Friday, August 17, 2012

Cape Cod Creatures of the Sea

Cape Codders have always had a close connection to the sea. Whether you fish, sail, paddle or walk the coast of this precious peninsula, all of us feel the need to protect it and hold onto its beauty.

 For centuries past and up to modern times, the Cape's coastline has provided a livelihood for its inhabitants, whether its through fresh seafood, gorgeous vistas, sandy beaches or scenic trails.  The fisherman, artist, musician, retailer, retiree and tourist all benefit from its gifts.

Sometimes, it yields strange happenings. Centuries ago, along the bay, you could see the spouts of humpback whales exploding into the air across the horizon. There's also documentation of waves of blackfish that beached themselves at low tide, for reasons unknown to man. Wellfleet had more than their share over the years. Even today, dolphins follow this odd behavior of stranding along the coast and scientists still scratch their heads as to why they do it. Thankfully, with the help of many local volunteers, most are saved and guided back to the sea.
                               Blackfish Stranding at Blackfish Creek in Wellfleet circa 1930
                                                          Photo courtesy of  (Wellfeet page)

In March of 2011, several employees of the Ocean Edge Resort in Brewster were clearing the beach and came across a stone buried in the sand. They began to dig it out and realized that it was much larger than they thought and that it might be part of a skeleton from a whale or some other sea creature. The IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) was called in. They immediately agreed and wanted to have it carbon dated.

Check out this great interview by Eric Williams of Cape Cod Times about the discovery.
Ancient whale skull found

One year later in July 2012, the results of testing on the discovery by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute were made public. They said it was a skull from a North Atlantic right whale. The bone measured 6 feet long and weighed 400-500 lbs. The whale lived between 1500 and 1650. If you remember your history, the Pilgrims landed here in 1620. It was transported to the Smithsonian in D.C for further analysis. Now that was exciting!

Sometime in early spring of the late 90s, along the coast of Brewster, we heard there was a whale on the beach. My son Scott, husband Tim and I drove over to see the majestic beast that had met its demise in our little town.

It was a 43 foot finback whale; so big and yet so sad to see.  But it's a tale that doesn't end in Brewster. The town fathers wondered what to do with it. It was too costly to bury or haul it away.  Since the weather was cold, which kept the smell at a minimum, a decision was made to leave it alone. Within a week it drifted to another bay side beach in a neighboring town. They were of the same mind and let it lie. More days past and the tide took it to a new coastal beach. Eventually after several weeks of Mother Nature passing the poor whale's carcass back and forth, and no one wanting to spend any money on its removal, it disappeared into the ocean. Yankee thrift at its best!

Last week we celebrated Shark Week. Strange but true, sightings of sharks have been popping up all over the news recently on the Cape...and here's why.

                                                                         Photo courtesy of Luke Simpson

 We've had such a preponderance of seals on the sand bars, like the picture above from Chatham. I believe the word has spread over the last few years among the sharks that there's a free lunch on beautiful Cape Cod.

                                                                             Photo courtesy of Gothamist

This rare sighting occurred off Nauset Beach. The kayaker won but officials closed the beach.

 The logic is that when someone swims or paddles on the surface, their kicking legs or paddling mimic a seal... soooooo, can you blame the sharks?

On July 31 2012, off Ballston Beach in Truro someone did get bit by a great white shark. He survived but it was a harrowing experience for Chris Myers of Denver.

                                                            Photo courtesy of abc news

 Bottom line...if you go into the ocean, be aware of what's going on around you and under you plus don't ever think it can't happen to you. Officials caution but add "... don't worry, there hasn't been a fatality from a shark bite on Cape Cod since 1936."

                                                 See you ON the beach, not in the water.


  1. Those are great photos, I love pictures of sea creatures! That's one of the main reasons I visit my Cape Cod vacation rental every chance I get. Thank you for sharing this with us!