Keeper’s Log, December 23

Outer Island Light Station, December 23, 1877

Short sun showers. A midsummers day. Rain Bow in the NNE this AM. Ther. 51.

Sweet! A half century later, things weren’t quite so nice this time of year elsewhere on Lake Superior:

Rock of Ages Lighthouse, fourteen miles from the mainland.
Not the kind of place I’d want to spend a winter.

Washburn Times, December 23, 1926

Rock of Ages keepers evacuate island in panic

Light keepers desert posts

Fear isolation and starvation

Make way across Lake Superior in open boat and arrive safely on the North Shore.

Fear was felt for the safety of the four lighthouse keepers stationed at the Rock of Ages lighthouse in Lake Superior the first of the week when the captain of the tender Marigold, which went to the island to pick up the keepers, found a note pinned to the door stating that they had deserted their posts, fearing isolation and starvation during the winter months because of the rapidly forming ice which they believed would prevent the lighthouse tender from reaching them. The message stated that they had made away in an open boat. The message was dated Friday, December 17.

When the captain of the Marigold returned to port and reported that the men were missing a search was carried on for them, but it was feared they were lost in the high seas.

However the men arrived at Pigeon River on Monday and immediately got into communication with government officials, stating that all were safe after a hard trip across the lake.

The men were to be picked up December 12, but the boat was delayed by storms and the men feared that rapidly forming ice had prevented the boat from reaching them, and as their provisions were running low they left their posts in order to escape possible isolation and starvation during the winter months.

“In a panic?” Harrrumph! Easy for some reporter to write in his nice warm office. The keepers’ fears were understandable: just eight years before, the keepers at Devils Island had to walk 18 miles to the mainland when the Marigold could not break through the ice at end of season. Perhaps they also knew the story of Charlie Mott, who did starve to death when forgotten for the winter of 1845-46 on nearby Isle Royale.

And “deserted their posts?” The light had already closed for the season. You have to figure this writer would be working for Fox News these days.

That would be a tough choice: sit out there and maybe starve, or head off onto the winter lake in a little boat. Glad they made it.

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