Hidden History From Hog Island


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Discover hidden stories from Hog Island's past, from instructors who were important conservation leaders off the island to campers who brought lessons from the island to their own work.


A renowned birder and nature photographer and a leading figure in the National Audubon Society, Allan Cruickshank taught at the Audubon Camp in Maine from its first summer in 1936 until 1958. While teaching at Hog Island, Cruickshank developed a unique tradition of celebrating birding at the camp. When returning to Hog Island from particularly successful birding trips, he developed the habit of performing headstands on the roof of the camp boat, so that everyone watching from the island would know immediately that the trip had been a success. During his years at the camp in Maine, Cruickshank had a reputation as a gregarious and energetic instructor and an adventurous photographer; after his death in 1974, Carl Buchheister wrote of his teaching that Cruickshank "made magic. His instruction was clear, forceful, imaginative, and dramatic...His was the gift of making his students disciples." Cruickshank also led efforts to collect data documenting bird populations along the coast of Maine by banding birds during camp field trips so they could be tracked and worked with Joseph Cadbury to conduct bird censuses on Hog Island from 1949 to 1958. After the summer of 1958, Cruickshank stepped down as an instructor at the camp to work full-time as the official photographer for the National Audubon Society. In a letter written to then-director Bart Cadbury, Cruickshank explained that although he was sad to leave the camp, he and his wife Helen, a partner in his career, "feel that we can accomplish much for the National Audubon Society by concentrating on photography during the summer months." Throughout his career with National Audubon Society, Cruickshank taught more than 5,000 campers, photographed more than 500 species of North American birds, lectured around the country with motion picture films he made himself, published many books and articles, and compiled the Audubon Annual Christmas Bird Count Report for 17 years. After his death, the Allan D. Cruickshank Wildlife Sanctuary on Eastern Egg Rock was dedicated in his memory.


Helen Gere Cruickshank, who worked at Hog Island for many summers alongside her husband Allan Cruickshank, was an important nature writer and photographer in her own right. Although Allan Cruickshank was more prominent at the time, the Cruickshanks worked for the National Audubon Society as a team, with Allan taking the black-and-white photographs and Helen taking the color slides. In addition to their work on Hog Island and for the National Audubon Society, Helen and Allan were instrumental in the effort to persuade NASA to set aside land for conservation on Merritt Island, where the Kennedy Space Center is located. That effort led to the establishment of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Helen Cruickshank was the author, co-author, and editor of twelve books about birds, reptiles, and nature writing; her book Flight Into Sunshine: Bird Experiences in Florida, an account of her work with birding in Florida featuring Allan Cruickshank's photographs, won a John Burroughs Medal, which recognizes distinguished work in the field of natural history. Helen also did the photography for two full-length motion pictures, including Pastures of the Sea, which was used in the Audubon Screen Tours Program. To see more items in the digital archive about Helen Cruickshank, click here.


Many campers at the Audubon Camp in Maine were teachers or educators for young people, but some brought their experiences at the camp to very different fields. One such camper, Dr. Miriam Van Waters, was a national figure in women's and juvenile prisons and a leading advocate of prison reform. In her work as the Superintendent of the Massachusetts Reformatory for Women at Framingham, a position she held from 1932 to 1957, Van Waters stressed the importance of ensuring access to education, recreational opportunities, and an overall emphasis on rehabilitation for life after incarceration. Van Waters attended the Audubon Camp in Maine every summer from 1950 to 1954 and viewed her learning and experiences there as integral to improving the outcomes for incarcerated women at her institution. In an assignment she completed for Farida Wiley in 1950, Van Waters wrote, "My problem is three-fold; how to teach reverence for life to the 400 prisoners with whom I share life; how to teach the community to conserve life, not only the nature which feeds, clothes, and shelters us, but how to conserve human life. For man is the greatest of predators. If you want to teach true conservation you must teach respect and concern for soil, water, plants, and animals, but also the rehabilitation of human beings. The one will follow the other."


An instructor at Hog Island for two decades, Farida Wiley was a self-taught naturalist and environmental educator. In addition to her summers on Hog Island, Wiley was known for her work leading walking tours and field trips for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where women were the majority of her students. Farida Wiley joined the teaching staff at the Audubon Camp in Maine in 1947 and remained an instructor until retiring after the summer of 1967. She was also the author of a popular guide, Ferns of the Northeastern United States, which featured many of her own illustrations. To explore documents and photographs relating to Farida Wiley, click here.


Many campers and instructors developed lasting connections to the camp, remaining involved with Hog Island in multiple capacities. Douglass Morse first came to Hog Island as a camper in 1957. He went on to work at the camp for many summers, beginning as a boatman and later becoming a Bird Life instructor in 1962. Morse also served as an active member of Friends of Hog Island.


Dorothy Treat, an instructor at Hog Island beginning in 1936, had already enjoyed a successful career in environmental education and research before coming to the Audubon Camp in Maine. Prior to Hog Island, she worked in the Department of Education at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Her course at Hog Island was Nature Activities, which was viewed as particularly central to the camp's mission because it provided teachers with concrete methods for bringing the lessons of Hog Island back to their classrooms. Treat later went on to help establish the Aullwood Audubon Center in Ohio, which still operates as an educational and nature center today, making her one of many Hog Island instructors to have long careers with the National Audubon Society. To read an article written by Treat about Hog Island, click here.


In addition to their work as conservationists, Mabel Todd and her daughter, Millicent Bingham, were important figures in American literary history. Todd is remembered as the first editor of Emily Dickinson's work, and Millicent Todd Bingham wrote books about geography and geology. Todd even completed the manuscript for Letters of Emily Dickinson, the first edition of which was published in 1894, while living on Hog Island. The natural beauty of Hog Island proved a source of inspiration for both women's work. According to Millicent, her mother "wrote little articles about the spiders and cobwebs, the mosses and periwinkles, and was completing a book entitled The Epic of Hog at the time of her death." Millicent herself felt especially drawn to writing about the island's birds and its physical landscape.


Before coming to Hog Island in 1974, Joe Johansen worked for the United States Coast Guard for twenty years, serving as a lighthouse keeper and on Coast Guard vessels up and down the coast of Maine. He got his start as an assistant lighthouse keeper on Ram Island in 1949, before going to work on the Coast Guard Vessel John Hathaway. He continued working on Coast Guard vessels, often leading projects to lay electric cables to automate many lighthouses, including the light on Ram Island where he had once lived. After his retirement from the Coast Guard, Johansen came to work for the Audubon Camp in Maine, serving as a boatman and warden. His extensive boating experience and knowledge of the Maine coast prepared him well, but just as important, his deep and growing ties to the local communities in Medomak and Bremen strengthened bonds between the camp and the community. Johansen found deep satisfaction in his work at Hog Island; he said once, "what I love is what the island does to the people who come here from their city jobs. When I take them off after two weeks on the island, on the water, on the mudflats, they can't bear to say goodbye to this place and this way of life."


During World War II, the Audubon Camp in Maine closed for three seasons, from 1943 through 1945, due to the difficulty in attaining supplies and the growing number of campers, instructors, and staff who were serving in the armed forces. In 1946, Duryea Morton, who had served in Italy with the 10th Mountain Division of the United States Army during the Second World War, arrived on Hog Island to work as an assistant in the newly reopened camp kitchen. He went on to become the camp director from 1971 to 1977 and a leading figure in the National Audubon Society. Duryea Morton was only one of many camp instructors and staff to serve in the Second World War. Longtime Insect Life Instructor Donald Borror, pictured here, served as a lieutenant in the United States Navy from 1944 to 1946. L. Manlius Sargent, who later became camp co-director in 1981, served in the air force.


Leading naturalist, ornithologist, and writer Roger Tory Peterson taught at Hog Island as the lead Bird Life instructor during the camp's inaugural summer in 1936. Although Peterson, shown here talking with Grace Bommarito during a boat trip in 1976, only taught at the camp for one summer, he initiated a tradition of conservation leaders passing through the camp's faculty. The child of Swedish immigrants, Peterson developed a passion for birding and photography at a young age, which remained with him throughout his life. The publication of his book Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds, the first in a long series of Peterson Guides, was a landmark moment in increasing public access to information about and exploration of the natural world. While at Hog Island, he took many important photographs of the camp's early moments and natural surroundings, which were used in promotional literature for years to come. To see some of Peterson's photographs from Hog Island, click here. To view camp promotional materials using his photographs, click here and here.