Dr. Edward Hitchcock, influenced by studies of Agassis and Lyell, concluded in an essay on Historical Geography that Cape Cod was in geological terms the “terminal moraine” of a glacier that once occupied Cape Cod Bay.
Ref. Geographical Review. July 1920 ColgateUniversity.
In March 1621, when the Mayflower arrived in Plymouth transporting English Puritans seeking religious freedom and separatists, there were a total of 102 passengers and a crew of 25-30. After a harrowing 66-day voyage that included a disease that took the lives of two passengers, the Mayflower first dropped anchor inside the hook-tip of Provincetown harbor.
Clearly off course – their original destination was Virginia– they thought they had arrived at the mouth of the Hudson River. Passengers endured the winter of 1620-21 anchored off of Provincetown, from November 1620 to March 1621.
The survivors of that difficult winter established the Plymouth Colony under the strong leadership of William Bradford, one of only five crew members whose names are known today; John Alden being another.
From that time on, the settlements in Cape Cod gradually increased until around 1672 when the Old Colony industries, previously sparse agriculture due to the sandy moraine soil, of fishing and whaling began the upsurge in the economy of the area. Even grist mills and other mills and minor manufacturing continued to grow. Ultimately, Boston became a major seaport and shipbuilding area.
From the early days of the Pilgrim’s settlement, only chronicled by William Bradford, it was tantalizingly apparent that the abundant fish in the sea represented an opportunity for unlimited wealth for the industrious.
A vigorous seafaring industry blossomed from that promise, and the American Dream in the new world had its foundation in Massachusetts.
The resulting ecology and culture shaped the landscape of the glacial moraine known as Cape Cod, even to its architecture.
With running rivers a scarce commodity on Cape Cod, the exceptional Americans demonstrated their ingenuity by harvesting the wind. Windmills dotted the landscape powering local mills.
The women of the seafarers in merchant or fishing ships led weeks of anxious isolation. Alone waiting for their man to return, they paced back and forth on rooftop decks called “widow’s walks.” Here on a small 8 x 10 railed space they would wait often pacing, awaiting a glimpse of a returning ship that carried their loved one. They walked hoping their beloved sailor was coming home.
In more recent applications of American ingenuity on Cape Codit is not uncommon to see solar hot water heaters mounted on rooftops, or even solar panels on middle-class homes attempting to defray the energy costs.
Modern widow’s walks are still built in sharp contrast to the reasons established in the colonial days and the peak of the seafaring days of Massachusetts. These modern widows’ walks, approved by strict guidelines of historical real estate committees, are used for the summer pilgrims to catch a glimpse of the sea during cocktail hour.
What are missing from the modern landscape in Cape Cod are the windmills, which are so desperately needed for the production of electric energy. They are missing because a few rich, local politicians are “fighting to protect the environment.”
The question is from what? Wind? Or hot air?
Theodore Morrison Homa MD