Pursued by Paparazzi
Even the Maine fog couldn’t hide JFK, Jr., from the press in 1977.
- By: Joshua F. Moore
Before there was Angelina and Brad, the paparazzi had John-John. Never mind that the heir to Camelot was undertaking the ultimate in wilderness retreat, a twenty-six-day sailing/rowing survival course with the Outward Bound School based on Hurricane Island. Even back in 1977 the press would do anything to get a picture of him for the front page. For their part, Outward Bound leaders had gone to extra efforts to keep sixteen-year-old JFK, Jr., second from left, as secluded as possible, even sending a look-alike on a decoy pulling boat when Kennedy departed Rockland for his expedition. (When a fellow watch-member began taking photos and threatening to write an article about the late president’s son, they promptly had him moved to another boat in a different part of the coast.)
While such measures helped Kennedy have an authentic Outward Bound experience for more than three weeks — even the Secret Service reportedly left him alone for his three-day “solo” on Roque Island, armed with just a few candy bars and a book about edible plants — one UPI photographer eventually managed to pierce the veil of secrecy and the Maine fog that shrouded the coast. “On the day he was to come back to Rockland, the UPI guy went down to Owls Head and found a lobsterman who had radar,” recalls Pen Williamson, development director at Outward Bound at the time. “They managed to find him [Outward Bound’s rustic wooden boats all carried radar reflectors atop their masts] and circled him a few times, taking photos. When they were done, the photographer tossed a canister of the exposed film to JFK, Jr., since he had all the shots he needed.” Judging by the smiles on the faces of the three unidentified other course members, whose attire ranges from shirtless at left to T-shirts and wool sweaters at right, the intrusion was not unwelcome after such a long time away from civilization.
Tragically, JFK, Jr., died in a plane crash twenty-two years after this photograph was taken. He did not live to see Outward Bound move its operations off Hurricane Island in 2005, consolidating its operations on the mainland. Had he lived, Kennedy might have taken heart to know that the island off Vinalhaven will soon once again host people seeking life-altering challenges. A new foundation recently secured a forty-year lease to maintain and utilize the buildings, ropes courses, and other features that made Hurricane Island such an important place for tens of thousands of young people, from everyday Mainers to the sons of American presidents.
- By: Joshua F. Moore