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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.

256 news items


Sat, 30 Apr 2016 10:15:00 -0700

"In areas of the northeast U.S. -- where coyotes have migrated since the 20th century -- the animals have colonized the Elizabeth Islands of Massachusetts," NatGeo reported. So how long will it take some of the resident coyote populations in New Jersey ...

Cape Cod Wave

Cape Cod Wave
Wed, 27 Apr 2016 07:03:11 -0700

“There's nothing blocking the view of sunrise to the east over Nantucket Sound. And the view to the west for sunset is lovely over the Elizabeth Islands and Woods Hole Passage.” “Beyond that, there are many people for whom lighthouses are special for ...

Martha's Vineyard Times

Martha's Vineyard Times
Wed, 20 Apr 2016 12:40:42 -0700

One hundred years ago Penikese Island, the smallest of the Elizabeth Islands, was home to a leper colony, where people with a stigmatized and misunderstood disease were sent to die. Soon, Penikese Island will be home to an inpatient drug-rehabilitation ...

The Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard News

The Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard News
Mon, 04 Apr 2016 12:52:30 -0700

Mr. Madden, whose district also includes Nantucket, parts of Falmouth and the Elizabeth Islands, served as a legislative liaison in the State House for 10 years before his election in a three-way race to the seat long held by Rep. Eric Turkington ...


Mon, 04 Apr 2016 08:43:23 -0700

Democrat Dylan Fernandes launched his bid for Massachusetts state representative with a progressive platform “growing small businesses, promoting environmental stewardship, and fighting for social justice,” an optimistic message from a young Falmouth ...
Cape Cod Times (subscription)
Wed, 13 Apr 2016 13:48:45 -0700

A U.S. Coast Guard crew from Station Menemsha on Martha's Vineyard rescued an injured fisherman Tuesday night near the Elizabeth Islands. The Coast Guard received a report at 8:30 p.m. from the captain of the Ocean Boy, a 74-foot fishing boat out of ...

The Weekly Review (blog)

The Weekly Review (blog)
Tue, 22 Dec 2015 23:53:19 -0800

Sandstone and Elizabeth islands both have $5 million-plus price tags. They can be accessed by helicopter or boat and will be marketed to wealthy musicians, artists and tourism developers. Paul Bird, the head of policy and communications at the Real ...

The Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard News

The Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard News
Thu, 31 Mar 2016 16:06:34 -0700

Another important consideration is the increase in lone star ticks on Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands, since lone star ticks also depend on deer for their life cycle. At the moment, with the exception of a few hot spots, lone star ticks are ...

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