Saddleback Ledge Light
Saddleback Ledge Light
Year Light First Lit:
Yes, active aid to navigation
Tower Height: 42 feet
Viewed by boat/boat charter
Open to public:
No, closed to public
Saddleback Ledge Light - located in the southern end of East Penobscot Bay, halfway between Vinalhaven and Isle au Haut
Saddleback Ledge Light (+44° 0' 54.00", -68° 43' 36.00") is an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation with a characteristic of a flashing white light every 6 seconds, and a light beam range of 9 nautical miles. Its fog signal sounds 1 blast every 10 seconds. The 43-foot tall, conical, gray tower with a white base is located in the southern end of East Penobscot Bay, approximately halfway between Vinalhaven and Isle au Haut.
The Royal Tar, a ship carrying circus performers and animals, caught fire and sank near Saddleback Ledge in 1836. Three years later, Saddleback Ledge Light was erected. The original granite tower is the one we see today. The lighthouse was designed by famed architect Alexander Parris, and was built for $15,000, a significant price tag for its time.
The keeper's quarters were originally located inside the tower, but an attached wooden dwelling was added later.
Saddleback ledge is composed entirely of rock. Keepers had to haul sod from the mainland so that they could plant gardens. Each winter, the soil would again, be swept away.
The station was treated to some updates and improvements in 1855, including the addition of a new lantern and a fifth-order Fresnel lens.
In 1874, assistant keeper Nathaniel Bowden assaulted the principal keeper, James H. Orcutt, and held a loaded gun to his head. Bowden was relieved of his duties soon after.
A pyramidal skeleton fog bell tower was erected in 1887. A 1947 storm sent the fog bell into the ocean, and it was never recovered.
By the 1920s, Saddleback Ledge had become a “stag” station, attended by male keepers only, without their families.
Saddleback is often remembered for the tale of the birds of 1927. For unknown reasons, just as a storm hit, the station was bombarded with ducks and drakes, crashing into the tower and causing significant damage. A mound of injured and dead birds formed at the base of the tower. The keepers had to pick up 124 sea birds from around the tower. Some were found alive, but most had died. Those found alive were allowed to wait out the storm in the boathouse.
Saddleback Ledge Light was automated in 1954. Its Fresnel lens has been replaced by a 300 mm lense. The dwelling was destroyed in the early 1960s, but the lighthouse remains.
Saddleback Ledge Light is not open to the public and can best be viewed from boat or aircraft. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2009, the station was deemed an excess property by the Coast Guard, and offered to eligible entities under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000.
We would like to thank Robert English for granting us permission to use his images of Marshall Point Light. You can view more images of Marshall Point Light and Maine Lighthouses by visitng Robert's Flickr page.