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Gosnold becomes the first recorded European to see Cape Cod15.5.1602

Wikipedia (09 Apr 2013, 11:41)

Cape Cod is a cape in the easternmost portion of the state of Massachusetts, in the Northeastern United States. Today it is co-extensive with Barnstable County, and is defined by the towns along the Cape Cod Canal, and those to the east on the peninsula all the way to Provincetown. Several small islands right off Cape Cod, including Monomoy Island, Monomoscoy Island, Popponesset Island, and Seconsett Island, are also in Barnstable County, being part of municipalities with land on the Cape. The Cape's historic and maritime character and ample beaches attract heavy tourism during the summer months.

Cape Cod was formed as the recessional moraine of a glacier, resulting in a peninsula in the Atlantic Ocean.

In 1914, the Cape Cod Canal was cut through the base or isthmus of the peninsula, forming what would technically be described as an island. The Cape Cod Commission refers to the resultant landmass as an island; as does the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in regards to disaster preparedness.

Cape Cod is one of the biggest barrier islands in the world, shielding much of the Massachusetts coastline from North Atlantic storm waves. This protection erodes the Cape's shoreline at the expense of cliffs, while protecting towns from Fairhaven to Marshfield.

Road vehicles from the mainland cross over the Cape Cod Canal via the Sagamore Bridge and the Bourne Bridge. The two bridges are parallel some four miles apart, with the Bourne Bridge to the west, and the Sagamore to the east. In addition, the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge carries railway freight as well as passenger services.


History

Cape Cod was a landmark for early explorers. It may have been the "Promontory of Vinland" mentioned by the Norse voyagers (985–1025). The Manomet River area (taken up by the western end of the Cape Cod Canal in the early 20th century) is claimed by some to have been visited by Leif Eiriksson, and a stone wall discovered in Provincetown in 1805 is also claimed to have been built by his younger brother Thorvald Eiriksson around 1007 AD, when according to Norse sagas, the keel of his ship was repaired in the harbor. He was killed later in the same journey, and is said to have been returned to this spot for burial. However, there is no tangible support of the presence of Norse voyagers in Cape Cod, and the view is not generally accepted by archaeologists or historians.

Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524 approached it from the south. He named Martha's Vineyard Claudia, after Claude of France, the wife of Francis I of France. In 1525, Portuguese explorer Estêvão Gomes, sailing under the Spanish crown, called it Cabo de la Arenas.

In 1602 Bartholomew Gosnold named it Cape Cod, the surviving term and the ninth oldest English place-name in the U.S. Samuel de Champlain charted its sand-silted harbors in 1606, and Henry Hudson landed there in 1609. Captain John Smith noted it on his map of 1614, and at last the Pilgrims entered the "Cape Harbor" and – contrary to the popular myth of Plymouth Rock – made their first landing near present-day Provincetown on November 11, 1620. Nearby, in what is now Eastham, they had their first encounter with Native Americans.

Cape Cod was among the first places settled by the English in North America. Aside from Barnstable (1639), Sandwich (1637) and Yarmouth (1639), the Cape's fifteen towns developed slowly. The final town to be established on the Cape was Bourne in 1884, breaking off from Sandwich. Provincetown was a group of huts until the 18th century. A channel from Massachusetts Bay to Buzzards Bay is shown on Southack's map of 1717. The present Cape Cod Canal was slowly developed from 1870 to 1914. The federal government purchased it in 1928.

Because of early colonial settlement and intensive land use, by the time Henry Thoreau saw Cape Cod during his four visits over 1849 to 1857, its vegetation was depauperate and trees were scarce. As the settlers heated by fires, and it took 10 to 20 cords (40 to 80 m³) of wood to heat a home, they cleared most of Cape Cod of timber early on. They planted familiar crops, but these were unsuited to Cape Cod's thin, glacially derived soils. For instance, much of Eastham was planted to wheat. The settlers practiced burning of woodlands to release nutrients into the soil. Improper and intensive farming led to erosion and the loss of topsoil. Farmers grazed their cattle on the grassy dunes of coastal Massachusetts, only to watch "in horror as the denuded sands 'walked' over richer lands, burying cultivated fields and fences." Dunes on the outer Cape became more common, and many harbors filled in with eroded soils.

By 1800, much of Cape Cod's firewood had to be transported by boat from Maine. The paucity of vegetation was worsened by the raising of merino sheep that reached its peak in New England around 1840. The early industrial revolution, which occurred through much of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, mostly bypassed Cape Cod due to a lack of significant water power in the area. As a result, and also because of its geographic position, the Cape developed as a large fishing and whaling center. After 1860 and the opening of the American West, farmers abandoned agriculture on the Cape. By 1950 forests had recovered to an extent not seen since the 18th century.

Cape Cod became a summer haven for city dwellers beginning at the end of the 19th century. Improved rail transportation made the towns of the Upper Cape, such as Bourne and Falmouth, accessible to Bostonians. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Northeastern mercantile elite built many large, shingled "cottages" along Buzzards Bay. The relaxed summer environment offered by Cape Cod was highlighted by writers including Joseph C. Lincoln, who published novels and countless short stories about Cape Cod folks in popular magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and the Delineator.

Guglielmo Marconi made the first transatlantic wireless transmission originating in the United States from Cape Cod, at Wellfleet. The beach below the bluffs where his station was located is now called Marconi Beach. In 1914 he began construction of a new transatlantic wireless receiver station in Chatham and a companion transmitter station in Marion. In 1920 the stations were acquired by RCA, and in 1921 Chatham began operations as a maritime radio station communicating to ships at sea using the callsign WCC. WCC supported the communications of Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes, Admiral Byrd, and the Hindenburg. Marconi chose Chatham due to its vantage point on the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded on three sides by water. Walter Cronkite narrated a 17-minute documentary in 2005 about the history of the Chatham Station.

Much of the east-facing Atlantic seacoast of Cape Cod consists of wide, sandy beaches. In 1961, a significant portion of this coastline, already slated for housing subdivisions, was made a part of the Cape Cod National Seashore by President John F. Kennedy. It was protected from private development and preserved for public use. Large portions are open to the public, including the Marconi Site in Wellfleet. This is a park encompassing the site of the first two-way transoceanic radio transmission from the United States. (Theodore Roosevelt used Marconi's equipment for this transmission.)

The Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port was President Kennedy's summer White House during his presidency, and the Kennedy family continues to maintain residences on the compound. President Grover Cleveland maintained a summer home in the Gray Gables section of Bourne. Other notable residents of Cape Cod have included actress Julie Harris, US Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis, figure skater Todd Eldredge, composer and radio personality Canary Burton, and novelists Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut. Influential natives included the patriot James Otis, historian and writer Mercy Otis Warren, jurist Lemuel Shaw, and naval officer John Percival.


   
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