Smoky Quansoo Dawn.

I’d been off-island for a few days over the Holiday (US Labor Day) weekend, and went to bed soon after coming home last night because there was a job to do early the next day. My job was to check the Quansoo Beach, to pick up litter, and to make sure all was well. A few days before, I’d gotten a message that a lumber delivery truck had dropped some bales of insulation, and that they were lying on the roadside. I didn’t expect to find them, but had to go make sure. We’ve had a south wind, and that always brings trash in on the waves.

I woke spontaneously at 4:30AM. Came downstairs. Turned on the teakettle. Checked the temperature…it was 74°F…warm for a September morning. Stepped out on the front door stoop, and looked up to see a clear, dark, and starsparkled sky. A waning and partial moon played peekaboo amongst the leave of the big red oak that’s between the house and the garden. I heard the teakettle click itself off, came in, and made a cup of Assam, to drink with my scone.

An hour later I realized that light was building in the East, and it was time to go. I got my camera and a spare battery, went to the truck, and drove off in the gathering light. On South Road, two morning walkers’ vests blazed reflective and fluorescent in my headlights. Nonmigratory canada goose hunting season started today, so those folks were being prudent. A quarter of a mile from the Quansoo gate I found a bale of insulation, stopped, and put it in the back of the truck. When I got to the gate, there were two more bales to toss in the bed. Now I had another job to do: track down what lumberyard they came from, and see if they want their insulation back.

At the Quansoo Beach parking lot, I looked east, and an involuntary “OH!” escaped me.

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Why I said, “OH!” Quansoo. Tisbury Great Pond. Looking east at sunrise.

As I got out of the truck, I realized I smelled smoke, but the sunrise was too compelling.

I moved toward the pond for photographs. No time to waste!

As the sun rises and sets, you realize how fast this planet turns.

As the sun lifted off, so did a great blue heron.

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One of the wonderful attributes of Quansoo are the distant, expansive, and horizontal views.


I still smelled smoke, and went to see if someone had had a fire in the western part of the parking lot. There was not a sign of a fire, so I went across the Crab Creek bridge, to see if someone on the beach had a fire going. The smell of smoke was pervasive. The light was red, red, red.


There were no fires on the beach. A strong southwest breeze was blowing. Nomans Land is a little island off the soutwest of the vineyard. Maybe a fire on Noman’s Land? Nomans was visible in the thick air, but neither flame nor plume was visible. What the? Well, there was a job to do, even if the air smelled smoky and the light was intensely red. As red as any sunset.

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I did my job. I picked up litter. First to the west, then to the east. There were bottles of plastic and a bottle of glass, there were candy wrappers, balloons, pieces of rope, two small yellow plastic bags filled with what the dog’s owners really should have taken home with them, a fresh nest of beer cans, and a broken styrofoam wave board.

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The nest of beer cans. As you see by the tracks, this fresh-laid group has been thoroughly investigated by a squad of detective seagulls. When I asked what kind of bird might have laid these, a friend said it must be Can Ada Geese.

By now it was seven thirty. I called Christine, who was still on the Cape. She smelled smoke, too. Where was the smoke coming from? All those fires out west? The nearest land to us, as you look to the southwest, is New York and New Jersey. Were there fires there? I said farewell to the orange-lit shore, and headed for home.


Tisbury Great Pond opening, now closed, as of a few weeks ago. It had been opened December 18th, last year, and the cut flowed freely for over eight months, the longest that anyone can remember an opening ever persisting.

Thoughout the day, I chased after the source of the smoky smell. My online friends in the area were all mystified. Some had been woken in the middle of the night by the odor, and had gone cruising their neighborhoods, checking to be sure no ones’ house was burning. The western fires angle seemed a bit much. I found some news items about forest fires in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. That seemed as good a guess as any.

I found the Boston National Weather Service facebook page almost by accident. They were writing about the hot, hot weather today in New England. I posted a picture of our red dawn, told them where smoke smell was being reported from, and asked if they knew anything.

Not too much later, a response came back.

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That’s one mystery solved.

I still don’t know where that insulation came from.


3 responses to “Smoky Quansoo Dawn.

  1. I remember an early morning in Denver where I was working one summer in college. There was a weird, thick film all over the windshield, no clue what it was. I was tasting the dust (it tasted like dust) when my roommate ran out to tell me about Mount St. Helens. Nowadays I would have already heard about this the night before.

    Thanks for all the Quansoo cleanups, by the way. We users of that beach should lay fewer aluminum eggs and do whatever it takes to make your job easier. It’s usually true that much more trash washes up from offshore than arrives down the road, but it does seem that too often a little fun begets a big mess.

    Hope you find a home for your fiberglass–if not the owner, at least a drafty attic.

    • That’s a good story about Mount Saint Helens. Every year or two I rewatch a video or two of that eruption. (Here’s a very brief one… )
      Down on the beach, early in the season I had to wrestle a 3′ x 3′ x 3′ block of styrofoam off the shore. Cleaning up after last winter’s fires in the parking lot yielded a five-gallon pail of nails, screws, and metal. Since then there hasn’t been too much. Most weeks I pick up a half a trash can or less.

      That insulation was cellulose, not fiberglass, and a phone call to Hinckley’s in Vineyard Haven found the source. They took a too-big truck down the road. Lost some on account thereof. The next time I go to VH I’ll take them their “lost sheep”.

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