Breakthrough: The Story of Chatham's North Beach is both geological and social history. For centuries, North Beach, a barrier beach that begins as Nauset Beach in Orleans and extends south into Chatham, has alternately protected the mainland from the ocean's destructive force and let the Atlantic Ocean's cruel waters through to ravage the shoreline. With a scientifically documented 150-year cycle of breaching and mending, the beach has exerted a fascinating love-hate relationship with the people who settled the shores of Chatham in the 16th and 17th centuries. Long periods of calm have been shattered by devastating bouts of erosion that have stolen upland, destroying homes and lives.
Breakthrough: The Story of Chatham's North Beach traced the geological evolution of the barrier beach and the process by which it builds south over a period of decades, breaks through, disintegrates and grows once more. The process has not only played havoc with navigation in Chatham's important harbor, but destroyed two lighthouses in the last century and nine homes in just the past decade. Political and social pressures caused Chatham to react much differently to the 1987 break -- compounded by sea level rise and shoreline development -- than previous episodes of erosion resulting, in the armoring of the town's shoreline and the loss of some of the most beautiful beaches on the east coast.
As a reporter for the Cape Cod Chronicle, Timothy J. Wood has covered the break and subsequent erosion since the January 2, 1987 storm that started nature's destructive wheels turning. In assembling, Breakthrough: The Story of Chatham's North Beach, he relied on scientific papers, historical accounts, old newspaper records and personal interviews with the key players in recent controversies surrounding the protection of the shoreline. Contained in the book's pages are historical maps and photographs that place the erosion in context and display the frightening power of the sea.
Retail cost: $7.95
Available from Hyora Publications, 60C Munson Meeting Way, Chatham, MA 02633
Hyora Publications, May, 1995, 80 pages, 26 black and white photos and maps
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