Two miles off the coast of Harpswell, in beautiful Casco Bay, lies Eagle Island, the summer home of Admiral Robert E. Peary, America’s foremost Arctic explorer recognized as the discoverer of the North Pole. This unique property is a Maine Historic Site administered by the Bureau of Parks and Lands, and is also designated as a National Historic Landmark. Although the state is responsible for maintenance and day-to-day operations, valuable aid in the preservation work and operation is provided by the nonprofit group, The Friends of Peary’s Eagle Island, who are the sponsors of the Eagle Island Docent Program.

“What is a docent?” you may ask. A docent is a guide, but at Eagle Island we strive to go beyond that simple definition. Docents are the ambassadors of the island, and we work very hard at making a visit to Eagle Island as informative and enjoyable as possible for each visitor. In a normal season, over 4000 people visit the island, and are met by one or more docents who share the history of the island, Admiral Peary, and the unique home he built there, now a museum.

A typical docent day begins at Dolphin Marina in Harpswell where we are met by the Park Manager for the 20-minute boat ride to the island. We bring everything we will need for the day — lunch, water, a book (in case the day is slow), and warm clothing (the weather can change quickly in Casco Bay) — because once there, we are there for the day until the ranger brings us back to the Dolphin at 5 pm. At the island, our docents meet visitors at the Welcome Center, show the introductory video, answer questions about Admiral Peary and his beloved Eagle Island, and sell souvenir items at our Trading Post. Some days are slow, with only a few visitors, some days we have to scramble to even find time to eat lunch, but all days are fun and rewarding experiences. And each day, slow or harried, we enjoy the breathtaking scenery, the smell of salt air, and the sound of surf and seagulls as a backdrop to the important work we are doing.

Unfortunately, COVID-related events over the past two years have taken a heavy toll on our docent program, making it difficult to ensure that docents will be available daily to welcome visitors during the upcoming season. Consequently, we are looking for new volunteers to join our docent family. Do you need to be a history buff or an expert on Arctic exploration to be a docent at Eagle Island? No, not at all. We provide training materials and schedule new docents with veterans, from whom a great deal can be learned. Our volunteers come from a wide variety of backgrounds and are of various ages. Being a docent at Eagle Island is a unique opportunity and a most rewarding volunteer experience.

If you are interested in becoming a docent, please visit the Friends website at or call (207 )751-4966 or (207) 751-8395 and we will be happy to discuss the program with you.

Wayne Miller and Gaye Miller are co-coordinators of the Eagle Island Docent Program.

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