The Maine coastline is famous for the lighthouses that dot the rugged shore, but keeping them in ship-shape condition is no small task.
On any given Tuesday, if the seas are obliging, volunteers from The Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse take a 20-minute boat ride from Biddeford Pool to Wood Island, where they've been working since 2003 to restore the lighthouse and keeper's home.
Technology has, in large part, replaced the need for lighthouse keepers. Where kerosene lamps used to burn, now LED lights are stacked. Volunteers may not be warning storm-tossed mariners of the jagged coastline. Currently, they are working to keep the history of Wood Island alive.
Volunteers offer tours of the newly-restored home and tower beginning in July and running through August.
The Coast Guard owns the property of Wood Island and maintains the light that shines 12 miles out to sea. But for the last two decades, The Friends of Wood Island have licensed the island, raised thousands of dollars, and restored the property to how it looked in 1906. Every detail has been accounted for from the furniture inside the home to the shingles on the outside.
"The history of [these] area lighthouses are emblematic of Maine," George Bruns, chair of the executive committee of Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse, said.
The first lighthouse on Wood Island was built of wood in 1808 and later replaced by the same tower that is still standing today in 1939. Several rescues happened on the island over the years, including the rescue of two-year-old Tammy Burnham.
On Nov. 29, 1960, the Burnhams were the lighthouse keepers when their daughter fell ill. Fearing she might be having appendicitis, the Burnhams radioed for help. With a fierce storm at sea, Fletcher's Neck Coast Guard boat, a "thirty footer," and its four-person crew left the docks at Biddeford Pool. The ship got as close to the island as possible before two 19-year-old seamen took a small skiff to the island, where Laurier Burnham reluctantly handed over his sick daughter.
Before long, the skiff had swamped, and the seamen needed rescuing. Eventually, Laurier Burnham was able to reach his daughter and the seamen. They had been in the water for 40 minutes. Tammy was taken to an area hospital, where she fully recuperated.
One story of Wood Island still haunts the island. In the 1890s, Thomas Henry Orcutt was the lighthouse keeper when a murder-suicide took place on the island. A tenant living on the island killed his landlord and then knocked on the keeper's home seeking advice. Orcutt is alleged to have told the man "to go back and turn himself in." He didn't.
"The lighthouse is supposedly haunted. Supposedly the ghost has said, 'I didn't mean to do it,'" Bruns shared.
Wood Island Lighthouse kept mariners safe for decades, and now volunteers are safeguarding its history and sharing it.
"If you live anywhere in this area, you become familiar with [the lighthouse], and you rely on it. It's somewhat like an old friend," volunteer David Adams said.