A Cape Cod Notebook

by Robert Finch

A Cape Cod Notebook can be heard every Tuesday morning at 8:35am and afternoon at 5:45pm.

A nature writer living in Wellfleet, Robert Finch has written about Cape Cod for more than forty years. He is the author of seven collections of essays, most recently a collection of his radio scripts, published by On Cape Publications. He is co-editor of "The Norton Book of Nature Writing."

A Cape Cod Notebook won the 2006 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.

For archives of A Cape Cod Notebook, including programs dating from before November 2012, go to the Cape Cod Notebook Archives


A Cape Cod Notebook
5:53 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Wellfleet's White Cedar Swamp: A Walk Through the Brain of Nature

Credit Ronald Barnes / flickr

I know of no more intensely picturesque and evocative a place than the White Cedar Swamp in South Wellfleet. It is one of the largest remaining cedar swamps on Cape Cod, most of which were cut down and turned into cranberry bogs in the 19th century. The “official” access to the White Cedar Swamp is a half-mile trail that starts from the Marconi Site near the National Seashore Headquarters.

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Cape Cod Notebook
3:14 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

From Nauset Beach to the Scrap Heap: the Eldia Saga, Part 3

After the Maltese freighter Eldia was freed from Nauset Beach, it was towed to New Jersey and sold for scrap.
Credit http://postcards.bidstart.com

The Eldia was finally taken off Nauset Beach on May 17, 1984, fifty-one days after it came ashore. The strategy was simple but effective. First, excavators and bulldozers dug a deep bowl around the ship at low tide, which filled at high tide, allowing it to float. Next a floating dredge dug a short channel off its stern. Then a cable was attached to the stern and run out to an offshore derrick rig. Finally, on the night of May 14, on a flooding moon tide, the rig began to pull the Eldia out to sea.

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A Cape Cod Notebook
10:31 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Abandoned on the Shore: the Stranding of the Freighter Eldia, Part 2

The Eldia was aground high on the beach for 51 days before salvagers managed to remove it.
Credit http://perdurabo10.tripod.com/ships/id289.html

Over the first weekend after the Eldia grounded, some 30,000 people congregated on Nauset Beach and made the mile-long trek to the stranded vessel. Vehicle traffic bottlenecked Beach Road halfway back to Orleans Center, but gladdened the hearts of local businessmen with an unexpected off-season rush of tourists. 

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Cape Cod Notebook
2:09 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Anniversary of the Dramatic Stranding of the Freighter Eldia in Orleans

On March 29, 1984, the 451-foot Maltese-registered freighter Eldia went aground in Orleans, where it stayed beached for nearly two months.
Credit http://www.geocities.ws/eldia1984

It was thirty years ago this week that I learned a lesson about the Outer Beach that I have lived by ever since.  It was this: never, eve​r make a public prediction about what will or won’t happen there. 

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Cape Cod Notebook
5:11 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

100-year-old Cape Cod Hoofprints Preserved in Peat

Credit capecodhistory.us

A few weeks after last month’s storm I walked down to Pochet Beach in Orleans to see what might have been uncovered – for the beach obliterates, but it also reveals.  I stopped to chat briefly with one of several men who were sweeping the strand with metal detectors. He pointed down the beach to a long dark stripe about 200 yards away, just where the first major overwash was.

“See that stretch of peat, just below the foredune? I’ve found some old coins there and you can see wagon tracks and footprints in the peat”   

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Cape Cod Notebook
5:40 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

What a Vision of Life the Beach Presents

Credit rob zand / flickr

One day last month I drove down to Nauset Light and walked on the beach from there to Marconi Beach. The cliffs were all white and rough-lipped from the previous night’s snow storm. Several wide ruddy scars ran down the scarp face like claw marks where snow avalanches had torn away and rolled down onto the wide beach below. On my right the froth-scummed sea rolled in in post-storm fury.

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Cape Cod Notebook
12:51 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

First Encounter with a Snowy Owl

Credit Mike Schanbacher

We've been hearing a lot about snowy owls this winter.  Cape Cod writer Robert Finch remembers his first encounter with this magnificent bird.

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A Cape Cod Notebook
3:16 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

At the Edge of the Ocean, After the Storm

Credit Brian Morris

When a storm passes, it leaves a new character stamped upon the coast. Naturalist Robert Finch visits the shoreline to tally the changes and contemplate the forces that worked them, in this week's Cape Cod Notebook. 

This week's Cape Cod Notebook is a rebroadcast from 2010. Audio is posted above. 

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Cape Cod Notebook
5:39 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Under a Frozen Bog, Glimpses of Life

Credit Dead Air / http://www.flickr.com/photos/deadair/3252502692/

Building a night fire at the edge of a frozen kettlehole illuminates a world captured in stark relief. In A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch creeps out upon the ice on all fours to peer into a frozen realm, where he finds surprising life.  

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A Cape Cod Notebook
1:47 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

There's No Place Like Downtown

Boston's Downtown Crossing is all dressed up for the holidays.
Credit abbyladybug / flickr

"In Praise of Downtowns," A Cape Cod Notebook, by Robert Finch

Do you make a holiday-season pilgrimage to the Big City for the lights, the smells, the shopping? A nature writer turns his observational powers on the city, as Robert Finch considers Boston's Downtown Crossing. He finds surprises, and cause for wonder, in this urban commercial crossroads.  

Audio essay is posted above - give it a listen. This is a rebroadcast of an essay that first aired in 2012.