They’re back! The humongous Aqua Velva pond lilies, indigenous only to Menemsha Pond, have arrived on schedule bringing joy to the intrepid racing sailors of the pond.

These giant flowers have always appeared on July 1, except for last year. Their annual bloom is known locally as the Miracle of the Marks. For many years Art Railton has documented this momentous annual event and the involvement of the great Aqua Velva scientific expert, the infamous Danish Professor Nortu B. Lief.

There was great sorrow and consternation last year when the flowers did not appear on schedule. Some believed that this portended the end of Menemsha Pond racing, while others predicted even more dire consequences, if that could be. But they were all wrong, as the flowers appeared by mid-July, although their color was not as bright and cheerful as usual, and the black markings had become indistinct.

There are many theories as to last year’s bloom delay. These include the impacts of global warming, embarrassment on the part of the flowers because they temporarily became orange due to the red tide in Buzzards Bay, and possible fright caused by the reported sightings of a great white shark off Menemsha. Prof. Nortu B. Lief claimed, as he had done many times before, that this was proof that the Miracle of the Marks was only a temporary phenomenon, and that the Aqua Velva were about to become as extinct as the dinosaurs.

Because of the professor’s dire prediction, this year there were only one or two believers to witness the miracle at the annual vantage point on Menemsha Pond’s Short Beach. They were the lucky ones, because as the sun peeked over the hills, they spotted not one, but six great yellow flowers bobbing on the pond, brighter than ever. They took pictures and immediately e-mailed them to the professor, who had not bothered to make the trip this year. His comment upon receiving the pictures proving that he was wrong once again was, “I wish that darned Art Railton had never got me involved. How come he can retire and I cannot?” The language in the original Danish version was much more colorful.

The Miracle of the Marks signifies the start of the traditional Menemsha Pond sailboat racing season. The races take place every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, starting at 2 p.m. The races, open to all boats 20 feet and under, are sponsored by the Chilmark Community Center and run by Sail Martha’s Vineyard.

For more information, contact Bill Glazer at 508-645-9635 or

— DG