The Abenaki didn't keep a guest log on Damariscove, nor did Francis Popham when he claimed ownership of the island in 1604. There is likewise no evidence that Capt. John Smith, who stopped by the fishing colony in 1614 while mapping the region, signed in. Nor did Edward Winslow of Plymouth Colony during his well-documented visit in the spring of 1622 when he sought fish after a difficult winter at Plymouth colony (the fish was given to the colony as a gift).
It was not until The Nature Conservancy gained ownership of the island in 1966 that the tradition of a guest log commenced. Since then, travelers from near and far have documented their visits to the island and recorded their thoughts and comments in the logbook. In 2005 when management of the island preserve transferred to Boothbay Region Land Trust (BRLT), the tradition of the guest log continued, uninterrupted.
Unfortunately this summer, for the first time in over fifty years, BRLT has been required to temporarily suspend the tradition of the guest log sign-in due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While public safety on the preserve is BRLT’s top priority, it is disappointing to disrupt this much-loved tradition. For those visitors who miss the opportunity to document their journey and to glance through the log at the many others who came before them, this is an opportunity to reflect on past visitations at Damariscove and to remind ourselves that while it feels like a quiet summer on the peninsula, our region is much loved by people throughout the world.
In 2019 about 865 guests signed the guest log on Damariscove. A fair number of folks choose not to sign in, including "regulars" and those who visit pre- and post-season when the log is not maintained by staff. A reasonable estimate for total visitation for 2019 is 1,300 individuals or groups.
Guests came from 27 states and D.C. International travelers signed in from Canada, France, Germany, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and Thailand. In contrast, Damariscove also had visitors from nearby Newagen, Ocean Point and Squirrel Island. Possibly no one traveled thousands of miles just to visit Damariscove, but it is clear that for many, their time on the island was the highlight of their vacation.
Reviewing the guest log comments is a joy. Visitors include folks who have been there before: "...love this place. It's been a while." "We're back!" and "Back after many years." A returning family noted that they were bringing guests, "First time for some."
Visitors found the island "a magical place," "a gem," "special" and "dear to our hearts." Some commented at the relief the harbor offered after days at sea, while others said it is their "favorite place on Earth." Likewise, comments are rich in appreciation for the natural beauty at Damariscove, with reflections like "The most beautiful day there ever was!" and "Happiness is finding this island."
Hikers frequently complimented the caretakers' fine work on the trails. One party said that they returned with cake for the caretakers, and, unable to find them, they ate the cake themselves!
The youngest age given to a visitor in the guest log was 5 and many kids drew small pictures of boats and bugs and birds. The oldest age given was "94 years young." Also logged are visits from “Bigfoot” and a “pirate” (pirates usually don't sign in...).
Boaters arrived aboard unnamed kayaks and vessels with names like Lively, Gigi, Kathleen, Grace, Misty, Hotspur, Scout, Lunacy and the SS Minnow. One vessel's name—Perpetuity—coincidentally paid tribute to BRLT’s conservation commitment at Damariscove Island. Folks who had such wonderful experiences on the island can continue to do so in perpetuity with the stewardship provided by Boothbay Region Land Trust. Yes, kind visitor, Damariscove is a "treasure in Maine,” and with luck, next summer we’ll again be seeing comments from those visitors around the world who enjoy our treasure.
Mike Pander is a longtime BRLT volunteer caretaker at Damariscove Island.