Tenant's Harbor, ME
Year Light First Lit:
Yes, active aid to navigation
Tower Height: 41 feet
Viewed by boat/boat tour
Open to the public
Available for rent
Courses taught on premises
Whitehead Light - located in Penobscot Bay at the southwestern entrance to Muscle Ridge Channel near St. George
Whitehead Light (also known as White Head Island Light) (+43° 58' 43.00", -69° 7' 27.00") is located in Penobscot Bay at the southwestern entrance to Muscle Ridge Channel near St. George. Whitehead Light is an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation with a characteristic of a green occulting light every 4 seconds. Its fog signal is 2 blasts every 30 seconds.
In March of 1803, Congress appropriated $7,000 for the building of a light station on Whitehead Island. Contractors Benjamin Beal and Duncan Thaxter built the buildings in 1804. The first keeper, Ellis Dolph was hired on in June of that year. History tells us that Dolph earned some extra income by selling oil that was intended for the light. Government officials became suspicious with Dolph's apparent oil consumption, and then discovered that storekeepers in Thomaston had been buying barrels of oil from the industrious keeper. Dolph was relieved of his duties soon after his side business was exposed.
Whitehead Island is reportedly one of the foggiest spots on the coast, but it took until 1829 for the station to get its first fog bell. Then, in 1838, the station became the proud recipient of the first tide-driven fog bell. This “perpetual fog bell,” was invented by Andrew Morse. In 1842, the new bell system was damaged in a storm, so the keeper tied a line to the clapper and ran the line into his bedroom, where he could sound the fog bell from his bed. A more traditional fog bell was installed in 1853, and a steam-driven fog whistle took over in 1869. In 1933, the steam boilers that fueled the fog signal were replaced by two internal combustion engines which operated on an air compressor. Two new foghorns were installed. At the same time, the dwelling was supplied with electricity for the first time.
In March of 1831, the tower and dwelling were rebuilt. The new rubblestone tower featured a wrought-iron octagonal lantern. The new stone dwelling featured 3 rooms downstairs and 3 small rooms in an attic.
In 1852, a new 41-foot lighthouse, designed by renowned architect Alexander Parris, was built on the site, along with a new wooden dwelling. A third-order Fresnel lens was installed in 1857.
The light was automated in 1982, and the Fresnel lens was replaced by a modern optic. The Fresnel lens is now displayed at the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland. The light was converted to solar power in 2001.
The lighthouse is difficult to see from shore, but many tour boats pass by the island. The tower is closed to the public. Whitehead Light is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Whitehead Light is available for rent in season and we teach various continuing education courses.
See all the possibilities at the Whitehead Light website.