Posts Tagged ‘Cape Cod history’

As promised, snippets of exchanges with experts about the origins of “Outer” and “Lower”:

Deborah Minsky, Director, Truro Historical Society Highland Museum

“I have used the term ‘Lower Cape,’ but if I’m writing grant applications or thinking about culture, I talk about the ‘Outer Cape Community.’  Geography is part of it, but I think it’s also probably related to the fact that the fishing families are sort of now interchangeably living in Wellfleet, Truro, or Provincetown.”

Bill Burke, Historian, Cape Cod National Seashore in S. Wellfleet

“My understanding of Lower and Upper is that the prevailing fair weather wind is southwest, so when you sailed from Dennis to Truro, you’d be going downwind.  So, my understanding is it’s lower because you’d be going with the wind down the rest of the Cape to the lower part of the Cape.  That’s what I’ve heard.”

“’Outer Cape’ is not nautical in origin.  It’s more recent, maybe in the last 20 years or so, maybe even less than that.  “Outer” is the six towns facing the ocean to the east, from Chatham to Provincetown.  They comprise the outer beach or outer part of the arm.  In the Park, we think of the Outer Cape as running from Chatham out.  ‘Lower Cape’ includes Brewster and Chatham.”

“The National Park is a separate entity.  We certainly don’t define the region.  It was already something well developed here. I like to look at us as a johnny-come-lately.  We were established in the ‘60s and were kind of superimposed on an existing six towns and their culture. But we’re also more than an administrative boundary.”

Robert Finch, Naturalist, Writer

“’Lower Cape’ and ‘Outer Cape’ are not official terms, and so their meaning varies. In my experience, many people use them interchangeably. The general consensus is that ‘Outer Cape’ refers to that part of the Cape that has frontage on the Atlantic Ocean – i.e., the towns from Chatham to Provincetown.  This is reflected in terms like the ‘Outer Beach,’ another name for Nauset Beach or Cape Cod Beach  or The Great Beach – all terms for the beach that fronts the Atlantic Ocean, also used in Henry Beston’s title of The Outermost House for his book about living along the Atlantic Shore.”

“There is a geological basis for the name, since the ‘Outer Cape’ was formed primarily by the Interlobate Moraine, as opposed to the Sandwich Moraine, which formed the towns from Sandwich to Orleans (some overlap, there – see Robert Oldale’s book, Cape Cod and the Islands: The Geologic Story). As a result, the ‘Outer Cape’ is sandier and has many fewer rocks than the rest of the Cape.”

Readers: Thoughts?  Stories?  Please share!


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