In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Portland Press Herald Glass Negative Collection

Wiscasset's Arctic Connection

Schooner Bowdoin, backing off the pier, Wiscasset, 1926
Schooner Bowdoin, backing off the pier, Wiscasset, 1926 View the Wiscasset's Arctic Connection Slide Show

Text by Cindy Dykes

Images from Maine Historical Society, Blethen Maine Newspapers

Explorer, scientist, author and teacher Donald B. MacMillan liked Wiscasset, a community of about 1,200 on the Sheepscot River, because it was away "from the hubbub of the city" and ships could easily be loaded there.

He chose the town as the departure port on many of his voyages to the Arctic and Subarctic.

The departures were festive occasions. People streamed into the little community for the ceremonies and the excitement of watching MacMillan and his crew prepare to depart for their historic trips.

Biographer E.S. Allen wrote that if anyone had "seen him start off on a northern voyage, have heard him say quietly, 'Start your engine.' 'Let go for 'ard.' 'Let go aft!' they don't forget the emotional stir in the dockside crowd that inevitably rises at the sight of such a small vessel, such a quiet man, going so far away with so little fuss."

MacMillan connected Wiscasset to the Arctic and provided a venue for many people to learn about his scientific voyages and feel a part of the preparations and process of the trips.