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The Elizabeth Islands and Martha's Vineyard, 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.[1]

The islands were claimed by England and named after Queen Elizabeth I.[2] 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, a 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:

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


  1. ^ Gabel, Sue. "The Elizabeth Islands". USA Today. Retrieved 2015-07-26. 
  2. ^ "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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Martha's Vineyard Times

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Tue, 24 Nov 2015 08:18:45 -0800

The U.S. Life-Saving Service was organized later, in 1878, as a separate agency, but the station for the Elizabeth Islands out at Canapitsit was not built until 1889. In the meantime, lifesaving was carried out jointly by the local men of the ...

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Mon, 23 Nov 2015 07:33:45 -0800

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Press Herald

Press Herald
Sun, 08 Nov 2015 01:04:00 -0800

It was inspired by a visit to Naushon, one of the Elizabeth Islands north of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Suzanne MacDonald, community energy director at the Island Institute, delivers boxes of LED lightbulbs to a home on Matinicus Island. The ...

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Tue, 17 Nov 2015 19:00:00 -0800

The island of Nantucket was one of early America's greatest success stories. With profits pouring in from the lucrative whaling industry, Nantucket fostered a society that would appear strikingly unusual today and downright peculiar by Colonial standards.

The Providence Journal

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 ...

Clarence Valley Daily Examiner

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 ...

Cape Cod Times (subscription)

Cape Cod Times (subscription)
Sat, 26 Sep 2015 23:11:15 -0700

The emergence of a lone star tick population on Chappaquiddick is a troubling addition to what some scientists say are recently established lone star communities on Sandy Neck in Barnstable and on the Elizabeth Islands. Biologists say property owners ...

New York Times

New York Times
Wed, 29 Jul 2015 13:20:19 -0700

The 1.5-mile loop trail winds through mostly wooded terrain with glimpses of blue through the beech trees as you approach the spectacular view across Vineyard Sound and the Elizabeth Islands. You will also find a site on the Vineyard African-American ...

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