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Aquinnah, Massachusetts real estate on Martha's Vineyard

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Uploaded on Nov 11, 2008

INFO: http://www.SandpiperRealty.com - The last great North American glacier retreated north 10,000 years ago, and in its wake, there was Martha's Vineyard. The western portion of the Island is marked by boulders, sand and clay deposits from the glacier. But nothing is more dramatic than the colorful cliffs of clay at Aquinnah (Gay Head).

The cliffs are open for public viewing, from a high point near the Gay Head Lighthouse. From this vantage point, there is water on three sides, and Noman's Land can be seen to the south and the Elizabeth Islands (both part of Dukes County, but mostly unoccupied) are on the opposite horizon.

The view from here of the cliffs and the lighthouse is breathtaking. Equally impressive, though, is to follow a boardwalk down to the ocean, where there is a public swimming beach and a view of the cliffs from below.

The cliffs looked sculpted in red, yellow, white and gray clay, with occasional striations of black. Until recent years, visitors could climb on them. Now, the cliffs are protected as a historical site; climbing or prying out any of the precious clay which is slowly being eroded by the wind and water is forbidden.

The traditional beliefs of the Aquinnah Wampanoag say the giant Moshup created Noepe, their word for Martha's Vineyard. It translates as "amid the waters," a reference to the two distinct tidal currents offshore. Moshup, the beliefs say, taught his people how to fish and to catch whales.

After the English settlement at Great Harbor (Edgartown) in 1642, Thomas Mayhew Sr. named himself governor of the Island, and his son, Thomas Jr., became a missionary to the Wampanoags, converting them to Christianity. Diseases wiped out large numbers of the population, but native communities survived at Aquinnah, Christiantown and Chappaquiddick, with Aquinnah the most populous and organized.

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