Friday, December 27, 2013

BEST OF 2013: "Frozen" A true Lighthouse Tale

"Frozen" A true Lighthouse Tale
By Maine Author and Photographer
Doug Mills

The Owls Head light is a small tower built atop the cliffs of the Owls Head headland. It is here that we find one of the most unusual lighthouse stories.
It is December 22, 1850, a winter storm blows into Penobscot Bay, driving five vessels ashore. A small schooner is anchored in Rockland harbor. The captain had gone ashore leaving only the First Mate Richard Ingraham, a seaman, Roger Elliott and a passenger, Lydia Dyer, who was engaged to be married to Ingraham.
By midnight the winds had become so strong that the anchor chain broke. The schooner was driven across the harbor toward the cliffs of Owls Head. The boat soon was driven onto the ledges just south of the lighthouse. Nearly frozen by the wind and surf they covered themselves with blankets and huddled together to keep warm.
Before morning the schooner started to break apart. Elliott escapes and manages to climb over the icy rocks and up to the road leading to the lighthouse, nearly dead from exhaustion and exposure. The keeper happened to be passing by at that moment and took Elliott to the keepers house.
A rescue party was soon organized and boarded what was left of the schooner. They found Ingraham and Dyer incased in a block of ice. Not wanting to leave anything to chance they brought the block of ice to the kitchen of the keepers house. They put the block in cold water and started chipping away the ice. Gradually they raised the water temperature while messaging their limbs. After about two hours Lydia Dyer began to respond and an hour latter Richard Ingraham began to respond.
Full recovery for the two took weeks, but they did recover ,were married and raised four children together. Roger Elliott never fully recovered, however it was his efforts that had saved Richard Elliott and Lydia Dyer from certain death.

Our last hero is maybe the most surprising of all. I have been to the Owls Head Lighthouse many times and often wondered about the small plaque on the hill in front of the lighthouse, “For our beloved lighthouse dog, Spot.”
It was in 1931 that Augustus Hamor became keeper at Owls Head. He brought with him his springer spaniel Spot. Spot soon learned that he could pull the rope and ring the fog bell. A trick which he did whenever a boat would approach the lighthouse. He soon became well known among the local mariners and they would
answer the bell with their boats whistle or bell and Spot would bark excitedly.
On one stormy night the Matinicus Mail Boat was on its way into Rockland not realizing they were in dangerously close to Owls Head’s cliffs. As he did for all the boats Spot ran to ring the bell, but it was frozen and would not ring. Spot started barking loudly. Onboard the Mail Boat they heard his barking and managed to turn away in time to avoid the rocks.

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