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 the mainland. The rocky island is only 600 yards long and 200 yards in width. Fishermen called the island “God’s Rock Garden” as storms would wash away any soil each year, 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 plant 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 1880s, 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. Still, the captain was eager to make his destination and receive payment for his cargo. The captain’s wife, the first mate’s sister, accompanied the crew with their baby girl.
As the weather worsened, the waves strengthened and washed 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 the water began 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. With its heavy cargo, the water-filled vessel was starting to sink beneath the waves, sucking both men underwater. First Mate White reached 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 started to calm when he noticed a small bundle of heavy oilskin floating in the water toward him. He successfully lifted 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 passed, 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 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.
Nothing is documented about what happened to the miracle baby afterward. Still, 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 the 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, 26 miles from the 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 found 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, you may be allowed to join them during an opportune time when they may be heading out to the island. You must heed their requests to stay around certain areas of the island away from nests if you are allowed to go. Be wary that this is at least a few hours long trip (one way) out for 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.
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, adventures, special parks and museums, and even lighthouses you can stay overnight. Like the one above, 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 remarkable 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.
Copyright © Allan Wood Photography, do not reproduce without permission. All rights reserved.
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