Lobsters are always a big attraction in the New Hampshire Seacoast region, but this summer, they’re really big. The 4 1/2-foot crustaceans spotted lately by tourists and residents have nothing to do with the region’s nuclear power plant or genetic experiments. These “Lighthouse LobStars,” constructed of fiberglass and decorated by area artists, represent the latest fundraising effort of the Lighthouse Kids. The LobStars can be seen in locations from Newburyport, Massachusetts, to Ogunquit, Maine.
This enterprising band of seventh graders from the North Hampton School, the only youth chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, has already raised more than $62,000 for the restoration of the severely endangered Isles of Shoals Lighthouse, (known to most people locally as White Island Light) located a few miles offshore. But more funds are needed, hence this headline-grabbing effort.
To garner community support and awareness of the project, the Lighthouse Kids carried signs and wore lobster claws in a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s Market Square in early April. That was followed by a kickoff event at Saunders of Rye Harbor restaurant, featuring a PowerPoint presentation by the Kids about the plight
of the lighthouse.
The Lighthouse LobStars program, developed in collaboration with the Hampton Rotary Club, in addition to raising funds and awareness for the lighthouse, also enhances tourism and promotes local artisans. Cowpainters L.L.C., a company that has taken part in a number of similar fundraising efforts by producing sculptures of pigs in Vermont, dogs in Georgia, and cows in New York City, has created the fiberglass lobsters. Lobsters were chosen in this case because of their tenacity, and because of their association with the economy, ecology, and history of the Isles of Shoals archipelago and the New Hampshire Seacoast.
Each LobStar is sponsored by a local business, individual, or organization for $2,500. The sponsors were given the option of
pre-buying the sculpture for a total of $5,000. The LobStars that aren’t “pre-bought” will be auctioned at a special event on October 1, 2005. The LobStars have been decorated in dazzlingly creative ways by artists living throughout the Greater Seacoast Area.
The Lighthouse LobStars project is just one aspect of another busy year for the Lighthouse Kids. Sue Reynolds, a seventh grade science teacher who also runs a summer boat tour to the Isles of Shoals, started the Lighthouse Kids as a community service program five years ago. Each year’s Kids have written letters requesting donations from local businesses and have given PowerPoint presentations on the lighthouse’s history and present condition to many area organizations. In all, over 250 students have been part of the Lighthouse Kids, and some students from prior years have stayed involved. Many of the original Lighthouse Kids will soon be high school seniors.
Besides the funds they’ve raised locally, the Kids were awarded a matching grant of $250,000 from the federal Save America’s Treasures Program. The light station on White Island has been owned by the state of New Hampshire since 1994, and the Kids have been working closely with state officials to get restoration underway as soon as possible.
At this writing, it looks like the money raised by the Kids, combined with some of the matching federal funds, could pay for at least a partial restoration of the lighthouse tower this year. It won’t be a moment too soon, as the cracks in the tower’s brick exterior have been widening and spreading each year. Recent winters in the area have been especially severe and have exacerbated the damage. The keeper’s house and other structures are also in need of renovation, but it looks like work won’t get started this year. A complete restoration of all the buildings has been estimated at $550,000.
The Lighthouse Kids recently had a visit from a former Coast Guard keeper who lived on White Island in the early 1980s. In early March, Glenn Young of York, Maine, told the Kids some amazing stories of his experiences. Young, a machinery technician when he was in the Coast Guard, was on the island during a memorable storm in March 1984. As 35-foot waves crashed against the lighthouse and keeper’s house, the crewmen calmy watched TV. About once an hour, Young went to check the light. To do so, he had to go through an enclosed wooden walkway between the house and tower. Waves were washing right over the walkway and water was pouring through the cracks, so Young had to wait for the waves to recede before running the length of the walkway. The storm did much damage at the station and deposited a 3 1/2-ton boulder on the helicopter pad.
Young also told the Kids about the times he heard an unintelligible woman’s voice in the walkway, usually when a storm was approaching. There was, of course, no woman on the island at the time. He was one of many people who say they have experienced a ghostly female presence on White Island. Another memorable incident for Young on White Island was the time he spotted, through a telescope, a Soviet submarine and sub tender a few miles away. Young wondered how he would defend the light station with only a flare gun if the Soviets landed, but it turned out that officials were aware of the vessels’ presence and there was no danger of invasion.
Learning more about the fascinating past of White Island has helped to fortify the Lighthouse Kids’ resolve to protect its future. It looks like 2005 is the year that the admirable efforts of the Lighthouse Kids will start paying tangible dividends for the 1859 lighthouse.
It’s not too late to sponsor a Lighthouse LobStar. To learn how, call Jen King at (603) 964-6986 or visit www.lighthousekids.com.
This story appeared in the
June 2005 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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