Eastham, MA
Coast Guard Beach - Cape Cod
December, 10th, 2011

"On November 9, 1620, a ship named the Mayflower, 65 days out from Plymouth, England, made her landfall in the New World at what is now Coast Guard Beach. Captain Jones, knowing that his Pilgrim passengers were supposed to settle in northern Virginia, headed southeastward. Although he stood well offshore to avoid shoal waters, his ship soon became enmeshed in the worst shoals in the area, Pollock Rip. A miraculous change of wind enabled Jones to sail his ship free of the shoals, and he then turned northward to anchor in Provincetown Harbor, November 11, 1620.

The outer beach, or 'backside,' of Cape Cod has been the notorious graveyard for more than 3,000 ships since the wreck of the Sparrowhawk in 1626. The high cost in lives and property demanded by the sands of Cape Cod, led to the establishment of the Massachusetts Humane Society in 1786, the first organization in the nation devoted to the rescue and assistance of shipwrecked mariners. The Humane Society established shelter huts along the coast; later, it built lifeboat stations where surfboats, line-throwing guns, and other lifesaving gear were stored for the use of volunteer crews in times of emergency.

In 1848, the Congress appropriated funds for the first time to construct, equip and maintain similar stations in New Jersey. From 1848 until 1872, Congress provided the money to build more stations along the eastern seaboard and the Great Lakes. The stations in Massachusetts continued to be administered by the Massachusetts Humane Society, but the federal government subsidized its operation. The continued frequent loss of life along the nation's shores led Congress, in 1871-1872, to reorganize the Life Saving Service, a place it on a full-time professional basis. The construction and manning of nine stations on the "backside" of Cape Cod was provided for in the Federal budget of 1871.

One of the original nine stations was constructed at Nauset. It was located about 350 yards southeast of the present building. Shoreline erosion compelled the construction of a new station. The old station remained in service until 1937, when it was replaced by the present structure. The present building was in service as a Coast Guard Station until 1958.

The first headquarters of the Cape Cod National Seashore opened in this building in 1961. Currently, the building houses the Cape Cod National Seashore overnight NEED (National Environmental Educational Development) program for school groups."

SOURCE: www.nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/coast-guard-beach-eastham.htm

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