We arrived to Cape Cod, Massachusetts on November 20, 2014 after a long and cramped 13-hour car ride. By the time we got into our cottages, day had turned to night and not one of us could keep our eyes open.
We woke early the next morning to meet author Robert Finch at the Kettle Ponds in Wellfleet, MA to explore the foothills as well as learn about the devastation that humans have caused in this area over time.
We visited just three out of the 20 or so freshwater ponds, which have been here much longer than the tourists and seasoners (if you can believe that). Many of these ponds were praised and written about by Henry David Thoreau, who spent much of his life in a cabin that sits on bluff that’s snuggled in between two of the ponds.
In fact, the Kettle Ponds were formed more than 15,000 years ago. You’re probably thinking, “Why ‘Kettle’, though?” I thought
the same thing. Interestingly enough, before global warming starting to rear its ugly head, Massachusetts used to be made almost entirely of ice. This ice (in the form of glaciers) melted creating giant holes in the ground which are called, you guessed it, kettles!
Wellfleet, known as the halfway point between the hand and elbow of Cape Cod, was discovered in 1606 unsurprisingly by European explorers. A French man by the name of Samuel de Champlain was among these first inhabitants of Wellfleet and took it upon himself to explore the area. What he would discover that this area was unique not for what he found on the land, but what he found in the water.
It’s no secret that New England is known for it’s seafood. That is old news. While Samuel de Champlain was perusing the area now known as Wellfleet, he made a discovery that was shape the economy of this place for centuries to come. What lies just beyond the shore line is an abundance of oyster beds in the water adjacent to the town, which de Champlain then named “Port Aux Huitres” or Oyster Port. Very clever, Samuel.
Oysters are just one of many different kinds of marine life that thrive around Wellfleet as well as Cape Cod as a whole. Cape Cod’s economy and population swelled as the fishing and whaling businesses took off. However, these industries took a huge toll on the fleets, which nearly died out completely due to demand in the late 19th century. Still, to this day, marine life is struggling to get back on its feet not only because of this.
Actually, this is a big part of what brought me and my fellow comrades to the Cape in the first place. We worked closely with the employees and volunteers of the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Our main interaction with them was learning how to rescue cold-stunned sea turtles from the many beaches of Cape Cod.
A cold-stunned sea turtle is a sea turtle that is overwhelmed by how cold the sea water gets in the winter time and attempts to find warmth up on the beach. However, what they find is air colder than the water and it stuns them. Without volunteers like those at the Wildlife Sanctuary, many of these turtles would freeze to death on the beach. Though we were very discouraged at first after finding three large turtles that had already died, it was an incredibly rewarding experience. When the trip was said and done, we had saved the lives of nine baby diamondback terrapins that had hatched no more than a few days before we found them in the tall grass near the beach.
If you’re interested in getting involved in this wonderful project, visit the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary website!