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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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186 news items

Cape Cod Today

Cape Cod Today
Wed, 25 Mar 2015 21:24:54 -0700

Forty-nine days later after cruising along the coast of Maine, Gosnold and his 32-sailor crew landed at the island at the foot of what eventually became known as the Elizabeth Islands. Whether Gosnold named the site Elizabeth Island after his wife or ...

CapeCod.com News

CapeCod.com News
Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:10:53 -0700

The second fastest-growing county in the state is Dukes County, which grew just under 1 percent. Dukes County encompasses the island of Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands, which includes Cuttyhunk. Plymouth County is also in the top five with ...

Martha's Vineyard Times

Martha's Vineyard Times
Wed, 25 Mar 2015 15:52:30 -0700

The plant is known to exist in only three locations: the town of Sandwich, the Elizabeth Islands, and the Gay Head cliffs, according to the NESP web site. Also known as feverwort or wild coffee, the plant produces bright orange berries that can be ...

The Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard News

The Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard News
Wed, 25 Mar 2015 14:56:17 -0700

The Trustees also hold conservation restrictions for an additional 23 properties on the Vineyard and the Elizabeth islands. In all, their holdings provide protection for 5,600 acres county wide. The Farm Institute, by comparison, is much younger. It ...

Martha's Vineyard Times

Martha's Vineyard Times
Wed, 11 Mar 2015 15:25:31 -0700

As his three-man crew made final adjustments on their survival suits, Chief Riemer briefed them on their eight-mile trip due east to Cuttyhunk, the southernmost island in the chain of Elizabeth Islands that make up the town of Gosnold. Earlier in the ...
Fall River Herald News
Wed, 11 Mar 2015 08:26:50 -0700

Nashawena Island, part of the Elizabeth Islands chain and in the town of Gosnold, MA, is located less than ten miles from the mainland at Westport's Horseneck Beach area, and thus protected from the elements, largely by Martha's Vineyard, and to some ...
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 ...
New York Times
Fri, 03 Aug 2012 09:40:49 -0700

THE Elizabeth Islands — 16 land hops trailing southwest of Cape Cod like expertly skipped stones — are often overlooked. Fourteen of them are the property of the Forbes family and another, Penikese, is a former leper colony and now a sanctuary for ...

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