A blustery day! Surf, rocks, hidden reefs and memories of ship wrecks

The remnants of Hurricane Ida are headed our way  – and they kicked up a ferocious northeast wind well in advance. As we walked Gooseberry yesterday in this near gale and I saw the waves breaking over distant rocks – it was near low tide – I thought of how mariners of a century or two ago must have given this little island a wide berth. More on that – with pictures – in a moment.  On a cheerier note,  Bren and “the kids” found it tough to even stand on the southeast beach – well, Bren and Higgins anyways. Eliza seems to be saying: “Bring it on!”


The bay they saw from this vantage point was as angry as I’ve ever seen it. Here’s the view looking north towards East Point. There are usually some gentle, low roller sint his area, but not the angry white caps and breakers you see here. On the west side of the island this would be fairly common – on the east side, quite unusual. And just a few days before I walked the whole perimeter in 60-degree weather that felt more like July than November!


Click image for larger view.

Not much in the way of bird life. Most everything was hunkered down, I guess – though Bren spotted a Surf Scoter real close to the  causeway as we headed out to the parking area. I stopped and got out of the car and was just in time to get a shot of him/her flying away. What is obvious  – and helps with the identity even in flight – is the the very black body and wings and the very orange bill.


There wasn’t much wave action in close on the ocean side – it was all on the other side of the causeway.  Still, once we got to the top of the first hill it was obvious the wind was kicking up the surf in the ocean as well amnd in a very interesting pattern towards the southwest end of the island.  I could see waves breaking at different points well off shore and I took some pictures so I could check them against charts when I got home.  First up, though, is a picture from the south using the telephoto and showing the waves breaking over Hen and Chickens  rocks which are well off shore, due south of the island.

The white line you see out beyond the rocks is the waves breaking at Hen and Chickens – made famous in 1908 when the U.S.S. Yankee went aground on Hen and Chickens and stayed trapped there for 10 weeks  – eventually sinking.


Click image for larger version.

The Yankee was originally a passenger liner, launched in 1892, It was brought into the Navy during the Spanish American War and used as an auxiliary cruiser armed with 5-inch guns. In 1908 it was a Navy training ship. It grounded on Hen and Chickens in dense fog, was held fastfrom September to December, then was finally pried loose, but sank a short distance away in Buzzard’s Bay. Here’s the picture of the Yankee aground on Hen and Chickens. You can read it’s story on our Gooseberry history page.


Click the image for a larger view and you should be able to see the Yankee south of the island - and it was an island then - no causeway.

An old friend and Westport native once told me that the lumps of coal I see from time to time on the eastern beaches of Gooseberry came from some ship sinking there a long time ago. I’ve often wondered if they came from the Yankee. But I can well imagine many ships found the waters around Gooseberry treacherous. Just look at this picture taken from the small hill just south of the parking lot. The view is to the southwest and if you click the image to get a larger view, you’ll clearly see several sets of waves.   The nearest ones are just the normal breakers, in this case moving towards the east and hitting the rocky beach. But look beyond them in the center and you see breakers indicating the positions of rocks well off the island known as S W Rock, Little S W Rock and Hicks Rock.

sw_and_hicks rocks

Clcik image for larger view.

When I switched to a normal lens, looking in the same direction, I got this panorama which includes breakers over another complex of rock and ledges over to  the right (west) identified on my chart as Browing Ledge.


Click image to get large version.

The island has become deserted lately – not simply because of the storm, but because of approaching winter. I haven’t seen any warblers for weeks and just a few wintering shorebirds – fall mirgration appears to be over. The last of the Monarchs have all headed for Mexico.  Still, there is a wild loveliness in the landscape. I found this tangled patch of Bittersweet berries particularly attractive with the breaking sea in the background.


Click image for larger view.

Bitter sweet indeed! A good summary of the state of the island on this day.

(Oh – the hurricane. It was nothing, Just some rain and a bit more wind today than usual. It was all fragmented and spent by the time it got this far north. This is awfully late in the season even for the remnants of a hurricane.)

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2 Responses to A blustery day! Surf, rocks, hidden reefs and memories of ship wrecks

  1. Maggie says:

    Oh, lovely pictures! The bittersweet is very pretty. There’s a whole tangle of it coming over my fence from the neighbor’s yard. I never cut it because I know how pretty it will be in the fall.

    I didn’t realize that Gooseberry was once an island! Did they build the causeway? Is it a bridge? Now I can’t picture it.

    • Greg Stone says:

      Thanks. Yep, Gooseberry was an island that you could reach by wading at low tide. The causeway was first built in the 1920s I believe, then built for real during World War II to support the military facilities on the island. You can read all about it in the “geography” and “history” links at the top of the blog – in the banner. Mor epictures there too.

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