Daughter of Lighthouse Keeper Rescued and Adopted Dog, Naming it Seaboy, at Great Duck Island Lighthouse
Great Duck Island Lighthouse was built in 1890 and at the time had three keeper’s dwellings near the light. This proved quite helpful with a lighthouse keeper named Nathan Reed, who had one of the largest families to tend a lighthouse with his wife and 17 children. At one time, because of the large number of keepers’ children on the island, a small school was established, the only such school built exclusively for lighthouse children. There were no dogs or animals however, for the children to play with.
This story is told by many fishermen in Maine about the rescue of a dog and the love of that dog for the girl that took care of him.
Sometime around 1920, a fishing vessel wrecked near Great Duck Island, the crew had a rather large dog that accompanied them on their voyage. As the ship started to sink, the crew made haste onto a lifeboat and started to pull away. The dog leaped from the wreck and swam towards the lifeboat to join them. As the crew tried to bring him into the already crowded boat, his weight made the boat tip into the water, which scared one of the crew enough to push the animal away with an oar, injuring the frightened dog. The crew watched the poor animal sink into the water and presumed he had drowned.
When the lifeboat reached Great Duck Island, the lighthouse keeper and his wife gave the crew warm clothes and food to recover from their ordeal. With their strength regained, the keeper called for assistance to meet the crew on the mainland, as they headed for the shore.
The following day, the keeper’s daughter was playing along the rocky shoreline when she noticed the dog washed up on the shore. The poor animal was covered in blood and barely alive. She quickly ran to get her parents to help her. The keeper and his wife ran down to the shore and wrapped the helpless animal in warm blankets and brought it back to the house. They watched over the dog for days and nursed it back to health. As the crew of survivors had already departed days before, the dog was quickly adopted by the family and named Seaboy.
As the weeks went by, the keeper’s daughter became very fond of her new best friend and the two became inseparable. She held tea parties, dressed the animal in clothes, and read to Seaboy as any little girl would. The dog in turn would not leave her side, and slept by her bed each night. For over two years the dog kept the girl safe and happy at the lighthouse.
One day a stranger came to the lighthouse and told the keeper that he was the captain of the crew that had wrecked near the lighthouse two years before. He had heard the animal had survived and was living at the lighthouse, and had come to retrieve the dog.
The little girl was beside herself when her parents reluctantly had to tell her to give up the dog to its rightful owner. As Seaboy was led onto the fisherman’s dory, the girl fell into uncontrollable sobbing and could not bear to watch as the boat rowed away. All of a sudden, the dog leaped out of the boat and started the long swim back towards the shore where her adopted owners watched in disbelief. When Seaboy reached the shore he ran to the little girl’s side, soaking wet and tired, but happy. The fisherman watched the animal swim back, waved good-bye to the family ashore and never returned to try to reclaim the dog again. Seaboy lived out the remainder of years on the island with the keeper’s daughter. News of the story spread and later became the basis for a popular children’s book called Captain’s Castaway.
Viewing Great Duck Island Lighthouse
Acadia National Park is one of the most frequented places for tourism in Maine, where visitors can find solace in the scenic beauty of Mount Desert Island, or join others in various hiking, biking, and boat tours available. Great Duck Island lighthouse is located a few miles southeast of Maine’s most remote lighthouse, Mount Desert Rock lighthouse. It’s remote location is not open to the public as it is a bird nesting sanctuary, but boat tours from Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company, out of the coastal town of Bar Harbor near Acadia National Park, passes close by the lighthouse as part of its 5-lighthouse tour. There are lots of different tours out of Bar Harbor that provide not only lighthouse tours of the coastal Acadia Park region, but also sailing, fishing, wildlife, historical, and whale watching tours as well.
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, haunted lighthouse stories, and lighthouses you can stay overnight. You’ll also find plenty of stories of shipwrecks and rescues. Lighthouses and their nearby attractions are divided into regions for all you weekend explorers.
Join, Learn, Support the The American Lighthouse Foundation