In July of 2018, we became “international” lighthouse volunteers when we spent the month of June at the SWALLOWTAIL Lighthouse on Grand Manan Island. A part of the Province of New Brunswick, the island lies in the Gulf of Maine south of the New Brunswick mainland, and to the east of the State of Maine. It is actually closer to the Maine coast than it is to mainland Canada. The island is accessed by a public ferry from the town of Black’s Harbor on mainland New Brunswick. About 12 miles long by five miles wide, the island has several small communities. They have all now merged into the “Village of Grand Manan.” It is the village that now owns the lighthouse and its grounds. Day to day operation and maintenance is carried out by the Swallowtail Lightkeepers Society. We returned again to Swallowtail in September of 2019.
First illuminated in 1860, Swallowtail was the first and largest of several lighthouses on the island. The “light station” includes the “new” keeper’s house, which is a duplex built in 1958 to replace the original residence. This building now serves as quarters for volunteers who come to stay and help with maintenance, visitor tours, and similar duties. The original “boathouse” remains. The light tower and residence are high above the water, and a steep “tramway,”the tracks of which can still be seen, ran from the boathouse down to the water below. The keeper could lower/raise his boat with a large mechanical winch via this tramway, and a cart that rode on those same tracks was used to winch personnel and materials up the cliff from the tender ships that brought deliveries.
The photograph above from 1958 shows the newly constructed “new” keepers’ residence (keeper and an assistant), as well as the boathouse. The old original keepers house in the background would soon be demolished.
Another feature of the station is a “Memorial Deck” that commemorates persons who were instrumental in Swallowtail’s history. The lantern room that once served at Great Duck lighthouse is the centerpiece of the deck.
The left photo above shows the peninsula, said to resemble the tail of a swallow, a common bird of the area, which gave the lighthouse its name. The center photo shows the “new” lantern room on top. Just installed in 2019, it replicates the original that was removed long ago after deterioration. The top photo on this page shows the “too small” lantern that sat atop Swallowtail for many years. The right-most photo above shows the smaller lantern (identical in size to the one just removed from the main lighthouse) that sits on the Memorial Deck.
The photo below shows the tramway “tracks” running from the boathouse to the water down below. For years a cart that ran on these tracks delivered materials and personnel to and from Swallowtail.