A glorious day yesterday. We left the house about 1:30 p.m. (CaST), and drove north and east out of Providence and into southeastern Massachusetts, through New Bedford and Fairhaven, heading towards the Cape on 195. It was a brilliant, beautiful day, warm, and just enough clouds that I had something to hang onto. I still have not adjusted to how much farther south the sun seems from Rhode Island (as compared with Atlanta). The light changes so quickly, and it looks like late afternoon when morning is hardly finished. We left 195 near Buzzard's Bay, switching to Route 6, and crossed the Sagamore Bridge (c. 1933-1935) over the canal and onto Cape Cod. There were vast bogs filled with floating cranberries the color of dried blood. We took Route 6 across the upper and mid portions of the Cape, past Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Brewster, Orleans, and so forth. It's hardly the scenic route. In fact, I refer to it as the Massachusetts Turnpike. But, we left so late, we had to make good time to reach Newcomb Hollow before sunset. We didn't leave the highway until the outer Cape, at Eastham, where we turned east towards the sea, down to Ocean View Drive, which carried us past White Crest Beach and Calhoun Hollow Beach. Newcomb Hollow Beach lies at the dead end of Ocean View Drive, east of Wellfleet. The land is all dunes and stunted confiers of a species I don't recognize, limbs contorted by the weather into fantastic configurations. We parked in the mostly empty lot at Newcomb Hollow, and walked down to the beach.
The sea was wild, and the day was slipping away fast. There are tall cliffs here, so the beach was already shielded from the light, but was catching on the waves farther out. As soon as we were on the sand, I realized that I didn't know whether the shipwreck lay to the north or the south of us. But there were high bluffs to the south, and I recalled Sonya (sovay) mentioning bluffs. So, we took our chances and went in that direction. And won the slightly educated coin toss. We found the remains of the schooner maybe 200 yards from the parking lot (that distance is really a guess). It was washed ashore last January (the 28th, 2008). The tide was going out, and the waterline was just below the wreck (it was an hour past high tide), which was mostly buried by sand. Which is to say, there wasn't much exposed for us to see, and because of our timing, we're lucky to have seen anything at all. Follow this link to someone's photos of the wreck (taken just after it appeared) at Flickr, and you'll get a much better idea of the schooner than what our photos (below) show. Worth the drive, nonetheless.
However, I was distracted from the ship almost at once, by great exposures of a blue-grey clay in the cliff behind us. Studded with all manner of clasts, and capped with the dune sand, I guessed the clay must be of Pleistocene age, though, my knowledge of New England geology is still rudimentary. I spent some time poking around in the clay, guessing diligent prospecting might reveal fossil bones. Indeed, when I got home and looked about online, it turns out that these clays have yielded remains of mammoths, bison, and other "Ice Age" mammals. After a while, we headed back towards the parking lot and just sat in the sand and watched the waves. The wind was cold, but it hardly seemed to matter. We were greeted, at some point, by a very enthusiastic little mutt of a dog, who dashed up, bounced over us, and then dashed away again. I didn't want to leave. I never want to leave, of course. But I might have a new favorite beach. The air was so amazingly clear and smelled so clean. Someone had stuck a single red rose into the sand. I stared out at the horizon, thinking of Africa and Europe on the other side of the Atlantic (almost 3,000 nautical miles away).
As twilight came on, we headed, reluctantly, back to the car, and decided to drive up towards Provincetown, to go very near the northernmost end of the Cape. We made it past Provincetown, north to Herring Cove Beach, on the western side of the Cape. It was dark by the time we parked, and there was a truly ferocious and freezing gale off the bay. In the sky, we could see perfectly the alignment of the waxing crescent moon, Venus, and Jupiter. This alignment won't come back around for another 44 years. We made it out to the beach proper, and Spooky even somehow managed to find a shard of beach glass in the dark. We have to head back to Herring Cove in daylight, because it seems perfect for beachcombing, in the winter, when the tourists aren't about. I played Sigur Rós and Portishead on the long drive back to Providence, and I dozed a little, and really, it was just such a perfect day. I have seen few finer places to stand in the presence of Panthalassa than Cape Cod.
Okay. This has gotten long, and I should go. Though it's another day off, I do have some writing-related email to answer. Then...I don't know. Nothing. Nothing sounds pretty good to me. There are photos, behind the cut:
Looking south along Newcomb Hollow Beach, towards the remains of the schooner.
View to the north, from about the same spot as the first photo.
A small exposure of the blue-grey Pleistocene clay, which was deposited as moraine, outwash and in meltwater ponds as the Cape Cod Lobe of the Laurentide ice sheet retreated some 23,000 years ago.
The timbers from the hull of a 19th-Century schooner, mostly buried by the sand at the moment. To me, these look like the teeth from the lower jaw of a gigantic sperm whale, buried in the sand. This is why we came, the shipwreck, but I got a lot more excited by the Pleistocene stratigraphy, of course.
Detail of shipwreck.
An inclusion in the blue-grey clay, a mineral I have not yet identified (I suck at mineralogy).
Breakers off Newcomb Hollow Beach.
A perfectly lousy attempt to photograph the moon/Venus/Jupiter alignment from Herring Cove Beach. The wind was blowing too hard, Spooky was shivering, and we didn't have a tripod with us. Plus, our old (2004) Canon is just not up to the task. The big blob of light at the left is the moon, of course. The lower-center squiggle in Venus. The dimmer upper-right squiggle is Jupiter.
All photographs Copyright © 2008 by Kathryn A. Pollnac and Caitlín R. Kiernan