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Nautical Chart C, from the Elizabeth Islands to Chatham

Time Lapse & Cape Maps

With the Cape’s rich maritime history, nautical charts have long been an essential part of life on the ocean. Zaremba says the federal government took charge of creating chart maps in the 1840s because of its responsibility for establishing lighthouses and Humane Societies—the shacks staffed by vigilant townsfolk that would rescue shipwrecked mariners caught between lighthouses. In addition to federal chart makers, locals took part in charting the waters. The maker of this map, George Eldridge, was a Chatham native. Born into a long line of fishermen, Eldridge was injured as an adolescent. Unable to carry on his family’s fishing legacy, he decided to make nautical charts since he thought the federal charts lacked key details that traveling fishermen needed. Eldridge frequently included folksy designs and useful notes on his chart maps: for example, to the northeast of Sandy Neck, Eldridge noted “this bar is liable to change,” and he scrawled the words “Fishing Grounds” over the area north of North Dennis.

Time Lapse & Cape Maps

This nautical chart is one of a series that Eldridge produced chronicling the region between Long Island Sound and Maine. “The Eldridge maps were made in association with the Eldridge tide book that [many boaters] still carry with them,” Zaremba says, nothing that the tide book contains a table that tells the reader what the tide will be at any time during the year. Eldridge also sold smaller maps and books that shared crucial information for mariners arriving in a new port, such as how they would go about entering the harbor, mooring their ship, and where to make necessary repairs.

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Ashley Owen is a freelance writer and former editorial intern for Cape Cod Life Publications.

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