Sitting atop a rocky outcrop of cold gray stones, the Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine will always hold a special place in my heart as it was my first lighthouse.
The day was absolutely perfect – dark, threatening skies looked down on a cold, rough sea. Over the lightkeeper’s house was a ever growing flock of sea birds that circled round and round as if someone was just on the other side of the house feeding them. The red light at the top of the lighthouse itself spun round and round, seemingly signalling the ghosts of the north Atlantic home. Somehow the small bit of land on which the lighthouse sat had managed to grow the greenest grass – like the grass you see in other cold, watery places like Norway and Iceland. There was something quite haunting about the place in general. It had a feeling of loneliness that was overwhelming.
Built in the late 1800’s to help warn ships of the dangerous Bald Head cliffs, the lighthouse was too late to save the doomed crew of the ship Isadore. The ship set sail from Kennebunk, Maine on November 1842 with 15 crew members. It was its maiden voyage and the weather was horrendous. Headed for New Orleans, it began the journey amidst a snow storm and massive seas. The ship ran aground near where the lighthouse now sits, killing the entire crew. Twenty children were left fatherless by the tragedy and two widows lost their only sons. To this day it is said that the ghostly outline of the doomed ship can still be seen near Nubble.
Another story related to this wreck concerns a member of the crew having a dream about the ship crashing upon the rocks and coffins washing ashore. I’m not sure if this is true, but it makes for a good addition to the ghost story.
During Nubble’s lifetime, there have been several keepers who have made the lonely island home. To send supplies to the island, a bucket was rigged up so it could be loaded with supplies and shoved across to the island via a cable. One of the lightkeeper’s children apparently also used it for transportation (photo courtesy of New England Lighthouses.com):
In 1602 explorer Bartholomew Gosnold, who helped found the Virginia Company, met with local Indians here on what he referred to as “Savage Rock.” He was in the process of exploring the Cape Cod area and north as part of the earliest known effort to do so by Europeans. An Englishman from Suffolk, Gosnold is also credited with naming Martha’s Vineyard (after his daughter) and Cape Cod itself.
After spending some time in the cold wind, soaking up the view of Nubble, we loaded back in the car to continue on our way. We’d see other lighthouses on this trip, but none came close to matching the atmosphere of Nubble.