Friday, August 19, 2016

Full day in Rockland

We touched quite a few bases in Rockland on Thursday: Project Puffin, the Lighthouse Museum, Cone Home, the Rockland Harbor Breakwater, and then, in the evening, Cafe Miranda and finally, the rooftop of Hotel 250 Main.

The group divided up. Chris and Fran went to an art gallery in Thomaston with Jim, then went on a two-hour windjammer cruise. They later reported that it was a perfect day for a cruise, "a 10," their captain had said. Katie and Savanna explored the harbor and Owl's Head lighthouse, and Savanna did some sketching. Ellen, Mary, Brendon and I did the many-splendored Rockland thing. 

The Project Puffin was founded in the '70's by ornithologist, Dr. Steve Kress, who is director of the Audubon Society's bird preservation program. Originally prolific on Maine coastal islands, Puffins had virtually disappeared by the early 20th century, due in large part to the demand for feathers in hats like this one: 

In 1973, Kress set out to restore puffins to 6 islands where they had once flourished off Rockland by collecting chicks in Nova Scotia and bringing them to Maine islands where, it was hoped, they would mature, go off to sea, and then, as puffins do, return to that island to mate and nest. It took eight years of effort, but eventually puffins began returning and today there are something like 750 nesting places on those six islands. The Project maintains a place in Rockland where you can see a video, a kid can explore a puffin burrow, and you can support the project by buying puffin art, T-shirts, etc., and ask questions of a knowledgeable staff person (who happened to be a graduate of Antioch New England Graduate School, where my son, John, works). 

                 An art photograph at Project Puffin

The Lighthouse Museum was across the street. We went there after Project Puffin, but not before Brendon had found a space between two buildings just wide enough for him to wedge his body in. Fortunately, there was a wooden barrier that prevented his going very far, otherwise he might have tried to go all the way to the back of the building! But he was inspired to want to find alleys in Rockland he could explore. I promised him that the next time he comes to Brattleboro, we would explore some of the fine alleys which run off its Main Street. 

The Lighthouse Museum has preserved many artifacts of the heyday of Maine's lighthouse era-the 19th and earlier 20th century. Many of these lighthouses still exist as structures, but they have been rendered obsolete by a much more sophisticated technology. It has been many, many decades since there were resident lighthouse keepers. The museum primarily celebrates the era before electricity, when the invention of the Fresnel lens by French engineer and physicist, Augustin-Jean Fresnel (1788-1827), made it possible to greatly enhance the light of a single oil lamp, and also, by means of a rotating lens, create a flashing effect which, by exploiting the possible variations in flashes, made it possible to give each lighthouse a unique identity, thus giving mariners much more accurate information as to their location at night. Their were many examples of the Fresnel lens on display. 

                      The main Fresnel exhibit room

The rotating Fresnel lens from the Petit Manan lighthouse - a particularly fine example. 

The museum also celebrates the human side of lighthouses: the remarkable people who tended them and kept their lights burning through storms and other adverse circumstances. Perhaps the most famous such person is Abbie Burgess, who as a girl, kept the light burning during a violent storm when her father had left the island for supplies and her mother was severely ill. Her story became known to millions through Harper's Young People magazine. 

                     An Abbie Burgess plaque

                   Model of a lighthouse-keepers house 

After the museum, we went to Cone Home for some luscious ice cream and then on to the Breakwater, which was a popular venue on this fine day:

           The Rockland Harbor Breakwater

Brendon, Mary and Ellen on the Breakwater with Samoset Resort Hotel in the distance. 

Brendon found a snail on the Breakwater which he became very attached to (or it to him), and he watched a long time as it crawled across his hand, leaving a trail of slime. 

             Mr. Snail makes a trail

Ellen and Brendon spent a little time on Crescent Beach, near Jim and Mary's house, and eventually we regrouped and met at Cafe Miranda for supper. It had a very varied menu, and the portions were generous.

                   We had an outside table at Cafe Miranda

                             Brendon and Savanna 

We topped the evening off (so to speak) by watching the full moon rise from the roof top of Chris and Fran's hotel, overlooking town and harbor.

Hotel 250 Main, a boutique hotel in Rockland

                                         Watching the moon rise from the roof top

                                         Rockland view

The Hotel 250 Main is brand new, and features original Maine art on every floor. Here's a shot of the lobby:

                             Hotel 250 Main lobby

A nice day! 

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