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Changing Shape of the Cape & Islands: Chatham’s Monomoy Islands and Stage Harbor

The Changing Shape of the Cape & Islands: Chatham’s Monomoy Islands and Stage Harbor, Cape Cod Life, April 2017 | capecodlife.com

South Monomoy, looking North East. Photograph by Paul Andrews (1980s)

The Changing Shape of the Cape & Islands: Chatham’s Monomoy Islands and Stage Harbor, Cape Cod Life, April 2017 | capecodlife.com

South Monomoy, looking South West. Photograph by Paul Rifkin (2016)

In 1958, a severe storm once again separated Monomoy from the mainland, creating a breach between the landforms and making Monomoy once again an island. This rift had a powerful effect on Stage Harbor (8), which connects Chatham’s Oyster Pond and Mill Pond to Nantucket Sound. Prior to the breach, the harbor’s entrance was just west of Monomoy, but after the event strong currents flowed through the new channel, inundating the harbor with sediment. Mooring areas filled in, a Coast Guard boathouse was rendered unusable, and drastic action was called for.

In 1962, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dug a new entrance to the harbor one-half mile to the west of the original—right through Hardings Beach. The dredging material was used, in part, to create Crescent Beach, a man-made barrier for the harbor; the beach curves eastward from the harbor’s new entrance to Morris Island (11).

During the Blizzard of 1978, Monomoy was split in two, creating North Monomoy and South Monomoy.

Over the years, Chatham’s barrier beach, Nauset Beach (12), continued to stretch south-—to the east of North Monomoy. The waterbody that flowed between them came to be called the Southway (13), a windy but navigable passage that boaters could travel to the ocean. “This was a route where boats could travel between the islands,” Keon says. “It was a relative shortcut from Stage Harbor (8) to the Atlantic, in and out of Nantucket Sound.”



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