The Keeper of Stories:
A Tale of Two Lights
By Doug Mills
Two Lights Cape Elizabeth Maine
Marcus Auralius Hanna, a Civil War Medal of honor winner, was appointed
keeper of the two lights at Cape Elizabeth Maine, located on the approach to Portland harbor.
On the night of January 28, 1885 a huge winter storm moved up the Maine coast growing rapidly into a howling blizzard. Hanna sick with the flue spent the whole night sounding the steam fog whistle. At 6:00 A.M. he was relieved by the assistant keeper. Suffering from his illness and exhaustion he had to crawl through the deep snow drifts to the keepers house. Hanna’s wife put out the lights in both towers after sunrise.
It was around 8:40 A.M. when Mrs. Hanna saw it, a schooner aground on Dyer’s ledge, just below the lighthouse. It was the Australia out of Booth Bay bound for Boston. The captain had already been carried overboard in the violent seas. Two crewmen remained alive. They had climbed into the rigging to keep from being swept overboard, leaving them exposed to the freezing wind and ocean spray. Hanna and the assistant keeper rushed to the shore near the stranded vessel. The ice on the rocks made it nearly impossible to get close
|Marcus Auralius Hanna|
keep the stranded sailors in sight. The waves
attempted to pull them into the deadly waters
while the cold wind slowly sucked the life out
of their bodies.
Hanna tried to throw a line to the freezing
sailors but to no avail. The assistant keeper
returned to his duties at the fog signal, feeling
the situation was hopeless. Hanna refused to
give up. Nearly frozen himself by this time he
waded waist deep into the freezing waves and
threw the line again. Success, the first sailor
managed to tie the rope around himself and was
pulled to the shore. After several more tries he was
able to get the rope to the second sailor. The sailor ties the line around himself. Hanna begins to pull him in. But, with the cold waters taking the life from his body and his cloths frozen from the wind and snow, his strength fails!
At that moment the assistant keeper returns with two neighbors and the four men were able to pull the second sailor to safety.
|Two Lights Cape Elizabeth, Maine|