Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Shark Week: What If....? A Cape Cod Shark Attack Fatality

Plymouth, MA
(This is a reprint of a 2011 article we wrote, prior to the Truro and Manomet shark attacks.. beaches were closed after those interactions, but the attacks were not fatal, and the beaches were opened shortly thereafter)

Nature is inexorable. She goes where she wants, does what she pleases, and there generally isn't much you can do about it. Nothing I've ever read leads me to believe that Nature likes humans that much, and the dislike she holds is a sweeping, generalized one.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and she doesn't like those resource-squandering humans getting too comfortable on Cape Cod. So, for reasons we'll never know, she steers some seals our way. The seals love Cape Cod. The water's not-too-warm, there are plenty of bass swimming around for supper, and the beaches have lots of desolate spots for them to wiggle out of the water and catch some rays. 99% of the locals love the seals, who look sort of like pudgy dogs and can be trained to do tricks. Seals, Cape Cod... what's not to like?
Ah, yes... the vacuum. Simple algebra. Seals like Cape Cod, sharks like seals, so Therefore...

Up until a few years ago, Cape Cod wasn't known for her sharks. Just about every show on Shark Week is based in 3 or 4 places: Australia, Florida, California, and South Africa. Cape Cod was never a player in this field. Sure, we have Monster Shark tournaments, but you have to go offshore to get those. Prior to 2005 or so, the most dangerous Great White you'd see in New England was that cheesy rock band with the bitchin' pyrotechnics.
Although Cape Cod never made this list of the 10 Most Dangerous Shark Beaches, they do mention "us" in the first sentence of the article. That's because a 1970s book/movie decided to base itself in a village named Amity that, when they ended up filming it, looked a lot like Martha's Vineyard. Never you mind that the book's Amity was actually off Long Island, and that the book was inspired by a series of shark attacks in 1916 New Jersey.
Even balancing the Jaws fantasy against a popular and informative Shark Week series would leave the impression that a big shark operating just offshore in New England would be a rare thing, and that- if it did show up here- we'd hunt it down, kill it, and eat it. We're the land of Quint, Brody, Captain Ahab, and the Gorton's Motherf***ing Fisherman. I bet Emeril has a recipe for Great White. Problem solved.
In reality, the Great Whites are here. They're literally right offshore. They can and will f*ck you up mightily, even with an exploratory bite. There are probably several dozen just offshore at this moment who are almost the size of the Jaws shark. However, we're not doing anything about it. Quint just stares at his phone in real life Amity, as it's illegal to hunt for a Great White even if someone tries to hire him.
Chatham is our main shark beach, although seals come ashore all over the Massachusetts coast. The great majority of our Great White Shark sightings come off of Monomoy, where most of the seals hang out. It's all good, and all natural.
Unfortunately, that all natural event happens in an area where hundreds of thousands of tourists come from all around to use the beaches. Eventually, someone who looks like a seal in poor light is going to swim by the wrong Great White Shark, and a death will occur.
Sagamore Beach, MA
What happens then?
Make no mistake... Chatham will close the beaches. They close them now, if a shark is even seen offshore. Things are different than in an Amity where you can bully the police chief, and where the town coroner may also own a seasonal business. The newspapers won't call it a boating accident. We'll actually be quite rabid about reporting it. It would be the hottest Cape story since Hurricane Bob came ashore, and would most likely surpass it.
How long Chatham keeps the beaches closed is up to debate. I spent a fine summer afternoon Googling shark attacks and beach closures. San Diego County is a lot like Massachusetts insofar as being an area that seals (and their Great White friends) have recently started hanging around at. After a triathlete was munched by a porker, beaches in the immediate area were closed for 3 days. Beaches beyond that were open, but banned swimming. A bit beyond that, they would just have lifeguards do a face-to-face, we-told-you-so-and-make-sure-your-lawyer-remembers-this warning with anyone they saw entering the water.
A similar event and result went down in Central California after another fatal attack.... 72 hours of beach closings. Hawaii, Florida, South Carolina, New Jersey, and Virginia... ditto.
Translate that to a guy getting chowed off Chatham. Chatham, Harwich, Eastham and Orleans immediately close the beaches.  Hyannis and Yarmouth open the beaches, but allow no swimming. West of that, you can enter at your own risk. North facing beaches may not even ask people to leave the water when the Chatham attack hits the radios.
Beach closings are nothing new. We do it for Piping Plovers, Red Tide, Lightning, and Riptides. People die swimming a lot here, although those are usually more of the Drowning variety than a seized-by-a-leviathan type. As for the length of time a beach is closed, I sort of keep getting back to "72 hours is just about enough time for him to get hungry again" when I think about it.
Our last fatal shark attack was in 1936. A boy swimming off Holly Woods Beach (it's also known as Hollywood Beach, and it's that little number one in the lower left hand corner) in Mattapoisett was grabbed by the leg and pulled under by a 6-10 foot shark. It ripped a 5 pound chunk of meat out of his leg, and the boy died during an amputation in a New Bedford hospital. Colorings of the shark reported by witnesses spoke of a smaller Great White.
Beaches on either shore of Buzzards Bay emptied, although I don't know if they were closed (Editor's Note: They were.). Many articles pointed out that swimming ceased to exist as a recreational activity after this attack. However, time passed, no new attacks went down, and most people forgot about it.
We don't get a lot of fatal shark attacks in Massachusetts. Before the Hollywood attack, our last fatal one near shore (I'm sure a lot of shipwrecked sailors ended up in the belly of the beast, but offshore doesn't count!) was off Scituate in 1830. A Great White jumped into a dory and sank it, devouring the poor fisherman who was rowing it in the process. Prior to that, we had a 1730 attack, where a man was knocked from his boat and devoured by a shark in Boston Harbor.
Swimming was not as big a recreational activity back then, so the chances of a human getting snapped up in Massachusetts surf was very slim before this century, and is still very slim now.
Hyannis, MA
Interest in sharks was high after the 1936 attack, and many were spotted off Chatham and the Islands. They were here then, albeit in smaller numbers. The sharks are also here all year- an 18 foot Great White was caught 5 miles off Duxbury in February, 1938. They are just here in greater numbers now, and they are also here during the present height of the information age.
A fatal shark attack off Chatham today would be a catastrophe. Instead of a boy being snatched off an obscure backwater beach and ending up in a few local papers, imagine a woman devoured 50 yards offshore by a Leviathan while hundreds of people upload the carnage onto YouTube. Imagine it going Viral. Picture every network leading off with the story. Envision the "Where shall we go this summer vacation" discussions afterwards.
We'd be Shark City. Tourism would collapse. Once you chop "Swimming" off the to-do list while visiting Cape Cod in the summer, the appeal of "clam shacks" and "mini golf" would be greatly diminished. Like Quint said, we'd be on the welfare all winter.
There would be some benefits. Shark tourism is nothing to sneeze at. A munching in our waters would sell a lot of t-shirts, send out a lot of charter boats (I should add here that fishing for Great White Sharks was made illegal in 1997), and would get Woods Hole a lot of research grant money. Swimming pool installers would be able to pretty much name their price. These gains would be small when compared to the losses we'd suffer in tourism and real estate values, however.
I actually want to lure a Great White Shark into Buttermilk Bay, trap him there... and then set up a tourist industry by starving him to the point where he'll swim up and do the Funky Chicken for my tourist boat when I drive out on the water and throw some dead seagulls overboard. This may be illegal, and it definitely is illogical... but I have the basic plan in my head if the opportunity ever offers itself. Lemons/lemonade, as my Mother was fond of saying.
I think that property tax assesments would be slow to drop after a fatal shark attack, while real estate prices would plummet. You may be able to rent the Kennedy Compound for $500 a week in August. We would also be easy pickings for rival, nearby tourism spots. "Come To The New Hampshire Lakes: You Stand Very Little Chance Of Being Devoured By A Monster Shark Here!" It's catchy, although it might be tough to work a jingle around it.
Either way, the Bite would be felt by hotels, cottage renters, restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, fishermen, and anyone else who needs those summer dollars. In one bite, we could be transformed from a happening summer resort to a sleepy backwater set of welfare villages.
There's not much that we can do about it, aside from slaughtering the seals and hiring Quint. It's frightening... because, aside from a monster hurricane or a meltdown at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, I can't imagine a worse scenario for Cape Cod's economy than a YouTube video of a fatal local shark attack.
Duxbury Beach, MA

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Shark Week: Historical Massachusetts Shark Attacks

Duxbury Beach, MA, courtesy of MSP

Shark attack.

It's not anything that a rational person worries about. There are some well-worn statistical trends that put it in context, the ones where you are less likely to be eaten by a shark than you are to be hit by lightning, run over by a snowplow, shot mistakenly by a Crip and so forth.

There have been 1974 shark attacks in American waters since 1900. Less than 10% (160) have been fatal. I know this because I am reading the Shark Attack Database, and you aren't... OK, I'll share the link, stop hatin.'

You are twice as likely to be killed by Al Qaeda than you are by a shark. Adam Lanza has killed more people this century than sharks have. Humans aren't a primary or even secondary food source (we're not meaty enough, and our bones make us tough to swallow... sharks aren't built to eat us, although we pass in a pinch) for a shark, and any attack on a human is most likely a mistake.

It does happen, however. It happens right here in Massachusetts. OK, offshore a bit, but in our territorial waters. We're here today to tell you about the times when sharks killed people in our general area.

caught off Duxbury, MA, 1938
I do lack complete information on how many shark attacks there have been in Massachusetts history. I have some good excuses.

One, the Native Americans no doubt lost a few tribesman to the White Death, but their records don't end up in the Google search results a lot. The white man's time running Massachusetts is just a blip on the map when compared to the time it was owned by the Other Man, we'd be like a minute in the day on that clock. There are probably old trees who still think of Plymouth as Wampanoag territory.

The natives did a lot of paddling in the local waters, and I have no doubts that a few of them got a Chomping for it. I can find no records of it, however. There are records of shark attacks in Spanish New World histories, usually on pearl divers. Natives had pollution-free rivers teeming with fish, and didn't need to take to the seas like Europeans did... but they did get dined upon. Those numbers probably build up to impressive totals after a few thousand years.

Another reason my totals are incomplete is because, while fatal shark attacks are always big news, minor ones are not. In the CNN era, every shark attack is national news in a few hours. Back when some 1700s fisherman got maimed off the Gloucester coast, it remained an isolated event. Even if it is big news at the time, it may not enter into historical record.

The mention of fishermen also brings about the question of how far offshore a shark attack can occur and still be counted as Massachusetts. At least one that I will be counting happened several miles offshore. No, your great uncle from Worcester who was on the Indianapolis doesn't count.

A flaw in the numbers (that I'm aware of, there may be more) is that shark attacks are not always framed like Speilbreg movies. Many are simple bites, in cloudy water, at night, by a fish that is gone before you can look. It could be a shark, but it could also be a bluefish, a striper or a score of other fish. That was falsely rumored to have happened on Cape Cod or Dartmouth within the last decade or so, and I don't think there ever was 100% agreement on what bit the guy.

That brings up another dark question. People go to sea and vanish now and then. Can we assume that every shipwreck victim drowned or died of hypothermia? Maybe some of them became meals. How often do you see a case of someone disappearing in the water, someone who was said to be a strong swimmer? Sometimes they just had heart attacks while swimming, but sometimes they didn't...

Here are a few stories we can be more certain about, stories where someone local had to pay the Swimmer's Debt. As Hunter Thompson once said, "Civilization ends at the waterline. After that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top."

A police helicopter searches for the kayak-eating shark off Plymouth, MA


Yes, all shark attack histories of Massachusetts start in New York. We'll also get to New Jersey before this article is over, and maybe North Carolina.

New York and Massachusetts can be far apart culturally, especially when the baseball teams play. That means very little to a fish, however. It's merely a day's swim from Long Island to Cape Cod, and all of you people taste the same anyhow.

In 1642, while the rotten apple was still Dutch, word of an English expedition spread to Peter Stuyvesant. Peter ordered his trumpeter, Anthony Van Corlaer, to roust the sleeping villagers. He went down the bank of the East River like Paul Revere, waking the settlers. Upon reaching the northern tip of Manhattan, he decided to swim across to the Bronx.

It was a stormy night, and people urged him to reconsider. Ant was having none of that, however. He then spoke the worst sentence of his soon-to-be-over life, vowing to get to the Bronx to spite the Devil.

You don't get to be the Devil by letting people talk sh*t about you like that, and the Prince of Darkness, if you will pardon the pun, took the bait... the bait being Van Corlaer. Witnesses report seeing "the devil appear in the form of a giant fish," chomp down on the mouthy trumpeter, and pull him beneath the waves.

Another version of the story has Ant letting off a blast from his trumpet as the leviathan grabs him. The blast scares the fish away, but Ant succumbs to blood loss, exhaustion, hypothermia or some combination of the three.

Other versions have him drowning, but those are no fun.

The inlet is now called Spuyten Duyvil... Dutch for "Spouting Devil."

It may have been a Great White, but the East River location also speaks strongly of the possibility of the perp being a Bull Shark. Bull Sharks like rivers, and can make a pretty good claim for the New Jersey attacks that inspired Jaws.

The attack is notable for two reasons. First, it puts a firm dividing line down between Native American and European shark attack histories. Attacks in America enter into the historical record from this point.

More importantly, it proved that American sharks like white meat... and white meat was going to be on the menu in America from now on.

Mashnee Neck, MA


The Shattuck family is well-known in Boston, and they got really well-known in 1730 or so (the exact date is touchy, but the victim had a a kid born in February of 1731) to the point where they still get press today.

The Shattucks had a lovely young daughter, Rebecca. Her charms proved to be too much for a London businessman- Alexander Sampson- to resist. In town for a business visit, he became a resident after meeting the fetching Miss Shattuck. Marriage and children followed.... he cranked 3 kids out of her before she was 20.

Life was good until he took a pleasurable excursion by boat on Boston Harbor. He then went in Boston Harbor when a giant shark swamped his boat. Mr. Sampson couldn't get out of the water, and was devoured. "Ye greate Fish doth fochked up Mr. Sampson," or something like that.

Great Whites have some history of attacking smaller boats with the intent of knocking the people out of them. Boston is within the natural range of the Great White. New England's two alphas had met on the battlefield, and the one with the legs and and hat ended up as lunch.

It was at this point that scientists began to speculate that sharks were somehow offended by fishing. OK, I just made that up.


This one is almost Massachusetts, as Bristol Harbor is just across Mount Hope Bay from Fall River.

A boy swimming off a fishing vessel was snared by a large shark, which took him underwater and vanished before rescuers could arrive.

When the boy's body was found a few days later, it was armless, legless and lifeless. This was 1816, if you're keeping score at home.

I have read about this and a Connecticut attack, and the Connecticut attack may have been someone mistaking this one for the Nutmeg State. Connecticut has had 9 shark attacks in her history, none fatal.

A reason that I feel this case and the CT one are the same is that both cases involved a black child swimming in from a fishing boat. Sharks like people of all colors... although they only take the wings from black people, at least in New England.

Duxbury Beach, MA


Scituate (pronounced sort of like "sit chew it", but not really) has a deservedly fine reputation as a and perhaps the coastliest town in Massachusetts, at least south of Gloucester.

They have fishing, shipbuilding, beachcombing, clamming, surfing and anything else you need to be nautical. They are the go-to town for local news camera crews seeking nor'easter damage shots. Two Scituate schoolgirls chased off a storm of mercenary Brits with a drum and a fife once in 1812, in case you think people are p*ssy down there or anything.

The sea meets the land in a hard way in Scituate, but the action we speak of today went down 5 miles offshore in 1830. This attack is mistakenly called the Swampscott attack now and then, as the ship in question (the Finback) set sail from Swampscott. This is also mistakenly cited for a shark attack 20 miles south of Lynn (by an 1897 account in a Wisconsin newspaper) in some shark attack databases.

Five miles off of Scituate, a guy who was 99.9999% done using the name Joseph Blaney took a small dory away from the Finback to do some small-scale solo fishing. Shortly after, he was seen waving his hat in distress. He appeared to have an injured arm. Help was sent, but before it could arrive, a giant shark was seen lying amidships across his dory. Blaney survived the first attack with an injured arm, but the whole boat was then taken under in a second attack. The boat came back up in a foam, but all of Mr. Blaney that came up was his hat.

These were, as the page I'm stealing this from said, times of wooden ships and iron men, so- naturally- the brother of the victim rounded up a sea posse, returned to Scituate, and hunted down the fish in question. Just to be sure, they caught two Great Whites, including a 16 footer that was too heavy for them to hoist on board.

They dragged the smaller one back to Swampscott, where they let the Blaney widow slap it. It was then taken to Boston, where you and a friend could view it for a quarter until the carcass was dumped back in the sea. In a mistake common at the time, the shark (like any other large shark seen at the surface) was called a Basking Shark.

If you tweak a few details and mix in the New Jersey attacks of 1916, you basically have the complete plot of Jaws. I have a few questions about that I'd like to ask that Peter Benchley fellow... what's that? He's dead? Never mind.

Duxbury Beach, MA


You knew Rhodey was getting back in the mix at some point. Are Eye has had 7 shark attacks, with two fatalities. The non fatal attacks range in severity from "lacerations on thighs and feet" to "overalls torn." Providence, Coddington Cove, Patuxent, Port Judith and Parts Unknown hosted the other minor attacks.

Blood spills in Rhodey, though. In what will prove to be a repeatedly bad decision throughout this article, two guys took a small dory and put a little space between themselves and the larger fishing vessel they were occupying in 1895. One of them- Charles Beattie- then multiplied the risk by going swimming off of the small dory. He came up in distress.

His friend threw him an oar and jumped in to save him. Remember, this was before Jaws (before movies, even), and people didn't instinctively fear sharks. A very literate man at the time may have thought Moby Dick had arrived. The rescuer lost a tug o' war with a human rope to the shark, who pulled Beattie under and got to snackin'.

The shark was never actually seen, but sharks had been captured in the area prior to the attack, and you have to call a duck a duck once it quacks enough.

Weekapaug was known as Noyes Point (a Mr. Noyes was a prominent Rhodey Resident at the time) for much of her pre-20th Century history, and the account often is found listed as going down at "Noyes Point."

Weekapaug is also the source of a Phish song, and the town is referenced on Family Guy now and then.


Maine and New Hampshire have not, according to the Shark Attack Database, had a shark attack in their histories. This includes non-fatalities.

Although both states have cold Atlantic water suitable for Great Whites, they have been safe so far. Cape Cod serves as a barrier beach for them, to a certain degree.

Keep in mind that New Hampshire has like 10 miles of coast, and Maine is inhabited by hardcore lobstermen (and women) who probably don't call a scientist when a shark bites them on the hand. They fix that ish themselves, most likely with random stuff from the boat and sea dog savvy.

Mattapoisett, MA (I went in the winter, sorry for the snow)

This sleepy little town on Buzzards Bay got hit up with a nasty attack in 1936. This attack is often ascribed to Buzzards Bay, which is correct in a body-of-water sense but not in a name-of-town sense. The village of Buzzards Bay is actually on the other side of Wareham from Mattapoisett, but that matters very little to a shark.

The Mattapoisett maiming is, to my knowledge, the most recent fatal shark attack north of Carolina. It took a Dorchester kid who had no idea what shark attacks were and made a historical footnote out of him.

It's good to be famous, generally... unless you're famous for being in the Shark Attack Database. That's bad.

Joseph Troy was swimming out to meet a boat that was off of Holly Wood Beach in Mattapoisett with a friend. Troy was seized by the leg and pulled below. He resurfaced momentarily, unconscious and mortally wounded. He was brought to shore, and sent to a New Bedford hospital. He died during surgery.

Swimming had only enjoyed widespread popularity for a half century or so before Troy was attacked, and that all came to a halt for a while once the details of Troy's attack became known. A chunk of meat "the size of a five pound roast beef" had been torn from his thigh. Troy regained consciousness long enough to let the doctor know that the scariest part was being dragged down into the sea, away from the sun.

This sort of closed the books on shark attacks in Massachusetts for a while.

These stories make me nervous, because the last two fatal shark attacks in Massachusetts went down a bit north of my old house and a bit west of my current one. It's like the damned things are triangulating me.

Holly Wood Beach, Mattapoisett, MA


Massachusetts, and New England in general, had a lull in shark activity after the Mattaposett mauling. Seals had long been an enemy of the local fishermen, and bounties drove down their numbers wildly. With the food source gone, the shark activity lessened in our waters.

The seals have been coming back recently, as it is now illegal to shoot one if anyone official is looking. With the seals come the sharks, and- lo and behold- people are swimming in record numbers this time around. There's a very real chance that Troy was the first human the shark who killed him ever saw. That won't be the case now.

Massachusetts has had several high-notoriety shark attacks recently. We've had 10 shark attacks in our history, and one- 40 miles south of Nantucket- almost doesn't count. A trio have been fatal, and we have already discussed them. The other six went down off Nahant (1922), Rockport (1965), Truro (1996), Chatham (2001, about when the seals started coming back), Truro II (2012) and Manomet (2014). No fatalities went down in these attacks.

Nahant involved a pack of sharks damaging the stern of a boat. A four-foot shark attacked the Rockport victim while he was scuba diving, and he was bitten on the leg. The first Truro attack victim was ridiculed for his report, with locals telling him he was bitten by a bluefish. History vindicated the victim, and the database lists his attacker as a 6 foot Great White. The Chatham attack involved a 14 foot Mako slamming into a fishing boat, no injuries.
Duxbury Beach, MA, courtesy of Sara Flynn

Another fish bite wound- off a Dartmouth beach- may have been a shark, but it doesn't make the database. It could have been a seal, a bluefish... only one God and one fish know for shore sure, and neither of them are talking.

The second Truro attack involved a Great White sampling the legs of a boogie boarder. People stopped laughing at the 1996 guy right about here. This was the first confirmed attack of the modern Seal era, and a taste of things to come.

The Manomet attack involved a Great White (almost certainly the one seen swimming off of my old Duxbury Beach house a week earlier) knocking two women out of a kayak. The girls had been checking out seals up close, a very bad idea these days. They escaped with a scare, although the kayak had a bite taken out of it.

However, any modern shark attack- even one where nobody was harmed- will surpass the fatal ones of bygone eras in impact. A well-shot video of an attack on a Cape Cod beach would get like 10 billion views, and might fatally wound tourism as an industry on Cape Cod. "We dare you to swim in our shark-infested waters" is hardly a good ad campaign title.

The seals- and the sharks- aren't going anywhere. Experts like Dr. Gregory Skomal fully expect them to diffuse into Cape Cod Bay as the seal population expands. This will put big Porkers off of Duxbury, Plymouth, Bourne, Marsh Vegas, Kingston, Sandwich, Barnstable, Hingham, Scituate, Cohasset, Hull, Quincy, Weymouth and even Boston.

Every town I listed is a popular beach locale, fully stocked with swimming humans. We're very much due for another fatal attack, if you crunch the numbers the right way. Take solace in the numbers, do nothing at all seal-like, and stay alive long enough to read the Shark Week articles we'll be dropping later in the week.

Bon Appetit!

Duxbury, MA, courtesy of the Massachusetts State Police

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What Are Those Lines On The Duxbury Marshes? Theory 2: Mosquito Control

The Great Salt Marsh, east of the Cut River, Duxbury MA

We did a whole article yesterday about the man-made lines in the Duxbury marshes, an article where we thought we had figured out a mystery. Then, a guy on Facebook steered me towards the possibility that I was 10000% wrong, and I became convinced that he and not I was correct as I did additional research.

Now, I'm torn between a mea culpa tone, and just making the old article be about about salt marsh hay. Either way, my man (I'll leave his name out, unless he wants to claim credit) gave me a hella tip, and I got in another few hours of fun research.

Historians have a different definition of fun than most people operate with, I just thought I'd work that in somewhere.

We were blaming those lines in the Duxbury marshes on salt marsh hay harvesting, but then some Old School guy pointed out that he watched canal work being dug in the marshes in the 1950s. He put the focus on mosquito control efforts. The more I read about Massachusetts mosquito control history, the more I knew that he was right and that I had just needlessly wasted 7500 words.

Let's straighten out the mess I caused yesterday with the mess I will create today.

Massachusetts, and Duxbury in particular, have a lot of salt marsh. These marshes fill and empty to some extent with sea water. During a full moon tide, Duxbury's marshes overflow their water into the surrounding neighborhoods. Daniel Webster has writings about the full moon tide encroaching upon his garden.

The marshes fill and empty with the tides, but it is not a 100% complete expulsion of water with the outgoing tide. A lot of water remains pooled in the marsh after the tide recedes, and that standing water is the breeding ground for mosquitos.

"Marshfield Meadows," Martin Johnson Heade
Several things went down around the same time, some involving Duxbury directly and some more national or worldly in scope... and they led up to the marsh getting lined out in this theory which I'm exploring.

First, a series of construction projects made the beaches inhabitable. Chief among them were the construction of a dyke in Green Harbor, the installation of a series of jetties in Green Harbor, and eventually the seawall that lines the beaches.

The dyke changed the course of the Green Harbor River, which used to empty either closer to Duxbury or in Duxbury. Not long after the dyke (1872, I think) and the jetties (1898) went up, cottages began to spring up on the northern end of Duxbury Beach.

The cottages were indicative of a change in American social behavior, as oceanfront recreation became popular. While the aristocracy had been at the beaches for centuries (I doubt that The Great Gatsby bought his oceanfront mansion from a clamdigger), regular folks didn't or couldn't go to the beach for laughs. They didn't even invent swimsuits until society wasn't so afraid of a women's shin being displayed in public.
Bourne, MA

Even after they invented cars and trains, they didn't get around to running highways or tracks down the South Shore until as late as the 1950s. The highways, and the newfound desire to flee the teeming cities, pretty much wrote the check that paid for the Irish Riviera. They also turned Duxbury from a farming community to a bedroom community of Boston commuters.

At the same time, they were building a Canal in Panama. The French had tried, and were losing 200 people a month to malaria. The US took over, and they eventually were able to identify the skeeter vector and nearly eliminate it... granted, with some ugly environmental effects.

The US had their own mosquito problems. Yellow Fever outbreaks happened in New Orleans and Florida, Dengue Fever was going on in the hundreds of thousands from Florida to Texas, forms of encephalitis ranged from California to Cape Cod (Massachusetts lost 38 humans and 200+ horses to something spelled sort of like Eastern Equine Encephalitis in 1938), and it also itches really badly when they bite you.

Mosquito control methods that worked in the former Colombia were imported into the USA, and implemented all across the nation. Some things were simple, like putting screens on your window or using a topical repellent. Others, like the removal of standing water in which skeeters breed, ranges from simple to arduous.

"Simple" means "kicking over buckets that collect rainwater." "Arduous" means "draining 1000 acre salt marshes."

The marshes were formerly very important to local commerce, allowing for settlement to be built. No hay, no cows, no Duxbury. However, the industrial age and the automobile era ended the importance of salt marsh hay. The deathblow was the transition of Duxbury from a farming region to a bedroom community.

So, you have throngs of people moving out of the cities, even just for the summer, and they are moving into Mosquito Village. Fortunately, they were doing so when means to combat mosquito-based illnesses became prevalent. Let's even throw in the added bonus of Great Depression WPA busy work.

Marshfield Meadows (redux), Martin Johnson Heade
Prior to DDT ( I mean the insecticide, not Jake The Snake's infamous finishing move, which was actually named for the poison), the best way they had to fight mosquito infestation was to drain the bogs and swamps and marshes.

This is where we get to the lines in the marsh.

By 1930, 90% of the marshes on the Eastern Seaboard had been drained to some extent. Duxbury, if this current theory is correct, used a method where small channels were dug, all running into tidal rivers and tributaries. In theory, they drain the standing water from the marsh and eliminate the mosquito breeding grounds.

Looking at the picture above, that does seem to be the case. Each line cut in the marsh runs to one of the tidal creeks. It looks like a clear win for the mosquito control theory, as Duxbury hosts one of the largest tidal marshes in the area and would have merited immediate attention from the skeeter control people.

Whether or not they dug out channels that were already in the marsh from the salt hay days, I can not say. The channels may have been cut to irrigate the meadows in the salt hay days (salt hay harvesting also needs the channels for the marsh to drain with the tide, as well as to float the product to the other side of the bay), and then re-dug to drain the standing water that breeds skeeters.

I hope there's not an Option C on the menu, because I've wasted a lot of keystrokes on this topic.

The Great Salt Marsh, Duxbury MA
There were some bad side effects. This was a brutal assault on a natural resource, and all of the Liberal superpowers were used up getting the government to pay for the avoid-starvation busy work.

The mosquito population was blunted. You can still see a mosquito here and there, just not in the numbers you'd expect living next to a thousand acre salt marsh. We should be swarmed. The fact that we aren't tells you a lot about how well it worked.

The drainage did nothing to blunt the greenhead population, nor that of the midgies. Greenheads lay their eggs on land, not in water, and the drainage was like a baby boom to them. The traps you can still see out on the Duxbury marshes are designed to capture the greenheads who flourished after the removal of the competitor skeeters.

The meadow was devastated. God and Mother Nature had sort of agreed on a water/land balance, and the drainage project blew that out of the water. A formerly abundant meadow was now a relatively barren wasteland... still ecologically important, but with far less impact.

Plants accustomed to a certain water level died out. Birds accustomed to mosquito dinners died off. Fish who would feed on the skeeter larvae starved, and the fish who ate those fish starved, and the effects were felt up the food chain to my many fruitless childhood fishing trips in the 1970s.
Duxbury, MA, from Bill M

By in my childhood, other than a few heron and a solitary owl, most of the marsh life was made up of greenheads and horseshoe crabs.

At least one study found that waterfowl, formerly abundant on the Duxbury marshes, had fled the region. It stated that the same area was now "dry, and devoid of birds." While sucking the Marsh out of Marshfield, the project also drove the Dux out of Duxbury.

I did, during my travels, get to West Island in Fairhaven. I saw a similar marsh with a similar to-the-creek channel pattern. The marsh was way too small to work commercially, as it would have fed maybe one horse. It would, however, have bred a lot of skeeters.

As much as I like the salt marsh hay theory, I have to go with the mosquito control theories in the end. I can hack yesterday's article into a salt marsh hay piece.

So, unless someone from the salt marsh hay lobby has a higher bid, I'm going to blame those lines on mosquito control programs from the first half of the 20th Century. 

I'd also blame the out-of-context mud flats which dot Duxbury Beach on the mud-dumping from these insect control programs. The engineers dumped the mud they dug out for the channels over the dunes and onto the beach, where it wouldn't seep back into the freshly-dug channels with the next flood tide.

The mud flats could also be the result of the Green Harbor channel dredging, that's a mystery for another day. For all I know, the whole of Duxbury Beach is a marshy mud covered by centuries of washed-down sand. Our mud flats may just be those trying to assert themselves.

We still love the Salt Marsh Hay people, however. We'll end with a pic of them in their faithful gundalow, bringing home the bacon rakin'......courtesy of the Duxbury Rural And Historical Society.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What Are Those Lines on The Duxbury Marshes? Theory #1: Salt Marsh Hay Harvest

The Great Salt Marsh, east of the Cut River, Duxbury MA

At some point, even the anti-geekiest of us is going to get on those Internets and Google Map their neighborhood. God's view of anything is fun to have, or even that of a high-flying bird or low-flying airplane. You get to view humans as you normally view bugs, making sense of terms like Alien Ant Farm and so forth. Taking a funny view of atheism for a tangent, views like this would be given as proof if God and Allah were arguing over whether humans exist.

We all geek it up for different reasons. My sister has seen this picture, which actually has a lot more ocean in it if you zoom back some. She owns property there, and her first thoughts on seeing the picture were of how vulnerable the coastline is against the sea. It's really only a thin strip of land, and it goes totally underwater every few storms.

A military-minded friend of mine named the Colonel was shown the same pic, and commented on how Cable Hill would be the key to defending the region against an amphibious assault. A nightclub owning friend of mine marvels over the ease of which The Coolest Bar In Massachusetts could be constructed there. A realtor I know said that she "could get $750k for a single-hole outhouse" in that region, which made me feel badly because my current house in/on Buzzards Bay isn't much more than a single-hole outhouse. I only dropped $135K on it.

My own thoughts, upon zooming in enough, were that there is no name for the little river that breaks off the Cut River and runs alongside Marginal Road, and that I should look into having it named "the Steve River" if I ever wield enough influence. I have a tendency to Think Big, which my shrink tells me is proof of my delusions of grandeur and why I should take those pills she gives me. F*ck her.

Another friend of mine- who is a bit crazier than me, to the point where she sold her house and moved into the woods prior to the didn't-happen 2012 Planet X pole shift- put her focus on a different aspect of the photograph, and that is what we'll discuss today.

There are a series of grid-like cuts made in the marsh, all over it, visible from space if Space zoomed in a lot. They are obviously man-made... or maybe not so obviously.

She thought it was Alien Writing, a big caption on this part of the planet that spoke an unknowable message. It was a fun conversation, trying to guess what they'd be marking off here.... "Mostly Harmless," "Irish Riviera," "Take Off Wrapper Before Cooking," "This Space For Rent" or "My god invented this stupid universe and all I got was this lousy knoll."

The big difference between us is that she went home convinced that she was right, while I just felt a little guilty about sleeping with crazy people. Hey, the son also rises, right?

I did take an interest in those lines. You know when you get just interested enough in something to wonder about it, but not interested enough in it to ask an authority? I was that interested.

It's more fun to think up solutions without scientists and historians messing up the fun. I came up with:

- Fish Trapping Device, where they block off the channels at high tide and sweep towards the shore.

- Pilgrim or Wampanoag drainage projects.

- Duxbury Beach as Venice, maybe for cooler Wampanoags.

- Aliens with huge sticks playing Tic Tac Toe on the Earth with city-sized markings.

- Notes from God to himself for an unfinished earth-construction project, a la "Remember to put Mount Gurnet about right here."

- Great Depression busy work swamp-drainage project.

- A totally natural explanation, like burrowing horseshoe crabs or something.

- 1950s mosquito control standing-water drainage, which is actually as good an explanation as anything I have. I have people on Facebook saying they saw some of those canals being dug for skeeter control in their childhoods.

Discussing mosquito control will be tomorrow's work. They are the most likely source of the grid lines, but I actually had more fun reading about the salt hay industry.

I stumbled into Salt Marsh Hay in this article..

The marsh that stands between Duxbury Beach and Duxbury Proper is full of salt marsh hay, which I shall no longer capitalize. It is of note because salt marsh hay is much more nutritious than regular hay is. I suppose that it is because the salt marshes get all the soil runoff from rivers emptying into the estuary, which superpowers our soil there like when Barry Bonds gets into the steroids.

Basically, if you were trying to grow hay in Oklahoma or some inland state, and you brought in an army of workers and scientists to help the process along, you MIGHT grow hay as well as it pops up naturally, unaided and untended, in some Swamp Yankee salt marsh. Even then, unless you diverted the course of a few rivers and imported tons of ocean marsh mud, you wouldn't get the nutrition content of salt marsh hay.

This fact is of very little importance in 2015, as we don't take horses everywhere. It was very important in 1815, when we still did. Horses need hay, and high-powered hay makes for high-performance horses. It probably also helps cows and sheep, I have no idea. I was born in Dorchester, and Farmer Brown I am not.

Duxbury was a big shipbuilding town, and- other than the wood, of course- those shipbuilding supplies don't grow on trees. You have to ship them in, or drag them in via horse/oxen/mule. Those livestock gotta eat, and they favor hay.

Duxbury Beach was as backwater as it gets before people took up oceanfront recreation in the late 1800s. Pictures of the trans-Atlantic cable coming ashore in the 1860s show a deserted beach. Cottages didn't spring up there in any great number until the highways going South from Boston were built. Duxbury itself faded into backwater status after the shipbuilding era and before becoming a bedroom community, and Duxbury Beach was even less cosmopolitan.

Cable Hill (and perhaps the whole Duxbury Beach region, maybe or effectively) was originally known as "Rouse's Hummock," because some guy named Rouse put a farm out there. If you're the only guy who lives in an area, the locals tend to name it after you. That's how isolated it was on Duxbury Beach back in the proverbial Day.

However, the marshes provided economic activity, with reverberations that were felt throughout the whole South Shore. People got paid to harvest that hay, the hay went to horses that made money for other people, and the ships built during that era touched every corner of the globe map.

A gundalow, in action... (pic courtesy of the Duxbury Rural And Historical Society)

It looked like pretty hard work, running the hay harvest. The marsh has no trees, so you're working in direct summer sun. The light colored hay and the water around it reflect sunlight, thus increasing the heat on the workers. The horseflies are ridiculous out there, even worse than on the beaches today. You had to be out there early, as the hay had to be harvested "before the dew was dry." You were stomping through clamdigging marsh mud. You were swinging a scythe in a scene that must have looked very much like Soviet farm propaganda videos. If you sit down, the seat of your pants will be soaked in foul-smelling mud... quite literally soiled. You also had to get everything done before high tide.

They would scythe the hay down, bale it up, and then load it onto a gundalow, which is a little flat bottomed boat that is run out to larger vessels (or across the bay to the shore) for shipping. The gundalow part of the shipping was later replaced by horses and oxen. The livestock had to wear wooden shoes to keep from sinking into the marsh mud.

As for the mud flats on the beach, I have a pretty good theory. When they were digging the channels, the mud they removed would just seep back into them with the next high tide if they didn't put some sort of barrier between the salt marsh and the dumped mud. They took it over the dunes and dumped it on a then-unused and uninhabited Duxbury Beach. Out of sight, out of mind.

I'm guessing that the density of the mud held it in place, even when hurricane waves were washing over it. Other than some flattening, the mud lays where they dumped it. The little mud flats run out south of around where the bath house is today, as that is where Duxbury Bay takes over from the Great Salt Marsh.

A law passed in 1965 made it illegal to mess around even a little bit with these salt marshes. That law, designed to prevent developers from filling in marshes and making Duxbury into a Division 1 sports town, officially ended the salt marsh hay harvesting era that effectively ended in the early 1900s when cars moved horses off of the roads. The gas station became the new haystack. I'm pretty sure that the law covers the kind of activity that is necessary to harvest salt marsh hay. I'd bet that dumping mud on the beach and forming a 200 year old perma-mudpuddle there is also illegal now.

However, you can trot out on the Great Salt Marsh and still get a pretty good idea of how things used to be, getting down and dirty in the boggggggggggggggs.

Heck, you may even see some beauty in it.

Matin Johnson Heade was a famous painter, and he specialized in Salt Marshes. While he never sketched up Duxbury, he does have one hanging in the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester NH entitled "Marshfield Meadows." Someone who isn't from Duxbury- like Heade- might not recognize that most of that marsh is Duxbury. Heade did paint a few Marshfield shots, so maybe he was more local than I'm giving him credit for.

The one showing a thunderstorm heading for the marsh sure looks a lot like the view from the marsh about where I think the Steve River should be, and that's Duxbury, not Marshfield. Pretty close to exactly, actually.

Either way, our little marshes did make it on to some museum walls, always a good thing.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Centre Does Not Hold: Rotaries In Massachusetts

Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts

What is a rotary? What is a roundabout? What's the difference between them?

Basically, all of them are intersections that direct both turning and through traffic onto a circular, one-way road. Yes, I pasted that from Wikipedia.

The basic ideas behind rotaries are:
- simplifying the driver's visual environment
- allowing visual engagement
- encouraging deference to pedestrians
- reducing driver confusion
- allowing U-turns within the normal flow of traffic
- lowering idling and braking episodes, leading to less pollution and lower engine/brake wear
- lessening the need to brake, thus lessening the need to accelerate, thus saving fuel and lowering emissions
- lowering traffic noise associated with other intersections where cars have to stop fully
- eliminating perpendicular, T-bone crashes
- lessening gridlock associated with stoplight-style intersections.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Rotaries have been around longer than cars have, and had their start in Europe. At least one was operational in England in 1786, presumably for horses. Why, that there Arc de Triomphe in France is built with a roundabout. Older roundabouts have different entry and operational methods than modern ones... but since they're in Europe, we can just skip right over that, right?

Half of the world's roundabouts are in France, while the UK has the most as a proportion to roads. France, which is about the size of Texas, has 30,000 roundabouts. If the Nazis believed in yielding to rotary traffic, WWII might still be ongoing. Rotaries became popular in America, and many were built as Great Depression busy work.

I'm not sure what we have on Cape Cod. The definitions get sort of touchy. For starters, "rotary," "roundabout," "traffic circle" and "road circle" are all listed as synonyms in American dictionaries.  Massachusetts people all use the wrong term, as our "rotaries" require people to yield to the traffic in the circle, thus making them, technically, "roundabouts."

However, our roundabouts often have an interior lane, which makes them rotaries.

A rotary by any other name still acts like a roundabout. It's like most things in life.... what is SUPPOSED to happen isn't always what DOES happen.

Buzzards Bay, MA
Rotaries and roundabouts were adopted fom the European model into the United States in large numbers in the early-mid 20th Century. By the mid 20th, they were also being removed in large numbers. Those presentations where they tell you that rotaries are safer and more efficient often match up poorly with the reality of wild collisions and LA-style traffic jams in small towns.

Pretty soon, only Massachusetts had roundabouts remaining in any great number. Wikipedia has two lists of notable American rotaries... one for America, and one for Massachusetts.

Sullivan Square in Charlestown? That's a roundabout. Same goes with Neponset Circle in Dorchester, Old Colony Rotary in Southie, the 18/28/44 rotary with the Friendly's in Middleboro... you get the picture.

Harvard Square, which you think would be square, has a roundabout. Hall's Corner in Duxbury is a roundabout, even though I'm pretty sure that circles don't have corners. I smoked a lot of dat cheeaba in high school, and there's a chance that I was staring at leg when someone was teaching me the geology or whatever it was that you need to know  when thinking about stuff like that.

Maybe all of those stories about crazy Boston drivers are wrong, and we are the only drivers in America skilled enough to handle rotaries.

Yeah, I don't believe that either.

Duxbury, MA
Maybe we're too overcrowded and/or cheap to replace rotaries. It can be done, but said rotary has to offend a powerful man like Mitt Romney. Mitt had or has a Cape place, and wasted a lot of time that he could have been using to vulture-capitalize some poor business stuck in the traffic that preceded the Sagamore Rotary going onto Cape Cod.

Rotaries almost always laugh last in these situations, unless the Mitt Romney in question became Governor of Massachusetts. Buh-bye Sagamore Rotary, hello Sagamore Flyover, total cost = $50 million.

But worry you not... the Bourne Bridge has TWO rotaries, so everything balances.

Sagamore was jammed before the Flyover, and Sagamore is jammed after the Flyover. Bourne, which carries half of the traffic Sagamore does, suffers less. In 1991, when Hurricane Bob stormed at Cape Cod, there were 20 mile backups at the Sagamore Rotary. I've also seen traffic backed up from Sagamore to at least Exit 6 on Route 6 at 11 PM during typical Sunday night summer fleeing.

Rotaries were a great idea on Cape Cod back when we were 20,000 farmers and fishermen. Our population is 200,000 now, and it doubles on summer weekends. Buzzards Bay, which has 3000 souls or so on any given day, has megalopolis-level traffic twice a weekend for June, July, August and parts of September. People who live in Boston or Brooklyn dread driving through here.

Buzzards Bay, MA
There are Rules to the roundabout, which are on the books somewhere and can be accessed online. These come from government agencies, and work just fine.... in theory.

There are also Methods to a roundabout. These are taught to you by motorheads, well-sited gas station attendants and other locals. We'll get to those in a moment.

Here are the official rules, from the Massachusetts RMV:

Rotary Traffic Rules

Traffic travels counter-clockwise in a rotary. Always yield the right-of-way to vehicles already
in the rotary (unless told differently by signs or police officers) and to pedestrians. Use your
turn signals in the same way as any other intersection. Travel through the rotary and, when
you are ready to exit, use your right turn signal.

Choosing a Lane
If the rotary has a single lane, you must enter from the right lane of the road you are
coming from. You must exit onto the right lane of the road you intend to travel on.
If the rotary has multiple lanes, look for signs to help you choose the proper lane. If there
are no signs, you should do the following:

• For a quarter-turn, or to continue straight ahead, enter the rotary from the right lane.
Stay in that lane, and exit onto the right lane.

• For a three-quarter-turn, or a U-turn, enter the rotary from the left lane. Travel through
the middle or inner lane. Exit onto the right lane. If coming from a road with a single
lane, you should stay in the right lane for the entire turn.

In a multiple-lane rotary, there may be traffic on both sides of your vehicle. Do not attempt
to move out of your lane until it is safe to do so. If you miss your exit, don’t get upset.
Check the traffic around you. If it is safe to do so, go around again and position your vehicle
to properly and safely exit the rotary.

Do not stop in the rotary.

Bourne/Wareham line, MA
In reality... well, let's talk to a few experts, shall we?

Our experts in this case are:

1) A desk clerk at a rotary hotel. He is here because he, more than perhaps anyone on Cape Cod, must explain rotaries to people from out of state.

2) A police officer from Duxbury, a town full of old people which has (relatively) recently put a roundabout up at an intersection that had been a normal cross intersection since Myles Standish rode over it.

3) A guy who has been pumping gas at a Cape Cod rotary for 20 years, with a clear view of all the mayhem and a clear mind with which to remember crash stories.

4) A math teacher who is good with numbers and formulae.

5) A few expert drivers in niche fields, i.e. trucker, biker, chronic speeder, guy who drives in a demolition derby now and then...

Rather than to attempt to impose any order on this, I feel it would be best to hit you in a sort of stream-of-consciousness manner. I'm going to end the article with this, as little I can say will top the wisdom you can gain from these quotes from the experts.


Hyannis, MA
"The problem is layered, but simple. Massachusetts is the only state with extensive rotary use. Cape Cod is a tourist area, and attracts out-of-state people. They all meet in the rotary.

People are pulling into that rotary who have no idea what a rotary is, or even what a ROUNDABOUT AHEAD sign means. They are meeting up there with the only people in America who truly understand how to drive in rotaries... the locals.

The locals know that the only rule in the rotary is Make Your Own Law. Yes, the people who know rotaries the best have a tendency to work them aggressively, which goes poorly with the more tentative approach used by the tourists."

"The best way to work a rotary is by viewing it like stealing second in a baseball game. Take a slight lead, pick your spot, and explode into the gap. Drive THROUGH the target, just like sliding into the base. Never stop once you commit.

 If you are driving a big rig, you want to work more along the lines of how goal-line offenses are run in the NFL. Lower your head, power straight through, and count on Physics. "

"Once you are in the rotary... never surrender the outer lane. If someone crashes into you trying to get to Rte 28 from an inner lane, it's their fault."

"Drivers will always yield to things that can crush them."

"Massachusetts drivers blast into the rotary without stopping. New Yorkers do the same, but they do so without looking. Connecticut drivers are sort of an amalgamation of the worst traits of both. Everyone else in the country is worse, save for people from NASCAR states, who sort of get the idea... unless it snows."

"We had an old guy from Nebraska who coudn't get into the rotary, abandoned his car at the merge, sought me out and asked me, in a Nebraska/old guy manner, 'WTF?' I ended up pulling out into the rotary length-wise, blocking traffic so that he could get onto 28 South. I don't know what happened to him after that."

"I saw a guy drive around the rotary 4 times, pull into my station, and ask which exit the f***ing tunnel was off."


"We had a lady turn left into one, but I managed to block the lane and get her to stop before she killed someone."

"Don't set out to wreck somebody, but don't be afraid to."

"It is better to Cause the impact than to be impacted upon. Ideally, your rear end will be hitting his driver-side door.

"If you cause an accident and have to flee for some reason, you can do a U-turn off the Bourne Bridge by taking one of the non-28 exits and looping under the Bourne Bridge. People will be pointing the cops west while you're appearing (and then disappearing) on the east."

"Yóu can stomp the gas pedal to the floor for about 4 seconds and not be technically speeding in most non-modified cars, as long as you use the 28 exit off the rotary instead of the Trowbridge Road one."

"Using turn signals in a rotary is akin to aiding the enemy in times of war."

"People entering a rotary are vulnerable to being T-boned on the driver-side door. You should remember this, plan for it, and take advantage of it whenever possible."

"If you have a large set, you can skip the rotary by cutting through the State Police barracks. They love it, especially when you do wheelies."

"If you really have to throw your coffee at another car in the rotary, make note of what lane you are in. If you're in the outer lane throwing at a car in the inner lane, you have to lead him a bit or you'll soak someone innocent driving behind the targeted vehicle. If you're in the inner lane, you have to actually throw across your own windshield."

"Never complain to a Massachusetts cop that they don't have rotaries where you live. It encourages contempt."


"Old people who don't get to this side of town much tend to just plow right through the roundabout when coming up Rte 14. Some are even aware that they are refusing to yield at a roundabout, and say that they can do so because they were here before the roundabout was. It's nice to see someone putting the 'grandfather' back into 'grandfather clause.'" 
Bourne, MA


"Europeans, who you'd think would be better at roundabouts, instead are shocked to see one in America, especially if they have visited a few states and assume no that America has no roundabouts. Instinct takes over, and the English ones are very prone to taking a left into it. I see it happen about once a summer."


"If you think the police are going to pull you over for something, get into the rotary and refuse to exit. The cop will think you're a tourist, and may even run interference for you just to get you out of his territory."

"Only drive over the island as a last resort. Re-entry will be hazardous and you'll be operating from a disadvantage."

"The guy with the Missouri plates is going to drive broadside across the 28 South rotary exit without leaving the rotary, as sure as the sun will set tonight."

"Rotary clubs tend to meet in square rooms."

"I just want it on the Internet somewhere that they should have put the tugboat in Buzzards Bay into the middle of the Belmont Circle rotary. Since they already screwed up that, they should seek to acquire another tugboat.

If your rotary doesn't have something cool and distinctive in the middle of it, your rotary sucks."

"A large truck is perfectly within the law using both lanes of the rotary, and they are also allowed to use the shoulder with impunity."

"Very few fistfights break out at rotaries, as it is difficult to pull over in one. You can also be edged out of the rotary by a near-miss. You might have to turn around in Pocasset to catch and fight someone who pissed you off at the Buzzards Bay rotary."

"Almost all skidding in rotaries during snow events involve the back end sliping out and veering to the right. This can be capitalized upon to make fast exits. Remember to turn into the skid, it will align you properly."

"If you cause an accident, never stop in the rotary. Direct the other driver into a safe area, allow him to enter first... then once he commits, stay in the rotary and flee at high speeds. Even if he gets back out fast, he'll never catch you."

"If you have the outer lane, you can give the other driver the finger more efficiently. If you throw the bird out the window from the inner lane, the other guy won't see it, and the only ones who will be impressed are those CAPE COD bushes."

"If they ever run a NASCAR race across Cape Cod, the rotaries would be the best part. We might need a 3rd and 4th generation of Earnhardts, especially if it snows"

"If you are going really, really fast (slightly above 761 mph), you can stay in the rotary, honk your horn, and catch up to the sound. If you want to give yourself the finger and see yourself doing it, you have to go into the rotary at like 671 million mph."

Bourne, MA

Movies with rotaries include:

European Vacation,

The Great Escape,

The Dukes Of Hazzard,


and just about anything with James Bond, Bridget Jones or that Transporter dude.