Digest>Archives> April 2008

Thirty-Three Years Of Walking In Circles

Led To Life Boat Invention

By Timothy Harrison


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Although the artist is unknown, the Myers family ...

First as an assistant keeper, from 1890 to 1898, and then as the principle keeper, from 1898 to 1923, Capt. Loring W. Myers was the widely respected keeper of a lighthouse that resembles an automobile spark plug in Lubec, Maine.

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A scale model of the Myers Lifeboat that Myers ...

Built in 1890, the first principle keeper of the Lubec Channel Lighthouse was Frederick W. Morong who served in that position until he was transferred in 1898. After eight years of living in a round lighthouse surrounded by water, Morong had wanted a station where his family could be with him. Morong recommended to the government that his extremely able assistant Loring Myers be appointed head keeper. Myers must have loved the job, because

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Loring William Myers, shown here in his ...

he stayed at the Lubec Channel Lighthouse until his retirement in 1923 and never once during all those years did he ever request a transfer.

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The Lubec Channel Lighthouse in Lubec, Maine, ...

Before he became a lighthouse keeper Myers had spent most of his adult life on the sea and the rough waters of the Bay of Funday. He was an industrious individual and was always involved in one type of business venture or another. Like many people Myers had his ups and downs in life. His first wife and three of his four children died of diphtheria while living on Canada’s Grand Manan Island. Myers and his fourth child then moved to Lubec, Maine, where he met and married Abbie with whom he later had additional children with.

For many years he was known as the “Yankee Oil Buyer,” because he made his living buying oil from the many fishing villages along the coast and then reselling it to the big distributors. However, he was much more industrious and his many contacts led him into other business ventures from buying and selling real estate to owning a sardine packing plant and several smoke houses and a few rental properties.

Exactly what drew him to the Lighthouse Service is unclear but it might have been his love of the water, the prestige of the job. or both. Myers loved to read everything he could get his hands on and he loved good books, especially books about the sea and books or articles about people that invented things. Perhaps he felt that living in a lighthouse would provide him some additional time to read.

Although he had plenty of time to read, Myers also had time at the lighthouse to think. He came up with a number of ways to improve the efficiency at the lighthouse and even developed a new way to operate the striking method of the fog bell, which the government approved of.

Being a man of the sea he was constantly disturbed by how many lives were lost because of inadequate lifeboats that most of the vessels carried at that time. This led him to invent what he considered his biggest accomplishment in his life, the Myers Life Boat, which he spent a number of years perfecting.

The Myers Lifeboat was a non-sinkable lifeboat that would protect its occupants from the exposure and the perils of the rough sea once the boat was launched from the parent ship. According to his family history records, it was a fully enclosed steel craft, some thirty feet long and was high enough to permit the passengers to stand upright, while still being protected from the elements. Myers felt that standard lifeboats, with which the large ocean going vessels of the time were equipped with, hung from davits and many times during the listing of the ship would cause the lifeboat to tip and toss the occupants into the sea. Instead, the Myers Lifeboat would remain on the deck of the sinking ship with its passengers securely inside and simply float off unharmed as the larger vessel plunged beneath the waves.

Officials who came to view his lifeboat hailed it as one of the greatest inventions of the time. Many experienced sea captains who saw the lifeboat hailed it as revolutionary and the government even approved it. However, like many other people who have invented something worthwhile, Myers was never able to secure the necessary financing or honest backing and instead the big passenger lines of the time opted for cheaper and less effective lifeboats. Myers would often say in later years that if the Titanic had been equipped with his lifeboat, many more lives would have been saved.

As well as being a faithful lighthouse keeper, Myers, on many occasions launched his boat to rescue boaters in distress, something that was quite common for him in those days. One time after rescuing a boatload of ladies whose boat had caught fire and giving them refuge in the lighthouse, they offered to pay him, as had many others who had been rescued by him over the years. With the exception of that boatload of young ladies, he never accepted any money. In their case, because they were so visibly shaken, he accepted the money, but used it later to buy them treats when they eventually reached the mainland.

Capt. Myers also knew all of the men at the West Quoddy Life Boat Station and assisted them in a number of rescues. Many times Myers arrived on the scene of a distressed vessel before the life saving station crew did.

Capt. Myers retired on October 22, 1923 to live out his life quietly in the Lubec area. During his retirement he spent most of his time gardening and gave away most of what he grew. On his last day on the job as he looked back at the lighthouse he said, “I must have walked around that lighthouse 50,000 times.”

When he died at the age of 87, in March of 1942, a local newspaper account of his life said, “To relate the complete story of his long and useful career would require many columns. Suffice it to say that he was faithful, kind, loyal and generous, a man who loved his work, his family and his friends. No higher tribute can be paid.” With a Coast Guard detail, he was buried with the full military honors that he earned and deserved.

Although the Coast Guard still maintains the light in the tower, the Lubec Channel Lighthouse is now privately owned.

This story appeared in the April 2008 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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