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Poseidon’s fury is Liam’s fate

Nauset Beach

Nauset Beach still retains its allure. Photo courtesy of Trevor Murphy

The tasty treat was so popular, in fact, that throughout the peak months of July and August it wouldn’t be unusual to sell over 425 pounds of rings every single day.

During this period, Nauset Beach embodied 1965’s “Summer Wind,” like painted kites, golden sand and blue umbrella sky (casual and carefree). That same year, “Beach Blanket Bingo” was released, the most popular of the beach-genre movies showcasing youthful exuberance and newfound freedoms (safe but suggestive). Nauset was always—and continues to be—alluring to both the Sinatra and surf demographic.

Things were mostly serene during the 1970s and 1980s. The Orleans Recreation Department actually hosted its own overnight camp-outs, two miles south of the main beach. Twice a summer kids became little Thoreaus and Bestons.

But on August 21, 1973, attention turned away from frolic and fun.

Several dozen people nearly lost their lives in the water off Orleans, as a violent rip current had materialized suddenly, without warning. With human chains failing, rescuers were summoned from neighboring towns along with Coast Guard amphibious rescue craft and helicopters. The massive effort went on for hours. Of the 50 to 60 swimmers caught in the current, only one died, later at Cape Cod Hospital. The incident was the catalyst to bolster summer lifeguard skill sets and for what became the Cape Cod Lifesaving Competition, an annual event still in existence today.

The Coast Guard was also called when the Maltese freighter Eldia ran aground on Nauset Beach in March 1984. The late William P. Quinn, local nautical historian and photographer, wryly observed in “Cape Cod Maritime Disasters,” “Today, a wreck on the beach brings an avalanche of sightseers. As a result, local cash registers ring loud with tourist dollars.”

The ship was featured on television newscasts all over New England. Conveniently, the freighter lay in the sand about a mile from the beach parking lot. So, Eldia was readily accessible to the large crowds until she was pulled from the shore 49 days after the forced landing. “Local entrepreneurs made a killing selling souvenirs to the tourists; post cards, t-shirts and coffee mugs were among the many different items on the market,” recalled Quinn.

For the last 30 years, much conversation regarding the Great Beach has been about environmental fears. Many cite the arrival of more frequent and ferocious storms as evidence—despite the fact that the last hurricane to hit Cape Cod was Bob in 1991. Others point to the appearance of great whites and gray seals, a relatively new phenomenon. Still, more believe that global climate disruption has manifested itself in tangible and powerful ways here and now. Not next century.

But nature—like the gods—arrives on its own cue and operates on its own cycles.

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