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I made a very quick trip to the North Shore this morning. The temp was at 9 degrees and the wind chill was brutal. I could only stay for a few minutes. We have lots of new work. We are redoing our website so we can show larger photos.

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We made a trip to Sankaty Bluff yesterday in frigid temperatures. The beach was coated in ice, the sand was frozen and the bluff was covered in snow. As cold as it was, the beauty of Sconset Beach made it worth the trip in spite of the fact that there are more and more new and decayed jute bags at the toe of the bank . The SBPF continues to talk about increasing the length of the geotubes to 4000 feet. Sconset Beach – once one of Nantucket’s most beautiful, will soon be it’s ugliest.  A member of the Board of Selectmen who voted for the geotubes once said to me that it didn’t matter what was done on Sconset Beach because nobody went there. I’m glad this view isn’t shared by everyone or we wouldn’t have protected many of the beautiful wilderness areas our country has. We hope the citizens of Nantucket will continue to fight to protect Nantucket and its beaches, even the beaches that aren’t heavily visited.

You can see more and larger photos on Nantucket Erosion at http://www.nantucketerosion.com

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We spent a very cold day photographing erosion. We have a lot of photos to go through and will have this blog and Nantucket Erosion updated tomorrow.

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The boat basin is slightly thawed creating an interesting effect in the water. If you click on this photo, you’ll get an extra large version to view. This was taken with the iphone 6 plus.

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The Inquirer & Mirror recently published an article echoing the SBPF’s claim that the Sankaty Bluff geotubes “did their job”. We wish the Inquirer & Mirror had done its job differently and published a balanced and more accurate article instead of quoting only one source, a spokesperson of the SBPF. As a result, the article featured a number of inaccuracies, half truths and fantasies. When it comes to an issue like the geotubes where the ultimate outcome could be that our beaches are lost or ruined and a beautiful natural resource is destroyed, our newspaper owes it to our community do a more thorough  job, or not do it at all. When one reports on a volatile political issue and only uses one source, then one loses credibility. If the Inquirer and Mirror wants to come out in favor of hard-armoring Nantucket’s shoreline, in spite of overwhelming evidence of harm, it should do so on the editorial page and not present an unverified public relations release as news.

There is nothing like the Sankaty Bluff anywhere else on Nantucket. As it erodes, it reveals the geologic history of our island with fossils dating over 125,000 years old and it will be ruined by the fruitless machinations of the SBPF with the blessing of a few members of our Board of Selectmen and the Mass DEP.

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This photo was taken in September of 2010. One can clearly see that the damage here is from runoff – not toe erosion.

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This photo was taken in October of 2014, on top of the geotubes. It shows the same type of erosion – not from the toe, but from the top.

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The above photo was taken in March of 2013. The face of the bluff falls away even when the jute tubes protect it from the waves.

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This photo shows the bluff face near the end of the walk after it lost another round of planting in March 2014.

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Here is the same area, planted months ago and starting to give. No toe erosion at this spot in the past year. This was taken in October of 2014

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And the same spot taken in December of 2014. The plantings have slid down the face of the bluff. We have seen this happen repeatedly, even behind these jute bags. The beach grass has no chance to develop long roots in the bluff environment.

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Edit: Looking back on our previous photos, we think it is likely that the geotubes were ripped by the machines used to add sand and not by the storms.

We went to the geotubes late this evening after being told that they had ripped. The have ripped in one section and in others there is noticeable sagging – geotubes deflategate perhaps. There has been a considerable amount of sand delivered, a different color than the previous load a couple of weeks ago. We aren’t sure what that signifies but found it interesting. The bluff continues to erode from the top, despite assurances that the geotubes are “doing their job”. We found frozen sediment on top of the tubes that had made its way through the newly poured sand. Swept Away is in worse shape – nearing the edge.

It was a beautiful evening with a lovely gradient sky and a huge moon that broke the horizon as we walked back to the stairs.

You can see more and larger photos on Nantucket Erosion at http://www.nantucketerosion.com

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Our final comparative post is now up on Nantucket Erosion. These are photos taken from the end of the bluff walk to the geotubes. The photos are posted in pairs, the first of the pair was taken on January 11, 2015 and the second on January 28, 2015.

You can see more and larger photos on Nantucket Erosion at http://www.nantucketerosion.com

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We have updated Nantucket Erosion with comparative photos taken from Steps Beach to Hinckley.

You can see more and larger photos on Nantucket Erosion at http://www.nantucketerosion.com

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Nantucket’s north shore was hit hard by winter storm Juno. We have a set of comparative photos on Nantucket Erosion. The first photo of each pair was taken on January 11th and the second on the 29th after the storm.

You can see more and larger photos on Nantucket Erosion at http://www.nantucketerosion.com

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A great deal of Nantucket pit sand was delivered over the edge of Sankaty Bluff one week ago, and a great deal of that sand has already gone the way of the tides, courtesy of the first nor’easter of 2015. The geotubes below the bluff have been frequently exposed by runoff erosion in the 9 months since the last delivery, the installation looking very ragged for a significant portion of that time. The first major effort to thoroughly cover them was effective for a few days until winter storm Juno brought hurricane-force winds and several higher than normal tides. The result of the storm was not only the first full-length exposure of the 900′ of second and third tier tubes, but the exposure of both the north and south ends as well. We have seen some end scour on the north end over the last year, but this was the first heavy loss on both ends. Returns designed to prevent this end scour, part of the original plans and required by the conditions of the emergency certificate allowing the installation, were never installed. These exposures of the tubes can be considered “firsts” because this storm was the first real test of the structure. It was hit hard by waves that caused noticeable toe erosion to the north and south of it, and it must be acknowledged that the bank along its length was untouched. As a victory, it must be considered to be of the pyrrhic type, as the bluff is rapidly eroding  from above, not from infrequent wave action, but for 1 day out of the last 365, it offered some protection.

You can see more and larger photos on Nantucket Erosion at http://www.nantucketerosion.com

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For the first time since their installation, the south ends of the second and third tiers of geotubes have been exposed.

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The entire 900′ length of the structure is devoid of covering along the front.

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Some tattered bits of scour apron and straps between the tubes and on the beach.

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One of the many full-sized sheets of polyethylene between the tubes. The torn edges of the plastic raise the possibility that parts of the unapproved material have gone seaward. The project manager has cut away and removed the sheeting as it has become exposed.

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Each succeeding tier rests a third of its width on the tier below, with the remainder supported by a “bench” of sand behind. If the bench is allowed to wash away, the tubes can roll backwards toward the bank. With gaps caused by the overlapping tubes and displaced scour aprons, one wonders about the integrity of the “seal” between layers.

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Loose polyethylene from the installation on the beach. How much sand is gone from under the second tier of tubes?

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While the front is washed clean, there is still a heavy layer of new pit sand on top of the envelope.

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More of the shredded polyethylene.

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The elevation of the beach dropped enough during the storm to expose even the first, below-grade tier of tubes. Wave energy deflected from the end of the armoring contributed to the major collapse of the bank next to the clay knob as seen above. Ordinarily the knob would offer protection to its lee side.

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The exposed north end shows the results of typical end scouring. Without the requisite (if not actually effective) returns or tapers, the waves flank the armoring, wrapping around and removing material from the ends and eventually from behind as they began to do here. Note that the back of the top tube is now about 2′ lower than its front. If enough material is lost from behind, the tubes will roll backwards.

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A full blog post will  have to wait till tomorrow evening. We finally got our power back on but need some rest. We have a lot to say about what we saw today on the bluff and will report in full tomorrow. Here are a couple of shots from today.

 

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Dirck and I went to the bluff today. We have tons of photos but won’t be able to post them until they get our power back on!  It’s been an adventure here the last couple of days. We’ll have an update as soon as possible.

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The bluff continues to melt as there is less distance from its face to the wetlands. There has been no toe erosion but the disintegration of the bluff worsens.

You can see more and larger photos on Nantucket Erosion at http:www.nantucketerosion.com

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We went to the bluff on Sunday to see how it had fared from last weeks high winds. We have a full set of photos on Nantucket Erosion.

As you can see from the photo below, Swept Away is now deeply undercut.

You can see more and larger photos on Nantucket Erosion at http:www.nantucketerosion.com

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There’s a small bumper sticker seen around Baxter Road that reads “Retreat Will Not Save Sconset”. It’s ironic then that the SBPF’s viewing pen could only be saved by a retreat from the ravaged edge of Sankaty Bluff. While the area of the pen is not under the “protection” of the geotube installation, it is subject to the same erosive forces  along the most rapidly decaying stretch of the island’s eastern shore. Equally ironic is the very existence of the pen to begin with, provided so the public can view the accelerated erosion, said pen being recently not 24 inches from the worst destruction on all of the bluff. This well documented destruction is due to runoff from the top of the bluff and through its face, with not a bit of it being from toe erosion. It would be difficult to pick a better place to show visitors the failure of the geotube installation short of walking the beach itself, which we recommend in any case, to understand the dynamics of Sankaty Bluff.

You can see more and larger photos on Nantucket Erosion at http:www.nantucketerosion.com

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The patch where the grass is worn away shows the location of the viewing pen before its retreat.

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The pen’s new location, while offering greater safety, prevents those inside from seeing the collapse of the bank virtually at their feet.

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To see the unabated erosion, these men have stepped in front of the pen.

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Approaching the edge is to be discouraged, as the increasingly vertical bank could lose large chunks suddenly. 90° is not Sankaty’s natural angle of repose!

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The cottage “Swept Away” looks to be running out of land and out of time. The split rail fence will not stand much longer.

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SBPF’s outdated photo accompanying the announcement of their successful appeal of the ConCom’s decision looks considerably different than this, a more common view.

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The concrete footings at right were exposed only to the first crack one year ago. That represents about an 8′ loss in that time. Neither building remnant was visible from this vantage point then.

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The face of the bluff below “Swept Away” in January of 2014. A fairly straight edge.

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January 5, 2015 sees a radically altered face. The runoff from the top and face has cut deeply into the bluff, the cut becoming wider as it does so.

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The cuts on either side of the cottage threaten to isolate it.

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Different colors indicate different materials as Sankaty itself rapidly retreats.

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The geotubes? They’re still there and still exposed while the bluff disintegrates from above.

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We wish all our readers and collectors a peaceful and prosperous 2015.

(Go Cowboys and Patriots!)

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Mass DEP has issued a ruling favoring the SBPF on the Sankaty Bluff geotube issue. Although evidence and opinions were submitted in time for the September deadline, this ruling was held until today, making it difficult for appeals to be made over the holidays when everyone is on vacation. This kind of tactic should not be allowed by an institution that exists to serve the people.

Money can destroy a beach but it cannot create one naturally. Our beaches are being covered by geotubes, jute bags, snow-drift fences and sea walls in a futile attempt to stop the ocean. This will be the anti-environmental legacy that will be left by the SBPF.

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The bluff sustained considerable damage once again after the recent nor’easter. Plantings and netting were destroyed at one section, large amounts of the bluff dropped to the geotubes and the runoff once again was prominent.

You can see more and larger photos on Nantucket Erosion at http:www.nantucketerosion.com .

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The Nantucket High School Whalers football team enjoyed a great comeback year under new head coach Brian Ryder, ending as Mayflower League Small School Champions with a record of 8 wins and 3 losses. High school football may be much the same in most parts of the country, but how many teams must board a boat for a 2½ hour ride for away games? It’s all part of being a player or a fan on Nantucket.

Although they started with a 7 game winning streak, the Whalers were hampered by injuries to several key players late in their season, winning 1 out of the last 4 against their toughest opponents.

The links below will take you to a presentation of our photographs of the 2014 season. They are best viewed on a big screen! The videos loop, but stop playing when you scroll past them. You can scroll through the smaller images or you can click on them to enlarge. A second click will reduce them to their original size. You can also click to enlarge and then use your arrow keys to advance through all  at that size. On mobile devices, tapping on the small images will do the same, and swiping the screen will take you through the collection.

Nantucket Whalers – Part One.

Nantucket Whalers – Part Two.

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The Whaler defense waits for the play near their end zone.

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The Sankaty Bluff and the SBPF’s adjacent geotube installation endured some 24 hours of rain immediately before Thanksgiving, with bluff and installation showing greatly different results. The tubes, recently redressed after suffering huge losses of sand from the envelope covering them, survived the weather with only a short section again exposed on the north end. The bluff itself did not fare nearly as well, with sediment and vegetation washing away or dropping in chunks down to the top of the tubes. As more of the bank washes away, it becomes increasingly evident that the damage comes from rainwater pouring over the edge and out of the face below the surface. Much of the fine sediment finding its way to the bottom is of a strongly contrasting color and texture, making it easy to see the source and follow its path.

More and larger photos are on Nantucket Erosion.

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 The edge of the bank retreats around the SBPF’s viewing pen at the former site of “Bluff House”.

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This spot is particularly vulnerable because of the relatively uncompacted fill used in the old foundation hole. The cut gets wider week by week.

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The fine sediment coming from the face of the bluff spreads north and south as it reaches the top of the geotubes. A large clump of brush and dirt finally let go and slid to the bottom.

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The viewing pen and the nearby cut as seen from the beach. The observer lends scale to the extent of the erosion.

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The gray swath below the edge of the bank becomes more obvious as time goes by. The swath is sediment that oozes from the face, presumably from the wetlands across Baxter Road. There are other places like the one pictured above where the flow is strong enough to form a stream as it goes down the bank.

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One can see the material flowing away from the bank.

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This clump of brush held on for months before finally being undercut by the runoff.

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The above photo was posted on February 8th, 2014. It shows plumes of unpermitted sand dumped over the side next to and in front of the cottage “Swept Away”. The stain on the sand envelope covering the tubes proves that the runoff will run under anything applied to the face, continuing to erode it.

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This is the same location on Thanksgiving day, less than 9 months later. None of the sand gone from this area was taken by wave action or toe erosion.

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Yard after cubic yard of pit sand has washed down to the top of the tubes. The flat face of the eroded sand shows where a machine cut into it while filling the numerous voids and crevices that carved through the installation.

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The gray layer of fine sediment is easily seen approximately 10′ from the top of the bank. Also easily seen is the path that the oozing material is taking to reach the top of the envelope.

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There were three concrete footings hanging over the edge here until recently. Some time in the last several weeks one of them dropped half way down the face. It can be seen  as the diagonal line under the foot of the photographer.

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The north end of the structure is the first part to feel the effects of wind and waves. The recently redressed envelope is already shedding sand, exposing the second layer of tubes. The jagged edge near the top reveals a 6″ drop in its cover.

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Another photo from February 8, 2014. This is the slope on the face of the sand envelope as shaped by the original contractors. It’s obviously shallower than the angle of repose of the sand plumes and bare bluff behind.

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This is the angle created by those who recently dressed the structure. It’s very steep, beyond the natural angle of the sand on the bank, and more of an abrupt obstacle to any waves that make it that far up the beach.

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It’s interesting and instructive to observe the differences in the photo above and the one below, both taken Thanksgiving day, 2014. The photo above shows the natural condition of the bluff with no engineered structure at its base. The one below is typical of the bank along the entire length of the geotube installation.

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The prodigious amounts of sand, soil and sediment were not the only things washed away from the Sankaty Bluff after last night’s high winds and heavy rains. The notion that the geotubes below provide any protection from the chief cause of the bank’s erosion is forever stripped of its logic. The dramatic changes to Sankaty Bluff could never be missed by anyone observing the place for the shortest of time. The most casual of observers would recognize that considerable amounts of Baxter Road real estate are running down toward the sea. Nevertheless the proponents of the geotube installation,  ostensibly undertaken to halt the decay of the bluff, sing its praises as an unqualified success even as the narrow strip of land in front of the remaining structures disappears. Touting  ivory tower engineering, making vague references to science and citing Massachusetts environmental law while declining to address the obvious causes of the bluff’s erosion is absurd on the face of it. While the greatest cause of damage to the bluff was plain to see long before last night’s rain, it is screamingly obvious today: it is runoff from the top. That is Sankaty Bluff’s plain truth. What is to be inferred from this apparently willful avoidance of fact? It may be that the nearly 900′ length of geotubes is no more than a straw man attempting to get his foot in the door in pursuit of an approval for the much longer rock revetment. Otherwise one would expect dismay over the failure of the geotubes to have any effect on the erosion. If the goals are to merely gain legal sanction and set precedent, it makes sense that so little attention is paid to the real dynamics of the bluff.

More and larger photos are on Nantucket Erosion.

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The morning after the storm shows a heavy accumulation of rainwater on the east side of Baxter Road.

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The former site of “Bluff House”, with standing water near one of the largest and deepest cuts into the bank.

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Dark sediment from the bank colors the top of the geotube envelope and the many fissures carved into it by the runoff.

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ConCom Commissioner LaFarge inspects the damage done by the water pouring from the top of the bank. Note his boots stuck deep in the mire.

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Standing water remains on the face as fine sediment oozes from the bank below the surface adjacent to Baxter Road.

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The vastness of this erosive cut and the number of fissures in the installation below show the effects of this and other rains.

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The cut to the north of cottage “Swept Away” has dropped a huge amount of material to the top of the tubes.

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While the installation may interrupt the flow of sediment, it eventually makes its way over and through the sand envelope on its way to the remaining beach.

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Two things are clear from today’s photographs. One is that there is a remarkable variety to the types of sediment coming from the bluff, the other is that great volumes of material are coming out of the bank that were not merely laying on the exposed face. What is happening within the bank when this material flows outward? Cubic yards of materials no longer under the surface of house lots or the road itself? Ever-widening wetlands? While it’s certain that a lot of the bluff face is dropping, it does not account for all that accumulates below.

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The pedestrian access to the top of the geotubes.

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The geotubes’ sand envelope ravaged by rainwater.

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The 4″ PVC pipe intended to handle the runoff that caused this chasm was deformed by a landslide during the storm.

We are expecting high winds this afternoon and night coming from the southeast. I made a trip in the rain this morning and will go again after the high winds to assess the situation.

More and larger photos are on Nantucket Erosion.

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There is a saying among those who love the outdoor life – “Take only photographs, leave only footprints”.  What will your legacy be on Nantucket? Will you leave its shores in their natural, wild state or will you forever change our beaches to try to save what can’t be saved?

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How we would love to see our beaches left – with only contrails and footprints as a reminder that someone was here.

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How the SBPF and some of our board of selectmen think our beaches should look. This beach would make any redneck proud – it has an elevated dirt road and a dirt on-ramp.

 

Which beach will we leave for those who come after us?

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Fog on the moors, a huge moon and clouds, – the view from Bean Hill.

Click on the thumbnails to see the larger photos.

 

 

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