Whaleback Quick Facts
Year Station Established: 1820
Is the Light operational? Yes
Year Light First Lit: 1872
Year Automated: 1963
Tower Height: 50 ft.
Original Optic: 4th Order, Fresnel
Present Optic: DCB-224
Existing Keepers Quarters? No
(4 photos, 82KB total download)
Whaleback Lighthouse Videos
From Mainland:: [Video]
The most southerly of the York County lighthouses is approachable through the town of Kittery. Whaleback Light stands on the northeast side of Portsmouth Harbor at the mouth of the Piscataqua River. Both New Hampshire and Maine squabbled over the light for decades but the U. S.Coast Guard settled the dispute when it declared the heap of rock on which the tower is built to be in Maine waters.
The light was first established in 1820 but was immediately damaged beyond repair by a series of winter storms. A second lighthouse was commissioned in 1831. This tower's granite foundation was badly laid and not bolted to bedrock. These construction flaws were eventually recognized and addressed. The foundation was broadened and the tower was strengthened with a sheathing of cast iron and tightening buckles. With these improvements, the lighthouse remained upright though wobbly for forty years.
In 1872, the bottom tier of the old structure was incorporated into the base of the 75 foot conical tower that stands today. This time the foundation was first bolted firmly to the ledge. The current structure shares its design with England's famous Eddystone Lighthouse. It is built of dovetailed granite ashlar (thin square cut masonry facing). The windows above the main entrance were sealed in 1886 after huge waves drenched the interior of the tower. In 1963 the light was automated and in 1991 the Coast Guard lowered the volume of the fog signal because the vibrations were causing structural damage to the tower walls. Whaleback Light is 59 feet above sea level and can be seen for 24 nautical miles.
Although the light is inaccessible it can be quite closely viewed from Fort McClary State Historic Site and Fort Foster located in Kittery off Rout 103. Both parks are open to the public and offer limited recreational facilities and parking. Modest fees are charged during the summer months.
The lighthouse is also viewed from Fort Constitution and New Castle Island Park in New Castle, NH.
Nearest Address: 259 Wentworth Rd, New Castle, NHDirections: