“Oh, The Places You Will Go!”

Dr. Seuss was prophetic (and likely his words and works always will be). I have been lucky to have been able to go to many wild and wonderful places both near andfar. The places that inspire me most are always close to water.

I barely needed to travel to get to one of those precious places last week. Although Sengekontacket Pond is my usual stomping ground, I strayed south to Edgartown Great Pond.

Edgartown Great Pond is impressive in both its size (890 acres) and beauty, but what makes it great? According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a great pond is defined as a pond or lake that is 10 acres ormore. The designation, somewhat confusingly, includes ponds that were once that size but no longerare. There are 15 additional great ponds on Martha’s Vineyard.

Another title that the Edgartown one holds is that of a coastal salt pond. Generally a coastal salt pond is a geologically derived pond that sits behind a barrier beach and is periodically opened to theocean. Edgartown Great Pond sits behind South Beach and the beach is breached or opened approximately four times peryear. These opening are intended to help flush out the pond by exchanging pond and oceanwaters.  When the breach, or cut, is open, Edgartown Great Pond takes about 11 days to achieve a 95 per cent rate of water exchange.

The water travels far and wide even within the pond itself. There are many nooks and crannies and coves to be explored, each with its own name and history, many of which come from the Wampanoag. What follows is a pond primer of place names.

At Edgartown Pond’s northernmost reach, find the cove named Wintucket, which has been translated as “at the good tidal river.” To the cove’s west is Nashamois Neck, from the Algonquin meaning “in the middle of the ways.” Continue south and discover Poketapaces Neck, named from the sachem John Poketapaces. His claim to fame was selling his lands to Edgartown settlers without consulting his tribe.

Next is Swan’s Neck — not as obvious as you think, although over one hundred swans do make this area their home. This part of the pond was named not for swans, but from the Algonquin word “sowan,” meaning south land. 

Job’s Neck, at the southwest portion of the pond, was so called after Jawb Washarum, who with Elizabeth Nataquam agreed in 1696 to grant Thomas Daggett and Matthew Mayhew “all the wrecks and whales which may be cast on the shore, reserving one tenth part to King William our Liege Lord and Sovereign, reserving to themselves of each whale stranded one flock (Fluke) or part of the tayle and one fin to be severed and one yard square of blubber.” At least they gottheirs. 

Around to the east side, find Crackatuxet Cove. The Wampanoag word cachauxet describes a small edible fish (possibly blue perch). Slough Cove comes next, then Turkeyland Cove, and Mashaket (“at the great house”) Cove going north. Finally, find Kanomika Neck, famous as “the long fishing place.”

While the pond may be great in stature and rich in history, it is poor in health. Over the past few years, major algae blooms and high nutrient loads have threatened this pond. Its watershed (the land area that drains into the pond) is over 4,500 acres, many of those acres developed or developable, adding to the nutrient load and pollution of the pond.

Edgartown Great Pond, like many of our Island ponds, is at a critical juncture. Scientists, citizens and nonprofit organizations work for its protection and itsfuture. One good idea is the introduction of oysters to filter and cleanse thepond. All concerned should keep on thinking and workingtogether. And let us return to the wisdom of Dr. Seuss, who told us that “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

It will take great efforts for our great ponds, but we can find encouragement from Seussian insight: “Will you succeed? Yes, indeed, yes, indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters per cent guaranteed!”


Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown.