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The Elizabeth Islands, off the coast of Massachusetts
Satellite image of Elizabeth Islands and Martha's Vineyard
The Elizabeth Islands
Major Islands listed in order from east to west
Nonamesset Uncatena Naushon Pasque Nashawena Penikese Cuttyhunk
Minor Islands:
Bachelor Baret Bull Cedar Gosnold Gull Rock Veckatimest Weepecket Islands

The Elizabeth Islands are a chain of small islands extending southwest from the southern coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the United States. They are located at the outer edge of Buzzards Bay, north of Martha's Vineyard from which they are separated by Vineyard Sound, and constitute the town of Gosnold, Massachusetts in Dukes County. All of the Elizabeth Islands except Cuttyhunk and Penikese are privately owned by the Forbes family.[citation needed]

The islands were claimed by England and named after Queen Elizabeth I.[1] In 1641, Thomas Mayhew the Elder of Watertown, Massachusetts, bought the islands (along with Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard) from William Alexander, the Earl of Sterling. Before the creation of the Province of Massachusetts Bay in 1691, the islands were part of the extinct Dukes County, New York. The total land area of the islands is 34.55 km² (13.34 sq mi) and there was a permanent population of 86 persons as of the 2000 census.

Named islands[edit]

Stretching south-west from land's end at Falmouth, Massachusetts, the islands are:

  • Nonamesset Island, the closest to the mainland
  • Veckatimest small island.
  • Uncatena Island, uninhabited as of the 2000 Census
  • Naushon Island, 5.5 miles (8.9 km) long and the largest. Composed of the main island and small uninhabited Bull Island. Owned by the Forbes' Naushon Island Trust, and while it is not generally open to the public, the Forbes family has set aside Tarpaulin Cove to the south and Kettle Cove to the north as well as Bull Island and Hadley's Harbor to the northeast for public enjoyment including picknicking.
  • The Weepecket Islands, three small, publicly accessible islands north of central Naushon owned by the Forbes family. These islands offer very few places to land, are nearly obscured by water, and are home to numerous shore birds, seals and other animals.
  • Pasque Island, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long, owned by a subset of the Forbes family, and covered in poison ivy. A shallow tidal creek cuts part way through the island.
  • Nashawena Island, 3 miles (4.8 km) long, owned by another subset of the Forbes family, it has grazing livestock.
  • Penikese, located about 0.5 miles (0.80 km) north of Nashawena and Cuttyhunk. Penikese is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and has a colorful history. It was the site of a groundbreaking 19th-century research facility that was the precursor to the famed Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, was the site of the state's only leper colony in the early 20th century, and is currently a bird sanctuary and site of the Penikese Island School, an innovative, 35-year-old school for troubled teens.
  • Cuttyhunk, farthest west in the chain, and home to most of Gosnold's municipal population. Like Penikese, Cuttyhunk is not owned by the Forbes family, and therefore much of the island is publicly accessible.

Named channels and harbors[edit]

Channels with strong tidal currents, known locally as holes, separate the islands from each other and the mainland. Currents of up to 6 knots (11 km/h) are driven by the different sizes and filling rates of Vineyard Sound to the southeast and Buzzard's Bay to the northwest. At high tide, water flows from Buzzards Bay to the Vineyard Sound. Near mid-tide the water stops and reverses, filling the Bay at low tide.

Listed in order away from Falmouth, the named channels are:

  • Woods Hole separating the mainland from Nonamesset Island
  • Robinson Hole between Naushon Island and Pasque Island
  • Quick's Hole between Pasque Island and Nashawena Island
  • Canapitsit Channel between Nashawena Island and Cuttyhunk Island.

Cuttyhunk Harbor is sheltered on its east by Nashawena Island on its west by Cuttyhunk Island and on its north by Penikese Island.


  1. ^ "Visiting the Elizabeth Islands," North American Review 5 (15) (Sept 1817), 313-324 [1](accessed July 7, 2009)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°28′30″N 70°46′00″W / 41.475°N 70.7667°W / 41.475; -70.7667

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Islands — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
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191 news items

Fall River Herald News
Tue, 23 Jun 2015 08:09:37 -0700

Gosnold is the town that covers the Elizabeth Islands, including Cuttyhunk. The Fall River rate was eighth of the 351 cities and towns in the state. Lawrence was fourth at 8.5 percent, Springfield, 8.2 percent, Wellfleet, 8 percent and New Bedford 7.5 ...
The Denver Post
Fri, 26 Jun 2015 03:30:29 -0700

4. The Laptev and East Siberian Seas are located along the northern coast of which continent? 5. The Greater Antilles and the Queen Elizabeth Islands are part of which continent? 6. Niger, a country with one of the world's fastest growing populations, ...

Martha's Vineyard Times

Martha's Vineyard Times
Wed, 10 Jun 2015 14:28:56 -0700

She and her boyfriend took on a job as caretakers on one of the Elizabeth Islands in order to give themselves the time and freedom to pursue their separate passions. Mr. Benns is busy building a boat of his own design, and Ms. Whelan is finally able to ...
Nunatsiaq News
Fri, 26 Jun 2015 08:31:49 -0700

That is why we were not allowed to select lands in most of the Queen Elizabeth Islands as Inuit Owned Lands per Article 19 of the NLCA. I am sure most southern Canadians knew little about the arctic in the 1950's. The same is true of Inuit about the ...
The Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard News
Thu, 04 Jun 2015 11:08:17 -0700

The first floor entry level is open, from kitchen to living room with fireplace providing views first of the gardens and landscaping, then to and over Paul's Point, Lambert's Cove, Vineyard Sound, the Elizabeth Islands, Tarpaulin Cove, and to Woods Hole.
Clarence Valley Daily Examiner
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 21:01:10 -0700

Come along and hear about the work being done to restore and protect this valuable environmental asset in Grafton's own backyard. The Susan Island Remnant Lowland Rainforest Restoration project has been working to rehabilitate high conservation value ...
The Providence Journal
Thu, 21 May 2015 20:56:15 -0700

Each has its a unique personality, from Block Island with its touristy downtown, sandy beaches and fabulous bicycling to remote Cuttyhunk, at the end of Massachusetts' pristine Elizabeth Islands, with its famed hill walk and spectacular views. Here are ...


Fri, 15 May 2015 20:22:30 -0700

Construction of the current lighthouse was completed in 1865 to help ships navigate around the Elizabeth Islands, once consider some of the busiest and dangerous shipping lanes in the country. "The lighthouse was the reference point that mariners had ...

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