Walking about after dinner

Walking about after dinner
Laughing on the dock at Nantucket

VCS Students at Starbuck Cottage

VCS Students at Starbuck Cottage
VCS Students at Starbuck Cottage

Friday, May 25, 2012

From the students:  An overview of highlights from Nantucket.

Best Memory:
  • Friends and biking
  • My favorite part was learning about the buildings.
  • My favorite part was getting to spend time and make friends with people I don't normally hang out with!
  • My favorite part was the incorporation of education, the beach, bikes, People's Court, and bonding with students and leaders.
  • Eating candy and watching movies.
  • My favorite part was playing Frisbee on the beach and talking with the group.
  • My favorite part was playing pool with my friends.
  • Everything.  Maybe there should be a little less biking.  It felt nice afterward, but at times my legs were killing!  But I pushed myself and got through.
  • My favorite part was hanging out at the beach.
  • My favorite part was watching scary movies with the other kids.
  • The trees on the "safari."

Cool Thing that I Learned: 
  • The Titanic had two identical "sister" ships; one blew up during WWI due to a sea mine, and the other sunk the Nantucket Lightship.
  • The whaling industry employed a majority of Nantucketers.
  • A ship named the Essex was attacked by an enraged Sperm Whale.
  • The island of Nantucket is constantly being eaten away by the tides and storms, and in 400 years, there will be no Nantucket!
  • I learned that Nantucket is a semi-small island that can be biked in a day!
  • More people lived on Nantucket at the height of the whaling in 1850 (15,000) than today (9,000).
  • Nantucket was the biggest whaling port in the world during its heyday. 
  • Nantucket isn't in Kentucky.
  • Whale hunting is cool.  Small whale boats are launched from a whale ship, and after harpooning, chasing, and killing the whale, whalemen had to slowly row the whale back to the ship, at one mile per hour at times!  The whole outing could take 30 hours.

Day Four:  Thursday, May 24th

And on the fourth day they biked.  We biked to the Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum then out to "Sconset," the eastern tip on Nantucket Island.  We then biked back to Surfside, across from the former  life-saving station, where we're lodging.  It's now a youth hostel.  You can check it out here.  The trip out on the Polpis Road/bike path was definitely the most scenic part of our bike trip; we had a nice view of the Sankaty Lighthouse, which was slightly shrouded in fog.  Click here to see more Nantucket light houses

The Lighthouse was a great follow-up to what we learned at the Lifesaving Museum.  There have been over 700 documented shipwrecks in the surrounding waters of Nantucket, and we learned about the early efforts to save sailors at sea and the transformation from  Click to enlargeThe Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1786) to the US Coastguard. 
Click here to read more about the Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum

 We watched a film about the "No Name" storm of 1991, called the "Perfect Storm" elsewhere, and we learned about the treacherous shifting shoals.   We had great guides, natives of the island, who regaled of tales of famous shipwrecks  and daring rescues missions.  For example, the sister ship of the Titanic, the Olympic, sank the Nantucket Light Ship, stationed at one of the most dangerous shoals, 15 miles out to sea Read about a this shipwreck here.  We also learned about the "buoy breeches," which helped many a doomed sailor to safety.  Check out more info about shipwrecks here.

We had a gorgeous ride to Siasconset, a small village at the eastern end of the island.  While on a break for ice cream at the small general store there, we were informed that we would be made fun of if we pronounced the town Siasconset, since the locals all call it "Sconset."  Pretty funny.
As we left town, we posed for a picture next to Starbuck Cottage, the ancestors of George Starbuck, our wonderful board member.  We loved your island, George!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day Three:  Wednesday, May 23rd

After a dense morning fog, the sun emerged!  We saw the ocean in all its blue-green turbulent glory.  Despite the fog, we got onto our bikes at 9, and met Clair at the Quaker Meeting House.  Keeping with tradition, the boys sat on one side of the aisle, and the girls sat on the other.  Our students had great questions.  We learned that the settlers of Nantucket were, in part, escaping the confines of Puritanism in the mainland settlements.  However, after sending many an itinerant preacher packing, Mary Coffin Starbuck was moved to convert to Quakerism after hearing John Richardson speak to a group of Nantucketers in her living room.  As with most of the business that occurred on Nantucket, she was very influential.

At the end of an hour, we tried to be Quakers and sit in silence.  It took a few tries, but we managed to resist the giggles for a full two minutes!

Quaker Meeting House Website

After leaving the Quaker Meeting House, we hopped on our bikes and rode out to the Bartlett Farm (a different Bartlett family), had lunch, and were given a tour of the largest farm on Nantucket by president of the farm, John Bartlett, a sixth-generation Nantucketer and childhood friend of Adam Bartch's.  John showed us the wind mill he constructed in 2009, the impressive tomato green house, and flower operation.  His farm also runs a gardening supply, store, and market on site, which produces lots of salads and goodies for those heading to the beach. 

After thanking John for being so generous with his time, we biked home in the sun and spent some time in at the beach.

Bartlett Farm Website

Day Two:  Tuesday, May 22nd

At 7 am, gentle sheets of rain were gently rapping at our windows.  All day, the weather has been fickle, on and off, rain and fog.  We've opted to not head out on bikes, and instead we drove down to the Nantucket Whaling Museum. 

We spent the morning learning about the whaling history of Nantucket, which hit its zenith in 1850.  A main attraction of the museum is the skeleton of a Sperm Whale, which is suspended over a gallery where we watched a film on the history of Nantucket.  The skeleton is not a replica; in fact, we learned that this whale washed ashore in 1997. 

Here's some history:  The forty-six foot bull whale died on January 1, 1998 after floundering for two days in the surf off the eastern end of the island. Since it was a holiday, scores of islanders flocked to Low Beach at 'Sconset to catch sight of the creature. Photographs of the day reveal hundreds of people lined up beyond the cordoned-off whale. "It's such a rich Nantucket story," said Parker. "It was the sperm whale that put Nantucket on the map. During the height of Nantucket's whaling era, men left the island in droves to hunt this whale; because of it the island enjoyed the reputation of being one of the most prosperous ports in America during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It's not a stretch to say that because of the sperm whale the island continues to attract international attention as a visitor destination."
Click here to go to the Nantucket Whaling Museum

After learning about the early settlers on Nantucket, their Quaker conversion, and Mary Coffin Starbuck's role in its culture and economy, we watched a second film about the epic whale hunt and the tragedy of the Essex. 

All in all, visiting the Nantucket Historical Society was an excellent introduction to the island and its history.  We met Claire White, an educational outreach instructor, and she and Ben worked out another tour for tomorrow.

Back to the house for walks on the beach and tacos for dinner.  The rain and fog hasn't deterred us from flying kites and taking a dip in the surf!
Day One: Monday, May 21st
A day of travel, beginning with an early departure from VCS at 6 a.m. and including a ferry ride from Hyannis at 1 pm.  We arrived at the ferry dock in Nantucket at about 3 pm with no major sea sickness to report!  Nantucket is an island frozen in time.  It happened inadvertently when the whale business dropped off suddenly in the second half of the 19th century.  Almost every house is adorn with faded gray shingles, and the these islanders seemed determined to blend their houses into the foggy landscape!