January - February 2015

A message from our president




This is the time of year when we think of a time not far off when we can get things done outdoors. So far there has been no plowable snow and no major wind event here on the Outer Cape, so access to the windswept Cape Cod National Seashore beaches is possible for those so inclined.

Of course, things are always busy at Seashore Headquarters, what with planning for the upcoming summer season, maintenance projects being organized, new admittance fees being discussed, Centennial 2016 planning, etc. The Winter Film Festival sponsored by Friends will be underway by the time you read this. These films are well attended and appreciated, as they are conveniently on early Sunday afternoons and are free.


Thank you for your continuing support of the Cape Cod National Seashore via the Friends!


Richard Ryder


Enjoy this series Sunday afternoons through the end of February.


Winter Film Festival


Enliven your winter Sunday afternoons by attending the Seashore's Winter Film Festival, funded by Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore. All movies are free. They show at 1:30 PM at the Salt Pond Visitor Center, Eastham. Refreshments provided 30 minutes prior to each film.


In 2016, Cape Cod National Seashore and more than 400 other National Park Service sites across our nation will celebrate the National Park Service Centennial.


As a prelude, this year's Festival features the captivating Ken Burns series on the history of the National Park Service:


The National Parks - America's Best Idea. Explore cornerstone events and some of our nation's most compelling locales - from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, and the Everglades of Florida, to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska.


The Tetons



January 18: The Scripture of Nature (1851-1890) shows the beauty of Yosemite Valley and the geyser wonderland of Yellowstone. It features John Muir becoming their eloquent defender.


January 25: The Last Refuge (1890-1915) Theodore Roosevelt uses the presidential powers of the Antiquities Act to add national monuments and the Grand Canyon, and declares the ultimate purpose of the National Parks: "For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People."

February 1: The Empire of Grandeur (1915-1919) features the establishment of the National Park Service and the influence of its early leaders, Stephen Mather and Horace M. Albright, and wealthy industrialists who were persuaded to help champion the park system.

February 8: Going Home (1920-1933) focuses on Americans embracing the automobile, setting off an explosion in the number of park visits. Meanwhile, the Rockefellers quietly buy up land in the Teton Mountain Range. 


February 15: Great Nature (1933-1945) emphasizes the societal impacts of the park concept, including new environmental and naturalistic perspectives, employment opportunities, and expansion of the park idea to additional U.S. locations.

February 22: The Morning of Creation (1946-1980) details the ecological damage caused by 62 million visitors each year, and the controversial decision to protect wolves in Alaska.



A northern long-eared bat


Science in the Seashore


First Ever Surveys to Assess

Seashore Bat Populations


Long misunderstood, bats are now much better appreciated for the important ecological roles they play. A large and diverse group that comprises almost one quarter of all known mammal species, bats are important as pollinators and seed dispersers in the tropics, and as insect eaters worldwide.


Unfortunately, just as we have come to recognize the value of bats, their populations are being threatened in many ways. In eastern North America, our insectivorous bats, which help control insect populations, have been decimated by a new disease, known as white-nose syndrome.


Caused by a fungus which may be a recent arrival to North America, it affects bats while concentrated in caves hibernating. White-nose syndrome has caused population declines of up to 90%, prompting Massachusetts to list once common species such as little brown bat and northern long-eared bat as endangered.


Concerned by these declines, the National Park Service has obtained funding from Congress to assess bat populations and the effects of white-nosed syndrome at parks in the affected regions. Here at Cape Cod National Seashore, researchers from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry will conduct the seashore's first ever comprehensive bat survey in 2015.


The survey will look at both summer resident and migrant species using mist nets to capture bats in flight and sonic recorders, which record species-specific ultra-sonic vocalizations. This work will provide information on the presence, relative abundance, habitat use, and seasonality of occurrence of bat species, and will also look for evidence of white-nose syndrome among the bats.


There will be a bit of focus on northern long-eared bats, once considered the most common breeding season bat on Cape Cod but now proposed for listing as federally endangered.


This project will try to determine if seashore populations of northern long-eared bats are hibernating locally in buildings, and thereby avoiding exposure to white-nose syndrome in caves.


This involves capturing and radio-tagging bats in late summer and following them to determine if they spend the winter on Cape Cod. Armed with the results of this survey, we will have a much better understanding of the seashore's bats, be able to better protect our current bat populations, and, we hope, contribute to their population recovery.


-- Robert P. Cook, CCNS Wildlife Biologist


Click here for a fascinating NPS video, Bats in Crisis.

  New Artifacts at Old Harbor


A Harden Star Hand Grenade

Recently, some of Friends Old Harbor furnishing funds were used to purchase two "Harden Star Hand Grenade" fire extinguishers. These are quite rare, and were originally issued in quantity to each life-saving station back in the early 1900s. 

They are a nice bluish-green glass, containing a brine solution. When thrown at the base of a fire, the glass would break and disperse the liquid contents. These six-inch high "Grenades" will be displayed on shelves in Old Harbor Life-saving Station near the chimney, both in the first floor Mess Room and in the Bunk Room upstairs. Their efficacy was probably not very good, and we will not be testing them to find out.


Intensive Investigation Leads to

Mitigation Plan for Highland Light


Since 1857, the white masonry tower on the cliffs of the Truro Highlands has warned mariners and welcomed immigrants. The tower is the third lighthouse at the site; the first was constructed in 1797, and was the first light on Cape Cod. Over the past several years, vertical cracks and deteriorated bricks on the tower exterior have become apparent. 


In 2014 preservation specialists conducted a 10-month intensive investigation to determine the cause and means to correct the damage. Historic architects, conservators, and engineers installed sensors and monitors to assess environmental conditions; extracted and analyzed bricks and mortar at various levels; sampled exterior coatings; and investigated corrosion and water intrusion. 

Their assessment provides a fascinating look at masonry construction methods, as well as a course for the National Seashore to follow to correct the damage. Ventilation was an essential element of the tower's design. It has three concentric circular brick walls, with ventilation cavities between the walls. Additionally, openings in the interior brick wall and a ventilator at the top of the tower allowed air to move through the tower and its walls, keeping the masonry dry. 

The lighthouse was transferred from the US Coast Guard to the National Park Service in 1997. During its life it has been painted many times, and some of the coatings were not breathable. Additionally, before the transfer, the tower was moved back from the eroding cliff in 1996. 

Workers filled the air spaces between the walls with grout and sealed ventilation openings to stabilize the tower for the move. These actions inadvertently prevented the tower from breathing, leading to cracks and spalling, as well as other moisture-related issues detected during the investigation.

The most serious structural issue is two corroded I-beams that support the half deck (the deck below the lantern deck). This is a safety issue that the park has received outside funds to repair in 2015 as Phase 1 of the overall project.

Park staff have submitted funding requests to repair the moisture damage and restore ventilation. 2017 is the first year for which funds may be available for this additional phased work. These repairs are the park's top priority for project funds. Highland Light's status as an aid to navigation and important cultural asset on the Outer Cape will weigh heavily in its favor for funding.


Sunrise at the Outer Beach