I was pawing through some images from last summer and found this one of Eagle I. Lighthouse. Being the keeper of a lighthouse was no easy feat during the 1800s. The pay was minimal, food was not included and the seclusion of some lights meant homeschooling, if a keeper’s family could be together, was a necessity. Many keepers fished, kept gardens, really lucky ones might have a milk cow and basically lived off the land and sea with only a few chances to get provisions like flour and lard. That a few keepers, like Howard Ball at the Eagle I lighthouse, managed all of this and also acted as Audubon wardens is admirable to say the least.
First lit in 1838 with oil lamps and reflectors this light happens to be atop a large cliff (80’+/-) and lies at a tight little passage where Isle Au Haut Bay meets East Penobscot Bay. The tidal current really hums between Eagle and the largely inaccessible Hardhead I. It wasn’t until 1858 that a fourth order Fresnel lens was installed in the lantern atop the rubble stone tower. Today the light flashes white every 4 seconds with a luminous range of 9 miles.
Keeper Howard Ball, an Audubon warden, who served the light from 1898 to 1913 is quoted twice in the 1909 ornithological journal The Auk:
Keeper Ball’s brief notes are interesting to see given what was already on his very full plate. I can only guess that he must have made these observations while tending lobster traps since both Channel Rock and Sloop I Ledge are on the opposite side of Eagle I than the lighthouse. I have noticed abundant terns around neighboring Grass Ledge over the past several summers which makes me wonder if the terns hop from one nesting place to another to avoid overuse of particular nesting sites.
Eagle I. with its year round community would have been a more socially forgiving place to tend a light. The one room school house still stands on Eagle I. The east facing meadow around the light would have provided some garden space although the larger south facing meadows around the neighboring Quinn house would have been more suitable. As I have been working these past few weeks getting in firewood I am amazed by the challenge it must have been for Keeper Ball to keep his family warm and fed through the long winter months in addition to the many other responsibilities he would have had to manage. I have no complaints in comparison.
Have a great day. Be well. Do good.