22 July 2006: New Bedford, MA to Cape Cod National Seashore/End US 6The end is in sight! Continuing from the 16th. Mercifully, these pictures were taken long before Tropical Storm Beryl started bearing down on the region.
Through New Bedford and Fairhaven, up the "inner side" of the southern Massachusetts coast.
For its part, the Cape Cod Canal is a large man-made channel over the section of land anchoring Cape Cod to coastal Massachusetts. Approximately 17.4 miles in length and 540' wide today, construction of such a canal had been envisioned as far back in the 1600s but languished in various smaller failed projects until the Boston, Cape Cod and New York Canal Company succeeded for the first time at the turn of the 20th century. Built between 1906 and 1914, with operations fully online in 1916, this first canal was only 100' wide with a guaranteed depth of just 25 feet. Its small size and difficult approach routing made it unpopular and, as it was tolled, a commercial flop. However, WWI saved it from obscurity when it became the waterway of choice due to German U-boats preying on the Atlantic shipping lanes off the coast of Cape Cod, and it was purchased and renovated by the Army Corps of Engineers starting in 1928. Further upgrades from 1935-40 increased the minimum depth to 32' and the full 540' width, making it the widest canal in the world as of this date, and relocated the southern entrance to the more favourable Buzzards Bay location. It remains an important interregional waterway to this day.
Sagamore is named for the small local village, which probably hails from Teddy Roosevelt's last permanent home in New York, Sagamore Hill. That name, in turn, traditionally comes from the story of Sagamore Mohannis, who as chief of his small local tribe, signed the land over to the settlers in 1660.
The old routing of US 6 is nearly totally preserved (with a few small exceptions) as MA 6A, which starts here. As pieces of old US 6 were replaced by the Mid-Cape, these sections were then given 6A shields instead, and as the Mid-Cape was further lengthened in 1956 to its complete modern length the additional sections were also added to 6A's routing. It is definitely the more scenic of the two routings, but also the most congested and slow, and in the interests of time we will look at just a few bits of it.
Cape Cod had been known to explorers even in the first millenium AD, possibly the "promontory of Vinland" noted by Norse explorers. Named Cape St. James by Italian explorers of the 16th century, the modern name was assigned by colonist and settler Bartholomew Gosnold in 1602 while trying to establish a new settlement (after -- what else? -- the indefatigable local codfish population). It failed when provisions were scarce into winter, and the colonists abandoned the settlement for England. Visited later by Henry Hudson in 1609 and John Smith in 1614, it was the Pilgrims (of course) that made the Cape famous with their exploratory visit in 1620 on the way to Plymouth Rock. Comparatively easy access both by land and sea would make it a typical destination for settlers and over the next several centuries, it would become increasingly densely populated despite its unsuitability for large-scale agriculture due to the thin, easily eroded topsoil, and its forests burn down or cut for firewood. The opening of the West dramatically slowed this denudement so that by the 1950s the forests had rebounded to a point that exceeded even the 1700s. Today it is an area overwhelmingly powered by tourism, but some local industries such as cranberry farming and aquaculture still make up a large part of the regional economy. Guglielmo Marconi's first transoceanic wireless communication was made from Wellfleet in Cape Cod, transmitting a message from Teddy Roosevelt to the King of England in 1903.
Also, for those tracking my picture statistics, this is a grand total of 3,099 pictures taken over the entire alignment, an average of around one every mile and a quarter taking into consideration alternate alignments, spurs and old routings (not counting rejects, seconds and interstitials taken for the road web log but not intended for the full US 6 photoessay). And yes, it'll be that number (plus/minus last minute editing) that appear in the full essay, meaning the full exhibit will be around 60 sections long.
August: Interstate 19 and Interstate 8! Until then, we're on hiatus. I'll probably throw up some of my snaps tooling around the east coast during the interim.
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