Dead whale washes up on South Beach, Norton Point Beach closed

Norton Point, a popular Martha's Vineyard Beach, was filled to capacity with four-wheel drive vehicles and closed at 8:30 am, on July Fourth.

A line of vehicles stretched down crowded Norton Point Beach on Monday morning. - Sam Moore

Updated 4 pm, Monday

On a perfect Martha’s Vineyard beach day Edgartown officials reported that a dead, badly decomposed whale has washed up on South Beach in the area commonly referred to as “left fork,” just to the west of the Norton Point Beach entrance. The area would normally attract large crowds of beach-goers and swimmers.

Adam Darack, Edgartown public information officer, sent out a text message at approximately 8:30 am, Monday cautioning beachgoers to swim at their “own risk.” Dead whales have the potential to attract sharks, Mr. Darack said.

There have been no reports of sharks sighted in the vicinity. The species of whale was not identified. Mr. Darack said it was badly decomposed.

At the same time, Norton Point Beach, the popular strip of barrier beach that separates Katama Bay from the Atlantic Ocean, was also closed to vehicles at 8:30 am when its capacity to accommodate off-road vehicles was reached.

The approximately two-mile-long Norton Point Beach connects Katama and Chappaquiddick and is popular with four-wheel-drive vehicle owners. However, due to nesting protected shorebirds, only a portion of the beach is currently opened.

The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) manages the county-owned beach. Chris Kennedy, TTOR Martha’s Vineyard superintendent, said that this has been a very good season for birds, particularly along Norton Point Beach, which has double the number of nesting plovers — eight pairs — that nested in 2015, and large numbers of terns.

The locations of the nesting sites have left about four-tenths of a mile of narrow beach open to off-road vehicles from the gatehouse entrance at Katama to the first nest. As a result, the beach is closed once its capacity is reached — about 120 vehicles. On July Fourth morning the beach closed at 8:30 am.

Beachgoers who want to pack up the family, the coolers, and the rods and head to Norton Point may check the closure status by calling 774-310-1110.