VCS hike at Quansoo

Big Sandy
Big Sandy, a spit of land curling into Tisbury Great Pond, marked the finish line for sailboat races during John Whiting's day. The barrier beach separating the pond from the Atlantic Ocean is visible in the distance. Photos by Susan Safford

By Susan Safford - December 14, 2006

Susan Whiting led the Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS) winter walk last Sunday, on her family's land in Chilmark. The land fronts on Tisbury Great Pond, stretching from the opening to Town Cove south to a point called Big Sandy. We watched sheep grazing along the boundaries of Arnie Fischer's property on Flat Point across the pond, and further out we could see the Land Bank property at Sepiessa, known to old-timers as Tississa.

Susan gave us a glimpse into her past, growing up alongside this 240-acre pond where her father John Whiting along with her uncle Everett and many of their friends took full advantage of this Island resource, organizing everything from summertime sailing races to an off-season oyster business, which required the building of a shack suitable for shucking. John Whiting also devised an efficient way to harvest clams, temporarily diverting the house water pump to the purpose.

Sue Whiting
Sue Whiting stopped the hikers periodically to share family stories about the area.

On the walk we passed by a house used by the Coast Guard during World War II. The men had a dual purpose; they walked the ocean beach on the lookout for enemy submarines, and at night they rowed up and down the pond to make sure all houses were "blacked out." Even the slightest amount of light was an excuse to go up to a house, with the hope of being invited in for a bite to eat.

In more recent years the increased development along the pond has led to pollution. Excess nitrogen from fertilizers that run off farm fields, the large migratory geese population that no longer migrates, and the leaching from septic systems threaten the health of this valuable Island resource. But on this warm, cloudless December day, the vistas were long and lovely, and all seemed well with the world.

The next VCS walk is scheduled for Jan. 14 along Sengekontacket Pond at Felix Neck. It will be led by Suzan Bellincampi.