In mid-June, we left for a few days for Nantucket, an island off Cape Cod. Four days in a very small place from which we came back with lots of pictures and great memories. So I wanted to concoct several articles dedicated to this island that excited me. This is the first part of the saga: Nantucket Town. It was once the capital of the world (if, if), when whalers filled the harbour and made the wealth of this very small place. It was the atmosphere of the city that inspired Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick. He had never set foot there before writing his book.
We left Boston on Saturday around noon; to get to Nantucket we had opted for a not very romantic solution: flying. Only half an hour between Boston and Nantucket (with the cutest airport in the world as a bonus).
THE HISTORIC CITY CENTRE
the historic city centre, the library, Nantucket Town, it’s rather chic, even very very chic. Everything is clean, clean and square, sometimes even confusing. Public waste bins provide for selective sorting – in pretty barrels to go well with the seaside décor.
In the past, the closer the houses were to the port, the worse it smelled, so the more people lived there. A fire destroyed three quarters of the city in the middle of the 19th century, so it was rebuilt, but roughly speaking, on most of the island (except for the streets of the boat captains where the houses are made of briquettes), all the houses are grey, with small wooden panels that apparently have to be changed every 30 years. At this time of year, the roses were in bloom: super well matched with the grey of the houses.
Until 1918, it was forbidden to drive on the island. A railway line had been built so that holidaymakers could go from the ferry landing to the beach (and to the super hotel that was demolished then). But the train was constantly derailed: it had been built on sandy ground.
The Old Gaol, the old jail which is the only prison on the island. In the past, it did not close its doors at night, and detainees could return home, provided they returned the next day.
The Oldest House, built in 1686, was closed when we passed by. I tried to take a look inside: dark and modest.
There are quite a few cobbled streets in Nantucket, and even a street covered with shells! Very cute. On the right photo, The Old Mill, the old mill (the names in this village are quite simplistic) dates back to 1746. Class.
THE WHALE MUSEUM
As one of the only museums in the city, it could not be missed. It was a nice surprise (it’s amazing how passionate you can be about things you wouldn’t have thought of). Whaling was famous in Nantucket simply because the ocean nearby was full of this cetacean. The Indians who previously lived in Nantucket did not hunt her, but simply killed those who ran aground on the beaches. It then became a big business, especially sperm whale fishing: by recovering the oil that protects your brain, you could make candles that didn’t smell or smoke, a luxury at the time. Crews sometimes left for several years, passed Cape Horn and went as far as the Pacific in search of the animal. The fishing was terrible: the team of harpooners went down in a boat, approached the animal as close as they could to it to harpoon it, and then were shot at for miles before they could finish it off. It was then necessary to row to bring her back on board, without being caught by blood-sucking sharks.
One of Nantucket’s memories is the scrimshaws, engravings on whale bones. Fishermen when they were not fishing, took the time to be a mummy. They also made sneakers on which they glued scrimshaws: lightships baskets. It’s pretty ugly and very expensive, the kind of stuff that gets me excited when I’m on vacation (“It’ll be to go to the market”) but that I hurry to hide in the back of my closet on my way home.