Maine’s Little River Light Station, owned and operated by the American Lighthouse Foundation, is located on a 15-acre island of the same name, just off the harbor of the down-east town of Cutler. Although it is accessible to anyone with a boat, and visitors are always welcome, almost all of the visiting guests are attracted by the overnight stay program. Three bedrooms on the second floor of the 1888 keeper’s house are rentable by the night, not in the style of a “B & B,” but rather more like a hostel. Visitors bring a bed roll or other bedding, and they bring their own food. The quaint kitchen, with the only dining table in the house, is shared with the live-in caretakers and can sometimes be quite crowded.
Last year’s 2016 visitor season was the busiest yet, with over 70 parties renting a room for a night or two from June through September. Visitors came from all over the United States as well as from all over the world. The last guests of the 2016 season, Wayne and Jenni Fox, came all the way from Australia.
The Fox’s visit to Little River Lighthouse was one stop on their personal lighthouse tour of the New England coast. Other lighthouses that they visited included the East Quoddy lighthouse on Campobello Island, New Brunswick; the West Quoddy and Portland Head lighthouses in Maine; and the Rose Island Lighthouse in Rhode Island. What made their visit to Little River Lighthouse especially noteworthy is that they are the caretakers of an Australian island with a lighthouse.
Wayne and Jenni Fox are the caretakers of Low Isles Island, located in Queensland, in the far north-east of Australia. The island is eight kilometers off-shore from the town of Port Douglas in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Located at latitude 16 degrees south, it is truly a tropical paradise.
The Low Isles are actually two small coral cays on the western edge of the main shipping channel. The islands (cays) are owned by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Wayne and Jenni are employees of this organization, known by the acronym GBRMPA. The Low Isles Lighthouse itself is under the jurisdiction of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), as are all Australian lighthouses. Like many of the other Australian lighthouses, this one is a timber-frame structure covered with galvanized metal plates. It contains a wooden staircase rather than the more typical “spiral” metal stairs.
The light station was completed and first illuminated in 1878. A third order rotating lens, manufactured by the Chance Brothers firm in England, once graced the lantern, which was also manufactured by the same firm. This lens was removed some years ago and is now on public display at the Courthouse Museum in the town of Port Douglas on the mainland. A solar-powered DRB Vega lens now operates in the lantern. This six-sided lens rotates once around every minute, and thus exhibits a white flashing characteristic every ten-seconds. Coincidentally, the lens that is currently in use at the Little River is also a Vega beacon.
Currently, one of the most obvious features of the Little River Light Station is the never-ceasing sound of the now solar-powered electronic foghorn, a one-second blast out over the waters with an eight-second pause in-between. The Low Isles Light Station does not include a fog signal of any kind, simply because, at this tropical latitude, there is never any fog.
As noted, responsibility for the operation and upkeep of the lighthouse tower and the light within falls to the Marine Safety Authority. Fully automated, the light is generally visited once annually by an AMSA crew. The Fox’s duties at Low Isles include care and maintenance of the other remaining light station structures, care of the island’s solar energy system and sewage treatment system, as well as preparing the island for daily visitors. Monitoring visitor activity for compliance with park regulations is another important part of their daily duties. Wayne and Jenni add that the best part of their day occurs after the visitors have departed, and they can sit on the island’s beautiful beach and watch the sunset.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2017 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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