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Saddleback Ledge Light

Saddleback Ledge Light

Saddleback Ledge Light

Nearby town:
Vinalhaven, ME


Year Light First Lit:

Lighthouse Automated:

Lighthouse Operational:
Yes, active aid to navigation

Tower Height: 42 feet

Present Optics:
300 MM

Viewed by boat/boat charter

Open to public:
No, closed to public

Find Saddleback Ledge Light

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Saddleback Ledge Light - Located halfway between Vinalhaven and Isle au Haut and known for its interesting tale of birds

Saddleback Ledge Light Saddleback Ledge Light (+44° 0' 54.00", -68° 43' 36.00") is located in the southern end of East Penobscot Bay, approximately halfway between Vinalhaven and Isle au Haut. The 43-foot tall, conical, gray tower with a white base is an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation with a characteristic of a flashing white light every six seconds, a light beam range of nine nautical miles, and a fog signal that blasts once every ten seconds.

Like many other lighthouses along the Maine coast, there was a specific reason that Saddleback Ledge Light was erected. When The Royal Tar, a ship carrying circus performers and animals, caught fire and sank near Saddleback Ledge in 1836, it was clear something was needed and this light was built three years later. The lighthouse was designed by famed architect Alexander Parris, and was built for $15,000, a significant price tag for its time. People can still see the original granite tower today.

Saddleback Ledge LightThe keeper's quarters were originally located inside the tower, but an attached wooden dwelling was later added. 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 be swept away.

In 1855, the station was treated to some updates and improvements like 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, but after a 1947 storm that sent the fog bell into the ocean, it was never recovered. By the 1920s, Saddleback Ledge had become a “stag” station, attended by male keepers only, without their families.

Saddleback Ledge LightWhen locals think about Saddleback, the 1927 tale of the birds is not far behind in their thoughts. Just as a storm hit ducks and drakes started crashing into the tower, and there was no clear reason why this was happening. This rare occasion left a mound of injured and dead birds formed at the base of the tower and significant structural damage. The keepers had to pick up 124 sea birds from around the tower. Some were found alive, but most had died. The living birds were allowed to wait out the storm in the boathouse.

Saddleback Ledge Light was automated in 1954. A 300 mm lens has replaced the Fresnel lens. The dwelling was destroyed in the early 1960s, but the lighthouse remains.

Saddleback Ledge Light is not open to the public and is best 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.



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