Mid Winter Freeze Grips Outer Cape

Giant Ice Floes Smother Wellfleet Shoreline

Mid winter grips Outer Cape estuaries in smothering ice floes, blocking marine commerce and whistling year-around shellfish harvesting to an abrupt, if temporary, halt.  Winter transforms naturally beautiful Wellfleet from vacation paradise to raw, hardscrabble community.  Bustling, swimsuit clad crowds of tens of thousands dwindle down to a spare, gristled cadre of tens of hundreds of year ’rounders; folks as tough as the ice that surrounds them and as uniquely eccentric as each individual floe.  At Burton Baker Beach off Indian Neck, where Turtle Journal documented the first torpedo ray in Shocking Discovery! Torpedo Ray in Wellfleet Bay in early November, floes have buried the shoreline and covered jetties like vanilla icing on Twinkies.

Wellfleet’s Uncle Tim’s Bridge over Frozen Duck Creek

The newly renovated Uncle Tim’s Bridge braces for its first structural challenge as tons of compacted ice ebb and flow with tides, massing against pilings driven into Duck Creek’s oozy bottom.  The First Congregational Church towers on the horizon, ringing only ship time, one to eight bells in four hour sequences throughout the day to commemorate Wellfleet’s seafaring tradition.  (ASIDE:  As bells toll across the harbor each summer, it’s amusing to watch visitors compare wristwatches to six bells at 3 pm, wondering whether they’ve missed the blue plate special.)

Shellfishermen Chip Ice for Oysters in Frozen Chipman’s Cove

Nearby Chipman’s Cove, where terrapin mating aggregations will kick off the 2009 research season in early May, has been sealed in ice about five inches thick.  Two very hardy residents slide along the ice and crack holes with picks in futile search for entombed shellfish.

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Ducks and Shorebirds Forage in Tide Exposed Shallows

A tiny section of the east shoreline of Chipman’s Cove is exposed by tidal forces, giving ducks and shorebirds a chance to forage for “fast food” in the brief, low tide interval before a new onslaught of ice returns.  By high tide, birds hunker along the lee shore to wait out the freeze.

Frozen Inner Harbor Invites “Boat Owners and Crew Only”

Floating docks, under which harbor seals played and foraged a few months earlier (see Wellfleet Harbor Seals: “Thanks for All the Fish!”), have been removed for winter protection, but signs still beckon “boat owners and crew only” to board invisible boats locked in too visible and too real ice.  Wellfleet, like its resident population of diamondback terrapins, has gone into winter brumation.

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