destroyed from the storm and later the Coast Guard had them burned in the 1980's. Only the automated tower remains today. The original 2nd order Fresnel lens is on permanent display at the Kittery Historical and Naval Museum.
You can find more information about the incident involving the Nottingham Galley with more detailed information, along with over 40 other stories and 160 images in my book “New England Lighthouses: Famous Shipwrecks, Rescues, and Other Tales.” You can purchase the book from Schiffer Books.
Places to Visit Nearby:
The lighthouse can only be viewed by boat. The Friends Of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse offer occasional narrated cruises that pass by the lighthouse. The Isles of Shoals Steamship Company makes periodic cruises to the lighthouse. The island is not accessible to the public.
American Lighthouse Foundation
P.O. Box 565
Rockland, ME 04841
Phone: (207) 594-4174
Local Boat Tours
Boat cruises mentioned below offer many different of cruises. Both pass by Boon Island Lighthouse during specific lighthouse cruises, and may pass by the light during whale watching, fishing tours and other types of excursions.
Isles of Shoals Steamship Co.
Portsmouth Harbor and Isles of Shoals tours
315 Market Street,
P.O. Box 311
Portsmouth, NH 03801