One of our favorite stops on Cape Cod is Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, part of Cape Cod National Seashore. The last time we were here was in May of 2009 and we were a little startled by how much of the sand scarp had eroded away since then. We knew the Cape had been hit hard by severe storms the past few winters but somehow we still weren’t prepared for how much of the bluff was now missing.
The Marconi Area obtained its name from the famous Italian inventor, Marconi. From a site here, Marconi successfully completed the first transatlantic wireless communication between the U.S. and England in 1903.
Here, the outer beach is famous for its then steep, forty-foot sand cliff (or scarp) located behind it. Swimmers and beach walkers feel a sense of solitude here because the scarp and ocean provide an unbroken, pristine natural scene in all directions.
The uplands above the beach slope gradually westward, and provide a graceful vista of both the bay and sea horizons of this portion of the Cape. A platform above the Marconi station site enhances this view, and offers vistas southward to Eastham, and northward to Truro.
The Marconi operation at this location was initiated by the young inventor in 1901. However, in December of that year, due to a number of setbacks, he had to use temporary facilities on St. John’s, Newfoundland to prove his theory – wireless could cross the Atlantic! Meanwhile, a new station was built in Nova Scotia while repairs were being made to the Wellfleet station, and the first two-way, transatlantic wireless message was made at Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, on December 17, 1902. Not long after, the Wellfleet Station was ready, and on January 18, 1903, Marconi staged another world’s first (and a bit of a media event) by successfully transmitting messages between the president of the United States and the king of England. With rapid advances in technology, the station became outdated in a matter of a few years, and was replaced by a newer station in Chatham, Massachusetts.
~ Cape Cod National Seashore website
All of these pictures were taken from the top of the scarp. When I was a very little girl, my father and I were standing somewhere near here when he explained to me that if we sailed east all the way across this ocean from here we would end up in Spain. I remember being very impressed. 🙂 I think of that conversation every time I come here.
Notice some metal debris, part of the viewing platform now missing, in the picture above. And below, notice the asphalt walkway, abruptly ending at the new edge of the scarp.
It seems no matter how solidly we humans think we may build, no matter how strong the foundation, nature will eventually reclaim what we leave behind. Everything is flowing. Nothing is permanent. Somehow we know this and yet, when the ocean delivers this message so dramatically and suddenly in our own observing lifetimes, it comes as a sharp reminder, not always easy to receive.