, Newburyport, MA


July 26, 2013

The reachable Star

History, science, scenery blend on Isles of Shoals


Aside from a few private homes, Appledore Island also is owned by Star Island Corp., which leases the property to the Shoals Marine Lab. While marine biology students research the movement of invasive seaweed, changing bird populations and other topics, others students participate in archaeological digs on Appledore and nearby Smuttynose Island, the scene of a grisly 1873 murder that spawned what newspapers at the time called the “trial of the century.”

University of Southern Maine professor Nathan Hamilton, who directs the island archaeology programs, also gives tours of Appledore for guests visiting from Star Island. His next project includes excavating the site of an art studio used by Childe Hassam, one of the foremost American impressionists. Hassam was a close friend of Thaxter, whose father was the lighthouse keeper on White Island when she was a child and who later attracted members of Boston’s literary and artistic societies to her family’s hotel on Appledore Island each summer.

Hassam’s paintings of the Isles of Shoals make up about 10 percent of his nearly 4,000 works. Hamilton said plans are in the works for a 2016 art exhibit from Maine to North Carolina featuring walking tours of the various places Hassam painted, including Appledore Island.

If you go


The Isles of Shoals are a group of nine islands straddling the Maine-New Hampshire border, 10 miles off the coast of Portsmouth, N.H.


University of New Hampshire Isles of Shoals Discovery Cruises from the UNH pier in New Castle, N.H., to Appledore Island. Tickets are $40 per person and include a guided tour of the island.

Star Island can be reached via the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company in Portsmouth, N.H. Adult tickets for day trips are $35 for adults, $25 for children 4-12, or 800-441-4620.

Island Cruises in Rye, N.H., also offers service to Star Island, or 603-964-6446.

Smuttynose Island can only be reached by rowboat or dinghy.


Star Island Corp. offers conferences and personal retreats from mid-June to mid-September. A seven-night conference costs $850 per person/double occupancy and includes all meals and ferry transportation. Personal retreats cost $175 for one night, per person/double occupancy, including meals; or 603-430-6272.

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