Here are just a few highlights from our September 2018 trip to Martha's Vineyard.
The Gay Head lighthouse, on the west end of the island, was fitted in 1856 with the first "first order" (the largest type) Fresnel lens to be installed in any U.S. lighthouse. Every fourth panel was later colored red to make the flash pattern distinctive, as shown in this stock photo.
The light was electrified in the 1950's with a pair of red and white parabolic reflectors. You can see the white one flashing here.
The lighthouse was just recently moved back from the eroding cliffs. The stone ring here shows where it used to be.
Turning around in the lighthouse yard and looking down, you can see the cliffs.
But the amazing thing is to walk down to the beach and see the cliffs up close. They are sedimentary layers that formed off the east coast of the continent, and they include fossils from before and during the age of the dinosaurs. That makes them quite unlike the rest of the the island, which is all sediments left by the glacier in the last ice age. Martha's Vineyard marks the terminal moraine of the glacier, and the Gay Head cliffs are earlier layers that were pushed ahead of the glacier and thrust faulted as the layers broke apart and piled up on each other. The fantastic colors (which inspired the name) come from the different minerals in the different clay layers. As you walk around on the beach, you can see the multicolor layers.
In places, you can see dissolved clay running down onto the sand, and in places, slightly damp clay under the sand is soft, like modeling clay.
You can still see the lighthouse from the shore, peeking over the cliffs.
On the other end, the eastern segment of Martha's Vineyard is actually the largely separate island of Chappaquiddick, reached by a pair of 3-car (or, in our case, bike) ferries from Edgartown, where we were staying. (In some years, you can also reach Chappaquiddick along the sand bar on the south edge of the island.)
At that end of the island, we toured the Cape Poge lighthouse. Note that the guy wires slant a bit going up. When this light was last moved back, the helicopter set it down rotated a bit from the plan, and wasn't willing to pick it up again to realign it.
This lighthouse was rebuilt following the plans from an earlier one. The bannister is the only part of the old building that they were able to save.
This is the kind of light that the Coast Guard now uses in small coastal lighthouses, a pancake-shaped LED with a convex focusing lens. This one is solar powered, and controlled by the same kind of light sensor that street lights use.
The balls on top of traditional lighthouses were actually vents for the lantern smoke. If you look carefully, you can see the round vent holes around the bottom of the ball.
There's also a Japanese garden on Chappaquiddick, created by an architect with a love of Japanese culture. It's called "Mytoi", after "my toy".
Back on the Vineyard proper, a portion of what is now the town of Oak Bluffs was originally a Methodist camp meeting, where people in the 1830-50's came from congregations all over New England and lived in tents for a couple weeks in August, with services in a large central oak grove. Each congregation's tent had a canvas divider down the middle, with women on one side and men on the other. Later, families would set up their own tents around the congregational one, and then they began building frame houses, but still on the tent platforms, very close together, and in a highly decorated, gingerbread style. 300 of those houses still survive.
They covered the central field with a huge canvas awning, and they routinely had 5000 and more people attending services. In 1879, they built a wrought-iron-framed "tabernacle", an open-walled building that seats 3000, and that is still used for services and events.
There was plenty of nice nautical scenery. We were there during the annual fishing derby and saw lots of anglers.
But we spent most of our time hiking in some of the many nature preserves, with very pleasant trails.
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