The Vineyard Gazette Media Group

Other Shores

Rounding Jeremy Point into Wellfleet Harbor, mariners in Cape Cod Bay are cautious. There, marked on all the charts, are the sandy fingers of Billingsgate Shoal – or, as it was once known, Billingsgate Island. In the mid-nineteenth century, the island was a mile long, a half-mile wide, boasted thirty homes, a lighthouse, schoolhouse, and a flourishing fishing fleet. Fed by a steady supply of sand from the inner forearm of the Cape, Billingsgate was for centuries terra firma, a charming coastal haven welcoming sailors to Wellfleet. When the dynamic forces that kept the island awash in sediment shifted, it began to disappear. When the community desperately added a breakwater made of riprap to protect its lighthouse, the island all but vanished overnight. Today that breakwater is visible at low tide, the last vestige of an island that was a familiar beacon of the inner Cape for centuries.

Billingsgate Shoal in Cape Cod Bay.Jeremy Dentremont

The Vineyard is safe from the fate of...

The Vineyard isn’t alone when it comes to dealing with issues of erosion, sea level rise, and the perils of living so close to the ocean. But in places like New Jersey and Florida where hotels and condominiums abut public beaches, taxpayers are accustomed to the high costs of defending their shoreline.

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