“People who don't want to think about outlawing handguns haven't seen firsthand the kind of damage they do." -- J. A. Jance, "Payment in Kind"

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Speaking the Language

     We went over this on a previous visit to Cape Cod, but honestly, I need an update on seashore nomenclature. We were sitting on the beach, staring out across the water of Nantucket Sound, when suddenly someone piped up, "What is a sound, anyway? What's the difference between a sound and a bay?"

Cape Cod Bay & Nantucket Sound

     Nobody knew the answer, exactly, although there were many opinions. Until someone pulled out his smart phone and googled the answer for us.

     So if you landlubbers will indulge my sudden interest in the maritime lexicon . . .

     A sound is a large ocean inlet (such as Nantucket Sound) or a narrow ocean channel between two bodies of land (such as Vineyard Sound). But there must be some flexibility in the definition, because . . . what is Puget Sound? By the way, the word sound also refers to measuring the depth of the water, and is also said of a whale when it dives to the bottom.

     A bay is a body of water connected to the ocean or lake that is surrounded by land on three sides, and is formed by an indentation in the shoreline. We have Cape Cod Bay and Buzzard's Bay here in Massachusetts, and a lot of other bays along the East Coast from Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay on south. The West Coast doesn't have so many bays.

Classic cove
     A gulf is a large bay, such as the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of California or the Gulf of Alaska.

     So what's a cove? It is a small bay that's usually round or oval in shape with a narrow opening to a larger body of water.

     And how is that different from an inlet? An inlet is typically long and narrow, an indentation of the shoreline of an enclosed body of water.

More of an inlet
     And a fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides created by glacial erosion. You don't have to be in Scandinavia to find a fjord. The Hudson River is actually a fjord.

     Then what's a harbor? A harbor is a bay or cove or inlet where boats are at anchor -- and is often artificially created or enhanced by breakwaters, sea walls or jettys.

     So that begs the question: What is a cape? It is a large and often long headland or promontory that extends into a body of water, often the ocean. In the case of Cape Cod, the land was formed by the southernmost terminal moraine of the Laurentide Ice Sheet (which also carved out the Great Lakes) some 20,000+ years ago. The same process also gave us Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Block Island and Long Island.

     So there you have it . . . why, you can almost believe you've been at the seashore for a couple of weeks yourself!


troutbirder said...

Thanks. Living in the only county in the land of 10,000 lakes (Minnesota) without a lake I now feel nomenclaturally prepared to go out on deep water...:)

DJan said...

Well! I learned something, actually quite a bit in this post. Thanks, Tom! :-)

Unknown said...

Thanks for the lesson. I live along the Connecticut shoreline in which body of water is called Long Island Sound. A friend of mine grew up on Long Island and would go to the beach on the ocean side of the island. When she moved to Connecticut, she was disappointed by the beaches she went to on the Connecticut shoreline. She couldn't understand why there weren't bigger waves. Enjoy your trip to the Cape, one of my favorite vacation spots.

stephen Hayes said...

This post taught me a lot. Thanks for the education.

Anonymous said...

There is Hanauma Bay on Oahu, where I live. Nice place to snorkel.

retirementreflections said...

Like your other readers, I learned a fair bit about things that I had assumed that I knew (but actually didn't). Fun post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your trip with us. I hope you have a terrific weekend.