Miracle Baby Rescue Near Maine’s Most Remote Beacon, Mount Desert Rock Lighthouse
Mount Desert Rock Lighthouse sits on a ledge and is the most isolated lighthouse in New England because of its location 26 miles away from mainland. The rocky island is only 600 yards long and 200 yards in width. Fisherman called the island “God’s Rock Garden” as each year storms would wash away any soil, and each year local fisherman would assist the keepers and their families by bringing and dumping boxes of soil as an annual ritual to help with planting small crops.
This story demonstrates the spirit of a parent that, when all is lost in times of peril, they use their last moments to try to save their children.
In the early 1880’s, the schooner Helen and Mary was carrying a load of granite from Halifax, Nova Scotia, when threatening weather suddenly came upon them out by Mount Desert Rock Lighthouse, many miles from shore. The first mate, Nelson White, tried to convince Captain Parker to head towards Maine’s Jonesport Harbor for safety, but the captain was eager to make his destination and receive payment for the cargo he was carrying. The captain’s wife, who also happened to be the first mate’s sister, accompanied the crew with their baby girl.
As the weather worsened, the waves strengthened and started to wash some of the deck cargo overboard. The captain realized his ignorance too late, and as he started to shout to shorten the sails, fierce gusts of wind caught the fledgling canvas and started to tip the vessel into the raging sea. As water started to fill into the schooner, the captain’s wife, baby, and crew members were quickly put into the first of two boats. First Mate White and Captain Parker tried to drop the second boat into the rough seas, but the attempt was too late. The water filled vessel with its heavy cargo, which was starting to sink beneath the waves, sucking both men underwater. First Mate White managed to reach the surface and climbed atop a large piece of floating wreckage. He observed in horror as the first boat had capsized nearby and could not locate any survivors near it. He agonized over the fact that all passengers and crew, including his sister, baby niece, and brother in law, had perished.
A short time passed and the seas were starting to calm when he noticed a small bundle of heavy oilskin floating in the water towards him. He successfully managed to lift it out of the water and found his sister’s infant daughter wrapped inside, barely wet. Ecstatic that the infant had survived such an ordeal, he tied her as close to his chest for warmth, secured himself to the deck load of wreckage, and collapsed in exhaustion. Hours went by and the weather cleared as the two survivors drifted in the seas.
By the early afternoon of the following day, White was sighted by the lighthouse buoy tender Iris as both he and his niece were quickly brought aboard and given warm blankets and food. The infant had survived and was in good health from such an experience. Both recovered from the exposure and were later brought to Prospect Harbor Lighthouse for additional medical treatment. All others from the ill-fated Helen and Mary perished near Mount Desert Rock Light.
There is nothing documented as to what happened to the miracle baby afterwards, but many believe her grateful uncle cared for her among other family members in remembrance of his sister and brother in law.
About Coast Guard Artist William Trotter
The painting above is creation of Coast Guard artist William Trotter. He is known for painting over 300 lighthouses in the United States. His work has been published in books such as Thirty Florida Shipwrecks, Lighthouses of Ireland, and Florida Lighthouses. He was named the official Artist for the U.S. Coast Guard and is a member of the International Society of Marine Painters. His artwork is displayed and sold at the Lighthouse Maritime Studies in Jackson Beach, Florida and the Ships Wheel Gallery in Kewaunee, Wisconsin.
Viewing and Exploring Mount Desert Rock Lighthouse: Maine’s Most Remote Beacon
It is the most remote isolated lighthouse in New England at 26 miles away from mainland. The tiny rocky island is currently a bird sanctuary, so the public is not allowed on the island, and there are no regular boat tours that go out to the lighthouse. Some have been able to find mariners who will provide a charter out to the island, as long as conditions involve calm weather, and understand it will take a few hours to get out there, and a few hours to return.
Bar Harbor’s College of the Atlantic sometimes goes out to the island to tend the bird sanctuary there, and if you’re sincere in asking to take photos, during an opportune time when they may be heading out to the island, you may be allowed to join them. You must heed to their requests to stay around certain areas of the island away from nests if you are allowed to go. Be wary this is at least a few hours trip (one way) out 26 miles and is not a tour. They were very gracious when I asked and even allowed me to tour the tower with them. Wonderful experience!
Here are some of my favorite photos of Mount Desert Rock Lighthouse.
My 300-page book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Southern New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, provides special human interest stories from each of the 92 lighthouses, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor coastal attractions you can explore. These include whale watching excursions, lighthouse tours, windjammer sailing tours and adventures, special parks and museums, and even lighthouses you can stay overnight. You’ll also find plenty of stories of shipwrecks and rescues like the one above. Lighthouses and their nearby attractions are divided into regions for all you weekly and weekend explorers. You’ll also find plenty of stories of hauntings around lighthouses.
My 300-page book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England: New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, provides special human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses, like the story of the miracle baby near Mount Desert Rock Light as mentioned above. Lots of information about indoor and outdoor coastal attractions you can explore, and tours. Lighthouses and their nearby attractions are divided into regions for all you weekly and weekend explorers. Attractions and tours also include whale watching tours, lighthouse tours, windjammer sailing tours and adventures, special parks and museums, and lighthouses you can stay overnight. There are also stories of haunted lighthouses in these regions.
You’ll find this story of the miracle baby and many others in my book New England Lighthouses: Famous Shipwrecks, Rescues, and Other Tales. The book also contains, along with my photographs, vintage images provided by the Coast Guard and other various organizations, and paintings by William Trotter mentioned above and five other famous artists of the Coast Guard.
You can order these books through most any pages on this website, and I’ll be happy to personally sign them and ship them to you anywhere inside the United States. You can also order from the publisher, Schiffer Books, who will ship anywhere globally, and you’ll find them in many fine bookstores.
Copyright © Allan Wood Photography, do not reproduce without permission. All rights reserved.
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