The Vineyard Gazette Media Group

About this Project

What draws us to the edge? The place where the land meets the sea is a magnet for most people, and perhaps nowhere more so than on an Island. On Martha’s Vineyard we are constantly drawn to our edges. To the boulder-strewn north shore where the waters run so clear you can see straight to the sandy bottom, where small fish swim through swirls of seaweed and stripers inhabit the deep holes and rocky outcroppings. To the majestic south shore where the powerful Atlantic Ocean pounds gold sand beaches backed by grassy dunes flecked with pink and white rosa rugosa. To the remote eastern perimeters, where the pale morning light awakens beaches and moors, and bluefish run in frothy riptides just offshore. To the rugged western headlands, where clay cliffs that are a geological wonder rise dramatically above the sea and the setting sun burnishes the landscape with painterly light.

In the winter of 2012 Hurricane Sandy unleashed her fury along much of the East Coast and brought into focus the variety and magnitude of the problems created when the natural process of coastal erosion begins to accelerate.

In the months that followed, as Vineyard Gazette reporters covered the effects of the storm on Martha’s Vineyard, it became clear that our understanding of coastal erosion required deeper examination. Then in late April, Harris Interactive researchers commissioned by the Gazette interviewed full-time and seasonal residents to determine the issues that most concerned them in relation to the Island’s future. To our surprise, coastal erosion topped the list of Islanders’ worries. More than 64 per cent of all residents said they were very concerned about coastal erosion. The issue clearly resonated widely with people.

Reporters and photographers for the Gazette and Martha’s Vineyard Magazine embarked on a special project to understand the process of erosion on the Vineyard, its history, the science behind it, its human impacts and the implications for the future. They interviewed dozens of scientists, homeowners, government officials and longtime Vineyard residents.

We decided to tell the story in several ways, taking advantage of different media formats used by the Vineyard Gazette Media Group. The project includes a cover story in the August issue of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, a special print section in the August 16 issue of the Vineyard Gazette and this multimedia report, Living on the Edge, which combines text, photographs and video. Among other things the report zooms in on five areas around the Vineyard: Wasque on the Island of Chappaquiddick; the south shore in Chilmark from Stonewall to Squibnocket, the Gay Head Cliffs, East Chop Drive and the sweep of coastline from Oak Bluffs to Cape Pogue.

The project remains ongoing. Future topics to be explored include Islandwide planning for the effects of erosion in years ahead, and potential solutions to the broad and complicated set of problems posed by erosion today.

We invite you to explore the site.

  • — Jane Seagrave, Publisher
  • Julia Wells, Editor



Core Project Team:

  • Tom Dunlop
  • Graham Smith
  • Alley Moore
  • Sara Brown
  • Remy Tumin
  • Stephen Durkee

Key Contributors:

  • Ray Ewing
  • Peter Brannen
  • Will Monast
  • Mark Lovewell
  • Vanessa Czarnecki
  • Bill Eville
  • Nicki Miller
  • Alison Mead

In addition to those named in our reports, special thanks to:

  • Dana Gaines
  • Chris Seidel, GIS coordinator, Martha’s Vineyard Commission
  • Steve Elgar, senior scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • Britt Raubenheimer, associate scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • Kib Bramhall
  • Albert O. Fischer 3rd
  • June Manning
  • Jane Slater
  • Paul Henry Mayhew
  • Skip Bettencourt
  • Nancy Hugger