Star Island and the Isles of Shoals
November 26, 2005 2:09 AM   Subscribe

Isles of Shoals. Six miles off the coast and straddling the border of Maine and New Hampshire, the nine small islands known as the Isles of Shoals comprise one of New England's most remarkable maritime treasures. Star Island, second in size at 46 acres (roughly 1 mile x 1½ miles), is where I call home 5 months out of the year. On it exists the Oceanic Hotel, the 150-year-old chapel, and several buildings dating back to the 1800's, which serves as a conference center during the summer. From April to October this is where I live and work. One of the most unusual aspects of a Star Island Week is the traditional Softball game between the weekly Conferees and the Pelicans. The softball field is infamous, considering it is the most obstacle-ridden field in the world. It was even documented in Yankee Magazine. Last year, during renovations of the Gosport House, we got a small taste of finding treasures. True, it was nothing like finding Blackbeard's treasure which is still buried on Lunging Island. Apparently you can find New England's Ugliest Monument here, a honor bestowed upon Captain John Smith (who tried to name the islands after himself); but other than that it's a picturesque place to work; That is, if you don't mind the ghosts.
posted by pelican (39 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
the first link is a comprehensive article list if you are interested in learning about the islands, but I think it will only prove to be useful and interesting if the some of the other links peak your interest.
posted by pelican at 2:13 AM on November 26, 2005

...also, this is my first FPP and I figured I would use it to explain my chosen mefi moniker.
posted by pelican at 2:16 AM on November 26, 2005

Great post, and about something I didn't even know existed. Thanks!
posted by keijo at 3:29 AM on November 26, 2005

posted by Jairus at 3:57 AM on November 26, 2005

Excellent post. I really enjoyed looking through all that - you're a lucky guy.

I found that this gives a great overview of what the place is like. You don't get a sense of how small the island must be until you see it from above.

Great viewing, thanks!
posted by fire&wings at 4:12 AM on November 26, 2005

Also of note, for those of us familiar with the beer: the Smuttynose Brewery takes its name from one of the islands.
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:26 AM on November 26, 2005

upon further researching, here's another gallery of stunning pictures of the isles.
posted by pelican at 4:37 AM on November 26, 2005

Wow! Fascinating. I am a native Mainer and never heard of these islands before. Thanks.
posted by miss tea at 4:59 AM on November 26, 2005

I am a native Mainer and never heard of these islands before. Thanks.

Somebody grew up in the "other" Maine.

I think Maine should totally take the islands for themselves. They have the population advantage and New Hampshire only has a few miles of coast to blockade. Plus, all of New Hampshire's neighbors hate it for the Hampton tolls and predatory retail tax policies. So Massachusetts and Vermont would pretend not to see as Maine wailed on New Hampshire. Do it, Mainers! The time is right!
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:09 AM on November 26, 2005

Yes, Mayor.

Since Maine split off from Massachusetts, she really hasn't proven herself. The strategic benefits of coastal domination are irrefutable! What are you waiting for? The politicians wouldn't care (one less place to stump and beg for votes in early campaign mode)
posted by Busithoth at 5:46 AM on November 26, 2005

Nice post, pelican. On a clear day I can see some of the Isles from my office in Portsmouth. I haven't been out to explore yet, but am really looking forward to it. I'm planning an overnight for some colleagues at the Shoals Marine Lab on Appledore. Also, literary types might like to know about the opportunity to visit Celia Thaxter's garden.
posted by Miko at 5:56 AM on November 26, 2005

Pelican, I should say thanks before I continue to read through these links. Making me homesick.
posted by Busithoth at 6:30 AM on November 26, 2005

Literary types might also be interested in what Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about the Isles of Shoals.

Busithoth: did you grow up going to Star Island?
posted by pelican at 6:51 AM on November 26, 2005

Yeah, nice post!
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:51 AM on November 26, 2005

actually, I've never been to the island(s), but I used to stop on road trips to upper maine and look at them. I grew up in Western Mass, and drove all over New England endlessly and without purpose.

My family used to make the Cape Cod commute every summer (before 495 was completed, it was 4+ hours then).

I remember wondering about the islands (who lived there, what the frak they did year-round, etc.)

In Brooklyn now, and it's, well, different. Big-time.

I've come to really appreciate New England's topography in the last decade.
posted by Busithoth at 7:01 AM on November 26, 2005

Funny, the Isles of Shoals appear on the Satellite Google Maps, but are conspicuously absent from the regular maps. I smell a conspiracy! (Or perhaps I should put my shoes back on.)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:33 AM on November 26, 2005

It's related to the fact that the maps show that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is clearly in Maine. Suck on that, Granite Staters!
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:46 AM on November 26, 2005

Greetings from the other side of the Atlantic! (this is where I live). This might be a slightly odd question, but do you have trees there? The foreshortening on the aerial photos makes it hard to tell how tall anything is. Virtually all the trees here were planted as shelterbelts for the fields, but it wasn't until I visited Orkney, where they are terribly proud of the three trees that they have hiding behind a hill*, that I really appreciated how much difference they make to the landscape here*, and how bleak it would be without them.

I have now been utterly distracted by Geograph, excuse me while I think about more pictures....
posted by Lebannen at 8:32 AM on November 26, 2005

Celia Thaxter's garden

Two delightful books by Celia Thaxter about her garden and living on Appledore Island:
Among the Isles of Shoals

An Island Garden
posted by ericb at 8:52 AM on November 26, 2005

Appledore has some trees and Cedar Island, the small island connected to Star Island by breakwater, is named for the Cedars found on it. As for Star, there is some overgrowth of rose bushes, poison ivy and other vegetation. As well as a few scattered trees including the small tree in left field.
posted by pelican at 9:04 AM on November 26, 2005

What a delight to see Star Island here. My friends, Linda and Bill, head there every season to work. (Surely you know them, Pelican.) Enjoyed seeing many other pictures of the property. Thanks!
posted by KevinKarl at 9:18 AM on November 26, 2005

KevinKarl: Of course I know Linda and Bill! We three represent Texas on Star. During the NBA finals, Bill and I would sit in their cottage and root for the Spurs. They are like family to me.
posted by pelican at 9:53 AM on November 26, 2005

This Sean Penn movie "The Weight of Water" is based on a double-murder on the Isles of Shoals, in 1873.
posted by sadie01221975 at 11:26 AM on November 26, 2005

but do you have trees there

Well, supposedly Maine is the Pine Tree State, but I don't miss 'em.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:36 AM on November 26, 2005

Star island, while i never went, this place was notorious amongst Unitarian Universalists for conferences, including my now disbanded/replaced LRY (Old b&w pictures of people here). The UU's have been meeting on star island as early as 1923.
Yours truly, Brother chainsaw of the everburning chalice.
posted by blink_left at 11:56 AM on November 26, 2005

Interesting post! Good job.

However, I'm confused. Perhaps the island is strangely shaped or elongated, but the dimensions you list are roughly one square mile (or 1.5 sq. miles actually), and you say the island has an area of 46 acres.

According to Google:
One square mile is equivalent to 640 acres
posted by RockBandit at 11:58 AM on November 26, 2005

Nice post. FYI, for anyone planning to go to Star Island some summer, note that it is unbelievably windy compared to the coast. Next time I go, I'm bringing a baseball cap and a windbreaker.
posted by sophie at 12:14 PM on November 26, 2005


A good friend of mine worked for years on Star Island - she was even married there. Do you know Joy?
posted by quibx at 12:33 PM on November 26, 2005

Gosh, this reminds me of Ireland! Everybody asking "do you know... X Y or Z person? After all, there are only 3+million inhabitants!
The weird thing was, even in Rio de Janeiro, I had to say "yes, actually, his brother played Basketball with mine"
Wonderful post, I really enjoyed learning about a part of the world I didn't even know existed! Thanks
posted by Wilder at 12:43 PM on November 26, 2005

Such a sweet, well composed post, making me homesick! (Lived in Kittery Point for 4 years, various other parts of Maine and NH before/after that)

I have great photos of my sister and I on the ferry rides out there when we were little, and several friends from high school went out there to work at the Oceanic (hey Pelican, maybe you knew some of them? I'll catch you on AIM sometime) or at the Shoals Marine Lab.

Appledore Island is also related to another place close to my heart, as both are Observing stations for the AIRMAP project at the University of New Hampshire. (I think you've inspired me to compose a post on another of my favorite New England locations!)
posted by nelleish at 12:48 PM on November 26, 2005

Thanks for the nice post, very interesting.

look at the pelican whose beak can hold more than his belly can. sorry.
posted by Mr T at 12:52 PM on November 26, 2005

Pelican should post that picture of Bill next Talk Like a Pirate Day.
posted by Cranberry at 2:53 PM on November 26, 2005

Hey, and don't forget the Shoals Marine Lab on Appledore! I spent three summers there - first taking classes, then as an undergraduate researcher taking my first tentative steps into the wild world of marine ecology, and then as a TA, bringing others along with me unto the undersea world... Ah, the memories, they come-a-floodin'.

We always wondered what the life of a Pel was like - although it helped when we sent Danger Dave on over, and began taking more frequent trips to Star at night. I've been surprised how many Pels I've encountered throughout my life, actually. Shoalers. Somehow we always find each other!
posted by redbeard at 3:01 PM on November 26, 2005

Favorite moment from the ISSCo tour:

"It looked like it had a bit of smut on the nose, and so he named it Smuttynose!"

to which someone would always reply

"And it looked like it had a bit of lun on the ging, and so he called it Lunging!"

I don't pretent to understand that, but it was part of the odd ritual of the crossing - what a mental flip that always was.
posted by redbeard at 3:04 PM on November 26, 2005

[this is good]
posted by killdevil at 4:16 PM on November 26, 2005

Another Isles of Shoals goer here. And UNH alumn. And Unitarian. Wilder, that Irishy small world thing is very true. There are some cool conferences on Star Island -- my wife and I have been meaning to go to one for some time now.
posted by Toecutter at 7:41 PM on November 26, 2005

It's a great seasonal job, really; you don't have to worry about rent, and all your meals are taken care of. There isn't really any way to spend your money on the island and you only get one day a week to take the boat into Portsmouth, NH. I came away from the summer and end-of-season with 4500 saved and I got to live on a resort island to boot!
posted by pelican at 8:36 PM on November 26, 2005

I love to visit little islands -- there's something magical about them (or maybe it's just the fact that you have to get there by boat?). So far, my favorite has been Grand Manan off the coast of New Brunswick. Thanks for giving me some new vacation plans, pelican!
posted by footnote at 10:24 AM on November 27, 2005

pelican, I saved that much on Martha's Vineyard each summer I worked it, though most of my friends didn't contain their indulgences with booze as well as I, and barely made a profit.

neater to be seqestered, though, I agree.
posted by Busithoth at 11:23 AM on November 27, 2005

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