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The Town

Melville Coast

Melville Coast
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On The Water
Nantucket is the most wonderful little town. It wasn't artificially created like Disney World, and it wasn't restored like Williamsburg or Mystic. It's been here all these years, since before America was a nation. People have lived in these houses, run these stores and walked these streets and it looked almost exactly like this. Oh, there are a few cars on the streets, and some electric lines showing, and it has a definite touristy feel to it. But stepping out onto these streets is like stepping into a time machine. This is what America looked like in the 1700s and 1800s. People sit on porches, they walk everywhere, sails are continually appearing over rooftops as ships come in and out of the harbor, deep horns or bells sound telling passengers to hurry to the dock for loading, and horse drawn carriages clip clop along the cobblestone streets for people tired of walking but not ready to bike. The smell of salt is in the air, breezes blow up the shaded streets from the ocean, and the sun shines down out of a clear blue sky. Nantucket breathes history, whaling, the call of the sea, class, dignity, and wealth. There were huge fortunes made here from the whaling ships. Big money built these rambling old houses and this bustling downtown with its Main, Whale, Dock, Beach and Easy Streets.

Above left is the view up away from the wharves along cobblestoned Main Street, which goes on out of town and heads South to Surfside Beach. Shoppers can spend half a day browsing in shops and restaurants along Main, all with a view straight down to the harbor. Notice the old horse watering fountain in the middle of the street, with its ring of flowers. The streetlamps are electrified now, but for 200 years they burned whale oil.

Above right is the Brant Point Lighthouse, out Beach Street and to the right, where it marks the entrance to the harbor. It's a very short bike ride or a reasonable walk from downtown. The beaches extending West of the lighthouse are great for shelling and watching ships coming and going. The water's a bit chilly, but local kids go right in.

Immediately above is Old South Wharf. This view shows where the Pequod in Moby Dick was moored (in real life her name was The Essex). The old whaleship supply outlets are now filled with a dozen tourist oriented stores.

On the left, immediately above, is Hosea Hussey's House where Ishmael and Queequeg stayed for three nights while the Pequod was loaded and prepared for departure. It has continued to function as a bed and breakfast but has been closed recently for refurbishing. It's on Water Street just north of downtown.

On the right is the Nantucket Whaling Museum and 50,000 document Whaling Research Library. Recently renovated, this is a state of the art facility. No town this size would normally have a museum & library this sophisticated, but with Nantucket the center of the world whaling industry, when the Nantucket Historical Association was founded in 1894 the artifacts and documents were still readily available. Inside are a 47 foot sperm whale skeleton, fully rigged whaleboat, array of whaling tools, fully restored 1847 spermaceti candle factory, the world's finest scrimshaw collection, the world's only remaining spermaceti press, the world's finest collection of lightship baskets, and one of the three finest 1800s ship furnture collections. From the rooftop observation deck one can view most of the island and see ships come and go.

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