Don Wilding is the author of four books on Cape Cod history, a Cape tour guide and a regular speaker on Cape Cod lore in Massachusetts and across New England. He was an award-winning newspaper editor, writer, and designer in Massachusetts for 36 years, including a recent stint as a contributing history columnist and photographer for Cape newspapers.
Cape Cod and The Portland Gale of 1898
On the night of November 26, 1898, with a killer storm of historic proportions approaching, the steamer Portland set out from Boston. By the following night, the winter hurricane sent the vessel to the depths of Massachusetts Bay off Cape Cod, claiming nearly two hundred lives. On the Cape, a few dozen victims of the Portland disaster washed ashore, while ships piled up in harbors, high tides swept away railroad tracks, and the landscape and beaches were changed forever. Several Cape Cod mariners went to sea and never returned, caught in the gale’s evil clutches. Don revisits this disaster and the heroic deeds of the U.S. Life-Saving Service and the Cape’s citizenry in what came to be known as “The Portland Gale.”
Shipwrecks of Cape Cod:
Stories of Tragedy and Triumph
From the wreck of the Sparrow-Hawk in 1626 to the grounding of the Eldia in 1984, Cape Cod’s outer beach—often referred to as the “Graveyard of Ships”—saw the demise of more than three thousand vessels along forty miles of shifting shoals. The October Gale of 1841 claimed the lives of fifty-seven sailors from Truro, a devastating toll for a small seaside community. Survivors from the 1896 wreck of the Monte Tabor in Provincetown were arrested for a suspected mutiny. Aboard the Castagna, which stranded off Wellfleet in 1914, several sailors froze to death in the masts, while the crew’s cat survived. Local author Don Wilding revisits these and many other maritime disasters, along with the heroic, and sometimes tragic, rescue efforts of the U.S. Life-Saving Service and Coast Guard.
A Brief History of Eastham:
On the Outer Beach of Cape Cod
First known as Nauset, Eastham was once home to the Nauset tribe for thousands of years before exploration by Champlain and the Pilgrims, and it is now known as the “Gateway to the Cape Cod National Seashore.” Whether it’s the U.S. Life-Saving Service and its shipwreck rescues, Cape Cod’s oldest windmill or tales of sea captains and rumrunners, Eastham is truly rich in history and tradition. Author Don Wilding wanders back in time through the Outer Cape’s back roads, sand dunes and solitary beaches to uncover Eastham’s fascinating past.
Henry Beston's Cape Cod
Since 1928, Henry Beston's The Outermost House has been THE definitive book about Cape Cod. Don Wilding tells the story behind Beston's nature classic.
How The Outermost House inspired legislators in Washington to establish the Cape Cod National Seashore;
How Henry Beston's trail to Cape Cod began at the Battle of Verdun in France during World War I;
The influence that Henry Beston and The Outermost House had on Rachel Carson, other nature writers, and the American environmental movement;
The Cape Cod stories that you won't find in The Outermost House;
The winter hurricane that claimed Beston's house in 1978.
PROVINCETOWN INDEPENDENT: Maurice's -- A Campground for Camaraderie / September 2020
CAPE COD LIFE: Cape Cod Rum Runners: Living on the Edge of the Law / July 2019
CAPE CODDER: Saving the Stranded: Cape volunteers on rescue mission for turtles / Nov. 4, 2005
PROVINCETOWN BANNER: Outermost Birding with Beston / Sept. 22, 2016
BARNSTABLE PATRIOT / SUMMERSCAPE: Dune Shacks: Temples rise on the dunes / Summer 2004
CAPE CODDER: Let there be light: Provincetown celebrates
20 years of Pilgrim Monument illumination / Nov. 18, 2005
CAPE COD NATIONAL SEASHORE 2003 ACTIVITY GUIDE: The Outermost House endures after 75 years