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Under all is the land

“ Under all is the land. Upon its wise utilization and widely allocated ownership depend the survival and growth of free institutions and of our civilization.”

These are the opening words, the Preamble, to the Realtor’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. .

Under all of us - especially poignant here on Nantucket - is the land.

We have precious little land here on this glorified sandbar, although driving to Sconset seems to take forever! Believe it or not, the island is actually getting smaller. Sea levels are rising, flooding low-lying areas, persistantly erasing stretches of the south shore and the Sconset Bluff, and even re-shaping the western end of the island around Smith's Point and "Esther's Island" which is currently not an island at all, but part of Nantucket! Current estimates, indicate that Nantucket loses approximately 5 - 10 acres of land per year to erosion and rising sea levels. Some stretches of the south shore average 10 - 15 feet of land lost per year.

I have seen maps and plans from the early 1900's which show Madaket Road extending another quarter-mile out from where it ends today!

Does anyone remember when there were houses on what is now the beach of Codfish Park?

Sankaty Light was moved back from the eroding bluff.

Taken to an extreme, it is estimated that coupled with rising seas, climate change, and increasingly intense coastal storms (due mostly to climate change), Nantucket may disappear entirely in 350 years. The island is estimated to be about 10,000 years old. Are we privileged to be enjoying the island's Swan Song?

 Click the above link, zoom to Nantucket, and see one example of what will happen to Nantucket as sea levels rise. .. Timely link from the Inquirer & Mirror .. .. another link from Yahoo ..



Rob Ranney's picture

the link allows you to adjust the level of sea-level rise .. and shows you what might happen to not only Nantucket - but any nearby coastal community .. scary!

Rob Ranney's picture

wow - at only 1 meter (3 feet) - there are things that will be gone that you wouldnt expect ..

Rob-  this is interesting and scary.  Thank you so much for the link.  It puts things in perspective to see them actually mapped out.

Peter B. Brace's picture

Rob, Nantucket, Tuckernuck and Muskeget are actually around 6,000 years old. That's when the ocean level, rising as a result of the melting of the Laurentide ice sheet, rose high enough to separate our high spots on the coastal plain from the Vineyard and, some geologists believe, the elbow of Cape Cod at the south end of Monomoy Island.

Peter B.

Rob Ranney's picture

thanks Peter! 6,000 .. 10,000 .. the point is this little sandbar may be gone in as little as 350 years - sure i wont be here to be the last person standing - but - scary to think that all that we have tried to preserve as a community will be eventually lost to the sea .. despite our best efforts (HDC and otherwise) to preserve such an amazing heritage and collective history ..

Thank you for sharing. There are articles everywhere pointing out our dilemma with regard to global warming and the consequent rising tides that threaten all our seashores. There are also many articles speaking to responsible actions we can take to stem the tides. And yet, our collective response seems to mimic that of King Canute, sitting on his throne at the ocean's edge and commanding the tide to turn back. Words. Fortunately, it didn't take Canute long to understand that words alone - no matter how forceful or sincere - aren't effective. How long will it take our lovely community come to the same realization? It is disheartening to be told that local gov't no longer considers "sustainable energy solutions" an island priority ... That the defeat of one wind turbine can cause any further consideration of wind, tide or other non-fossil fuel energy alternatives to be tabled ... that our historic island virtues of courageous self-sufficiency and intelligent debate can be silenced by deep-pockets from off-island fossil fuel corporations and the easy inertia of "wishful thinking". How many of those who spoke at the Town Meeting and began their speech with the phrase, "I'm all for sustainable energy BUT ..." are serious about next steps supporting the creation and implementation of a sustainable energy strategy for Nantucket? If not now, when? Surely chronic flooding and wide-spread erosion are worse for property values than one wind turbine? Not that the actions of one turbine or one island community will stem the tides ... But, there is plenty of documented and observable fact that points to the benefits of better technologies than the ones we cling to with fossil fuels. And certainly leading by example would be yet another lovely and valuable take-away for the visitors who travel here each year; perhaps provoking similar initiatives elsewhere. Surely we all agree that change is hard. But, whether we face them now or later - hard changes are upon us. What will it take? Another major world conflict over oil fields? ... another catastrophic deep water oil spill? ... ever higher prices at the pump? ... prohibitive transportation costs seriously impacting personal travel and the price of our produce? ... rising ocean temperatures adversely effecting the pattern of the Gulf Stream or the health of our shellfish population/industry? ... the drowning of the last walrus or polar bear? ... Or, does the water need to be lapping your lower lip?

Can't wait to have beach front property! hahahahahahaa! I am 25 or more feet above sea level. I get snow when no one else does, frost, ect! But one thing you did not mention which I know is also true, is that the sand taken away from one side moves to a new place. Just check out or ask someone at the Trustees of Reservations! The State owned land on the East side has dwindled to almost nothing whereas it has built up on the West and the Trustees have been gaining land every year.! We don't just lose land, it moves to a new spot be it a shoal or adding to another part of the Island. However, the rising sea levels are a different story all together! Everyone will suffer from that! Thus is why out homeowner insurance is through the roof because of this study and some big mouth talking tsunami!

I agree, Cate.  I'm convinced the sand washing away from Baxter Road is washing up on Low Beach, and has helped create a new sandbar that's a few hundred yards offshore and that is sheltering seals on our beach.  This is, of course, good and bad--nice that they're sheltered from the sharks, but bad for our swimming comfortably from that beach.  No matter what they say about seals being non-aggressive they're still VERY BIG!

This was interesting!!! A lot of things I didn't know. Sad that the Island seems to getting smaller!

Rob Ranney's picture

yes! smaller and smaller! not just because of land lost to the sea - but also because there are more people living here! our little sandbar in the sea gets smaller and smaller every day!