Lighthouse Keeper’s Dog Named Spot Rescued Mailboat in New England Snowstorm
Owls Head Lighthouse sits atop a large rocky cliff guiding ships as they enter Rockland Harbor in Maine. In the 1930’s, Keeper Augustus Hamor of Owls Head Lighthouse had a special dog named Spot. The keeper’s children taught the intelligent springer-spaniel to ring the fog bell by tugging on the rope to the bell with its teeth every time it heard a ship’s whistle. The dog’s entire life seemed wrapped around the family at the lighthouse, the fog bell, and the ships that would pass by the lighthouse. Spot would spend the day watching for ships passing near the lighthouse and then would ring the fog bell when they approached the cliff to warn them of the impending danger. When the boat’s captain returned the fog signal, Spot would happily run down to the water and bark until the boat was out of earshot.
Spot’s favorite vessel was the mail boat that would make daily runs to various islands, including remote Matinicus Island, a long fifteen miles from the mainland. Because of its daily schedule, Spot knew the mail boat’s engine sound and when it would pass by the lighthouse. Captain Stuart Ames of the mail boat was also very fond of the animal and its owners and would always bring special treats when he visited the Hamor family. Each time the mail boat passed Owls Head Lighthouse, the skipper would give a toot for Spot, and the dog would answer by ringing the fog bell and barking until the boat was out of site.
One wintry stormy night, a fierce blizzard pounded the Maine coast and covered it in a blanket of deep snow. Keeper Hamor stayed in the light tower, but visibility was poor, with near white-out conditions from the storm. As the following day wore on, fewer vessels passed by the lighthouse as most had already found shelter in the nearby harbors. The fog bell was buried in deep snowdrifts and remained silent as no one could access it in the storm. As nightfall approached, Keeper Hamor felt safe leaving the tower to join his family for a much-needed dinner quickly.
As the family prepared to eat, the phone rang with a desperate call from Captain Ames’s wife, who indicated her husband was over two hours late and asked if he had passed by the lighthouse. The dog recognized the woman’s voice and listened to her tone. Keeper Hamor replied he had not seen the mail boat. Knowing of Spot’s keen listening abilities, she asked the keeper if he could allow Spot outside in the blizzard to see if he could hear her husband’s whistle, which they gladly obliged.
Spot disappeared in the blinding snow and went down to the fog bell to listen for the boat’s whistle; he sniffed around but could not find the rope. He stayed around the bell buried in huge snowdrifts and returned a half hour later, cold and tired. He grew restless after warming by the fire, whining softly, knowing something was wrong, as he had not heard the mail boat on schedule. A few hours passed as Spot prepared to fall asleep.
Suddenly, Spot jumped up from his cozy warm corner as he heard the distant whistle of the lost Matinicus mail boat, caught in the storm trying to get home. He pawed at the door to be let out, which Keeper Hamor reluctantly opened to the storm as Spot ran out into the drifts. Lunging over the snowdrifts, Spot could not find the rope to ring the fog bell again, so he ran to the cliff’s edge, barking constantly as loud as he could. Keeper Hamor and his daughter Pauline dressed and followed out to join Spot, who was still barking by the cliff’s edge in the snowdrifts. They could hear the faint whistle of the mail boat as Spot continued to bark and yelp while the ship came nearer through the storm. Spot would continue to bark as the boat neared the cliff. Captain Ames on the mail boat, hearing Spot’s barking, gave three blasts of the whistle to signal that he had heard the dog. Two hours later, Captain Ames’s wife called to thank the Hamor family, and especially Spot, for helping her husband reach the harbor home, averting what could have been a disastrous situation.
Spot is credited with saving the captain and the mail boat that night and is buried near the fog bell he loved. Over the years, as the fog bell was removed, and the grave lay in a place that the many visitors to the lighthouse could not find, in 2004, Spot was given a new marker by Paul Dilger, the Coast Guard commander who resided at the lighthouse. The marker read “Spot, The Lighthouse Dog” to remind those of the animal’s heroic efforts.
Exploring Owls Head Lighthouse and Nearby Rockland, in Maine
Enjoy picnicking at Owls Head Light State Park and walk along some of the trails along the cliffs and shoreline, and you can walk up to Owls Head Light as well. The lighthouse is situated atop spectacular cliffs with wonderful views of Rockland Harbor and the beacon and is easily accessed by a stairway. Visit the Owls Head Transportation Museum showcasing antique autos and planes.
Here are a few of my favorite photos of Owls Head Light.
The Rise and Demise of the Largest Sailing Ships: Stories of the Six and Seven-Masted Coal Schooners of New England. In the early 1900s, New England shipbuilders constructed the world’s largest sailing ships amid social and political reforms. These giants were the ten original six-masted coal schooners and one colossal seven-masted vessel, built to carry massive quantities of coal and building supplies and measured longer than a football field! This book, balanced with plenty of color and vintage images, showcases the historical accounts that followed these mighty ships. Stories involve competitions, accidents, battling destructive storms, acts of heroism, and their final voyages.
My 300-page book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Southern New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, provides memorable 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, unique parks and museums, and even 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 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 memorable human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses, like the one above, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor coastal attractions you can explore, and tours. Lighthouses and their nearby attractions are divided into regions for 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.
Copyright © Allan Wood Photography, do not reproduce without permission. All rights reserved.
Join, Learn, and Support The American Lighthouse Foundation