In 1980, Betsy Wyeth bought Allen Island, off Port Clyde, and asked me to help her figure out what to do with it. One of the first priorities was clearing the northern end of the island, knowing that once cleared, the challenge would be keeping the land open. There was one answer to that need, one with great historical precedent, and that was sheep.

We struck a deal to purchase sixteen sheep from the long established flock on an island nine miles away, and made arrangements with two Port Clyde fishermen to help us get the sheep to Allen Island. 

All went well until we got to the other island at which point the skipper resolutely declared, “There’s not a single one of those goddamn things getting on this boat today.” We had no choice but to borrow a dory into which we loaded the sheep.

Towing the laden dory behind SUSAN L, we set a course for Tenants Harbor where two sheep were dropped off on Southern Island. In the course of that particular operation, I decided I would borrow Betsy’s Aquasport from which I could make photographs of SUSAN L towing the dory… a good idea, it turns out, on my part.

On the run to Allen Island, we ran into a fog bank off Mosquito Head and all of a sudden the light went silvery…magical. From the center console of the chase boat I quickly took a number of photographs as we were sliding into the cat’s paw of fog, but wanting a different angle, I gave the helm to my friend, Philip, telling him that I was going up on the bow and he was to get me close up to the stern of the dory. I was using a wide-angle lens, and I wanted more in my foreground, so I kept yelling “get closer, get closer!” We both knew that we had achieved maximum proximity when the bow of the Aquasport slammed the stern of the dory a mighty blow. At that very second I managed to squeeze off this single vertical frame.

No sheep were lost that day, lasting friendships were made, the meadows of Allen Island were on their way, and I made a photograph that would engage people around the world.

Add To Cart
Meredith Ralston