Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tragedy at Great Head
Near the east side of stunning Sand Beach rises Great Head, a massive granite prominence that abuts the Atlantic Ocean. At 144 feet in elevation it is the highest cliff on America's east coast, which makes it very attractive to hikers and rock climbers. Perhaps it was due to these rugged features that six young men, ages 19 and 20, from Wakefield, MA on a weekend camping trip to Acadia found themselves there one fateful Saturday in November, 1969.


Nineteen year old David McKinney and five friends were exploring a cave at Great Head, when a wave broke on the rocks and pulled him into the ocean. According to the Bar Harbor Times, a local newspaper, they were hiking around Great Head and had stopped to explore a cave near the water’s edge. After looking around the cave, they moved down to the rocks in front of the cave. McKinney was about 20 feet in front of the others. A large wave broke on the rocks soaking two of the young men while McKinney was pulled in by the current and disappeared. Heavy rain, excessive fog and 30-foot high sprays of surf rendered any rescue work impossible. His body was never recovered.



The cave


The McKinney memorial plaque is located about 100 feet off the Great Head Trail southwest of the Great Head summit and Satterlee teahouse ruins. It is affixed to the edge of a rock ledge above the spot where he was swept away.*1



Memorial site
The inscription reads:

IN MEMORY OF

DAVID PHILLIPS

MCKINNEY

MARCH 10, 1950 - NOVEMBER 8, 1969

WASHED OUT TO SEA FROM

THE MOUTH OF THIS CAVE




Great Head

*Footnote:
1 Memorial GPS coordinates: N44° 19.592'  W068° 10.612'

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