Tag Archives: Cape Ann


Love the fins!

A video posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Thank you to Tony and Abbie for allowing me to come by and get some footage of the spunky little seahorse. This is the fourth seahorse Tony has found, the second this week. He finds them feeding on tiny crustaceans in his lobster bait traps. I think this is a female. If you look closely in the above Instagram and compare with the diagram below, she does not have the male’s brood pouch.

Lined Seahorses are not strong swimmers; they ambush their prey by camouflaging themselves, changing color to blend with their environment. They are found in shades ranging from deep brownish black to gray to green, red, and oranges. Lined Seahorses feed on small crustaceans, fish larvae, and plankton. Their mouths are without teeth and instead of biting, use a sucking action to draw in food. Because a seahorse has no stomach, it must eat constantly.

Seahorses live in habitats where there is an abundance of vegetation to hold onto, for example, eel grass and seaweed in southern New England. On temperate shorelines they may curl their tail around mangrove roots and corals. It seems logical that Tony’s bait traps make a convenient feeding station, providing both food and a place on which to latch. Although rare, sightings as far north as Nova Scotia have been reported. Cape Cod is the tippy end of the Lined Seahorse’s northern breeding range.

Fun fact about Lined Seahorses: Scientists report that the males dance for their mate every morning as a way to bond.

The Lined Seahorse population is in decline; their species status is listed as “vulnerable.” The reason for the decline is not only habitat destruction, but sadly and preventably, because they are a popular commodity in the trinket trade.

A reporter from NECN and NBC contacted Tony and the story may be airing on NECN.  Let us know if you see the episode. Here’s a video Tony’s wife Abbie made, posted on GMG in 2010.  The seahorse in this video was caught in December, in Ipswich Bay, in 40 degree waters.

Anatomy of a seahorse from Google image search

In the news: Boston Globe 10 places to paint the town (or the beach, or the mountains) plein air recommendations

Happy to see Cape Ann included–thanks Cape Ann Chamber for putting up the flag.

Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester, and Essex are listed together under Cape Ann as a destination for plein air painting. I enjoyed reading and comparing. The first town listed, Jeffersonville, VT, has vivid detail. Cape Ann has history and scenery coming together at every turn.

I might have added that Cape Ann has been the home of the world class Cape Ann Museum, two renowned associations devoted to the advancement of art – the North Shore Art Association and the Rockport Art Association-, one of the country’s oldest continuously active and iconic art colonies on Rocky Neck, and scores of artists and galleries, because it is the number 1 place to paint.



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Naturally beautiful 6 layered rock. Sarah Fraser Robbins excerpt.

20160810_111305Black rocks are slippery and demand respect. Dreaded barnacles may be near. For the uninitiated, advice helps: Tread slowly. Crouch low. No flip flops. Maintain 3 or 4 points of contact. Walk like a crab. The rocks feel sticky, maybe dry. Caution: things change quickly if you’re wet.

Still, people fall. Hard.  I have witnessed spectacular slides down cliffs, torn and stained swimwear, bruised backs, skin scraped raw and red, stubbed and bloody toes, one gashed head, and a fractured wrist.

I have a copy of The Sea is All About Us in a guest room for family and friends. I can’t say that it will ward off all evil falls, but it’s helped. The granite galvanizing, seaweed section quoted below is one of the oft read passages I share. What a teacher! She lived in Gloucester and wrote about it.

If you read it once, I guarantee that it will change how you see the colors of our rocky coast, and sea all about us.



From 1973 The Sea is All about Us by Sarah Fraser Robbins and Clarice Yentsch. Back cover: Yentsch and Robbins (first author-holding horseshoe crab)

The Rocky Shore 

The Black Zone

Plant and animal life on the rocky shore can be separated into six general zones, beginning with the Black Zone, which marks the average high point that the sea reaches upon the land. The Black Zone is covered by microscopic blue-green algae, which are so dense that they make a black line of varying widths along the rocks. These blue green algae exist at high-tide level all around the world wherever the sea meets the land on the rocks. 

Just below the Black Zone lie

The Periwinkle Zone and The Barnacle Zone.

named after the dominant animals. There is no definite territorial line for these animals, and indeed the zones often intermingle with each other. Barnacles and periwinkles can be found penetrating the Rockweed Zone (the next zone seaward) and sometimes into the edge of the Irish Moss Zone. Both periwinkles and barnacles are equipped to withstand desiccation (drying out), and can live very successfully in an area that is dry up to 70 percent of the time.

The Rockweed Zone

lies in the middle intertidal area, and is characterized by the brown seaweeds that live there, such as the sea wrack, Fucus, and the knotted wrack, Ascophyllum, which are long, brown seaweeds with conspicuous float bladders that are firmly attached to most of the rocks. They hang limply when the tide is out and float upwards as the tide rises until they are completely erect at high tide. They sway back and forth, dampening the effect of wave action, and providing a sheltered environment for many intertidal plants and animals.

The Irish Moss Zone

is down lower from the high tide line and is exposed only during the very low tides which occur twice a month. The short, dark red tufts of Irish moss, Chondrus Crispus, cover the lower rocks like a carpet, in sharp contrast with the brown Rockweed Zone, the white Barnacle Zone, the Periwinkle Zone and the Black Zone above. 

The Laminarian or Kelp Zone 

is exposed only at the very lowest tides, which occurs four times a year. This zone extends down as far as light usable for photosynthesis can penetrate–about 30 meters in Folly Cove, and 200 meters in very clear tropical water. The Kelp Zone is the dwelling place of many animals that can survive only continually submerged in water; sponges, hydroids, anemones, certain mollusks, echinoderms, arthropods, tunicates, and fish. Many of these animals may be found higher in intertidal zones, but only in pools that never dry up.


Tide pools occur in all zones. The upper pools in the splash area or Periwinkle Zone are sporadically replenished with sea water, and consequently are subject to variations caused by land temperatures. They may freeze long before the ocean does. They evaporate in hot sun and strong winds, and thereby concentrate their salinity, that is, become saltier than the sea. At times during August, they are reduced to a crust of salt crystals. After heavy rains and floods they become much less salty. Some tide pools in the middle zones will contain animals and plants characteristic of a deeper zone because the conditions present are similar to those in the zone below. Tide pools in the Irish Moss Zone often contain kelp and associated animals. Tide pools are always a good place to explore. 

The edge of the tide is a fragile environment which in its delicate natural balance can easily be destroyed by interference. The building of piers, jetties, and sewage outfalls, and the dumping of trash or industrial wastes into the ocean can be devastating. Overcollecting can be destructive. In the intertidal areas, look and touch only. Examine plants and animals carefully. Overturn stones to see what is clinging to them or living underneath, but always turn that stone back. To leave it overturned alters the environment completely and needlessly kills many organisms. Take photographs or make careful drawings for your notebook, but collect only dead material. Use unbreakable plastic containers from which to observe the organism and then return them to the tidal pool. 



Dry scurry as you like


Rio waters can get better! Thanks to dogged naturalists, we can put our heads under water in Gloucester. Register now for the August 13 Clean Harbor Swim

While Rio welcomes the 2016 XXXI Olympics, Gloucester will host the “38th Annual Celebrate the Clean Harbor Swim” on August 13, 2016 at 9AM on Niles Beach. A  500 meter course for children ages 8-12 was added last year; any parent and child registering at the same time will receive a promotional discount. I find that incentive extra symbolic because a mother and daughter, Sarah Fraser Robbins and Sarah Robbins Evans, together with Philip Weld, Jr., got this all going! MassAudubon facilitated the annual swim the following year and many years after. More recently it’s been produced by the New England Ocean Water Swimming Association (NEOWSA). Many partners with the City of Gloucester continue to work hard for clean water. I’ll write more about the history of the swim in another post, but in this post I want to delve a bit into the biography of Sarah Fraser Robbins.

They swam for clean water because the Clean Water Act was not being enforced in the Harbor. Today participants swim to celebrate clean water.

There are 2.5 centuries of conservation efforts and notable naturalists in Gloucester. Sarah Fraser Robbins was one.


Sarah Fraser Robbins was 68 at the time of the first swim, a long time Gloucester resident, environmentalist, author, scholar and museum educator. She worked at the Peabody Essex Museum for 25 years. In 1961, she and others helped persuade the Raymond family to donate land to Mass Audubon, now Eastern Point Wildlife Sanctuary. Robbins was friends with Ivy LeMon who was active in banding monarchs to trace their migration wintering in Mexico–had to be with that wonderful name. I have heard that together they helped to secure habitat and urged people to garden using the plants butterflies liked. Kim Smith continues on that Gloucester path.

Robbins published articles in regional journals, the journal of the New England aquarium, and for close to 30  years a regular column- “The Curious Naturalist” -for  Mass Audubon publications. The Sea Is All About Us: A Guide to Marine Environments of Cape Ann and Other Northern New England Waters, the 1973 book Robbins wrote with Clarice Yentsch, was an influential touchstone about wildlife at our shores. The lengthy title opens with a nod to the T.S. Eliot poem Four Quartets: The Dry Salvages. What other could it be?  That glorious landmark seamark poem is all Water, art, legacy and nature. And the paradise that’s Cape Ann. 

Read an excerpt with Robbin’s curator, scholar and naturalist’s eye in mind. (Her father was an amateur geologist.)

The river is within us, the sea is all about us;
The sea is the land’s edge also, the granite
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
Its hints of earlier and other creation:
The starfish, the horseshoe crab, the whale’s backbone;
The pools where it offers to our curiosity
The more delicate algae and the sea anemone.
It tosses up our losses, the torn seine,
The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar
And the gear of foreign dead men. The sea has many voices,

The ‘savage rocks’ are two groups of rocky ledge off our shores nearby Straightsmouth and Thacher Island. The bigger ‘Dry Salvages’ are a mile and a half out and the little salvages are a mile out. Growing up, including when he came home from Harvard, Eliot sailed from his family’s summer home on Eastern Point. He could clear the Dry Salvages or thread past Avery Ledge and Flat Ground and back home to Gloucester.

… the ragged rock in the restless waters,
Waves wash over it, fogs conceal it;
On a halcyon day it is merely a monument,
In navigable weather it is always a seamark
To lay a course by: but in the sombre season
Or the sudden fury, is what it always was.

Check out who wrote the forward for the new edition of The Sea is All About Us:


None other than Deborah Cramer, author of The Narrow Edge, another Gloucester conservationist ( and still looking for horseshoe crab sightings)

The Peabody Essex Museum and Maritime Gloucester memorialized Sarah Fraser Robbins. Be inspired!

  • In 2003, Peabody Essex Museum established the Sarah Fraser Robbins Directorship for the Art & Nature Center, currently held by Jane Winchell.
  • In 2014 the Center was dedicated in memory of PEM honorary trustee, Dorothy “Dotty” Addams Brown, Sarah’s good friend and Eastern Point resident.
  • Maritime Gloucester’s education center was dedicated in 2008 as the Sarah Fraser Robbins Marine Science Center.
  • In 2014, Maritime Gloucester also established the Sarah Fraser Robbins Environmental Award.

Philip Weld’s father, Philip S. Weld Sr., was a newspaper publisher, editor, writer, environmentalist, veteran, and record breaking sailor. The year after the first harbor swim Phil Sr won a transatlantic race sailing “Moxie” and wrote about that crossing. He grew up in Manchester and raised his family in Gloucester.

You can see Sarah’s daughter, Sarah Robbins Evans, interviewed in a great 2010 GMG video by Manny Simoes. Make sure to watch his terrific mini doc overview of that 32nd Clean Harbor Swim run by Richie Martin. There are brief and peppy participant interviews. Swimmers came near and far- Tewksbury, Beverly, Boxford, Boston, Bedford NH, Essex, Portland ME, Falmouth ME, Swampscott…watch to find out more!

To register for the Clean Harbor Swim

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Calling All Poets! Open Mic in Rockport

A tradition of the Motif No.1 Day arts festival is to feature poets from Cape Ann and their work in a poetry reading, which takes place each year at 4pm.

This year the event is hosted by Christopher Anderson of the Eastern Point Lit House, and will take place in an open mic format. Poets and readers of all ages welcome. Come early for the other literary events at the festival (the Magnetic Poetry Slam, Book Spine Poetry, selections from Shakespeare presented by Cape Ann Shakespeare Troupe, and more) and stay for the Words Before Dinner Poetry Reading.


Click HERE for a general festival Schedule of Events.

A Modern Day Gloucester Sea Monster Encounter

A true story, the following is a modern day fanciful beast encounter. I have been reluctant to write about this adventure for fear it would draw sight-seers to regions of Cape Ann off the beaten path, as happened with the white pelican sighting. Now that the mystery of its identity may perhaps be solved, I think it safe.

One morning at daybreak as I was unloading my gear at Brace Cove, I paused to scan the edges and then the whole of Niles Pond. I do this often when out filming and photographing at our local ponds and marshes, looking for swans and other wild birds that may be seeking shelter along these idyllic shores. In the middle of the pond was a float of ice with a great many seagulls just beginning to awaken with the rising sun. Nothing unusual about that. What caught my attention was a very large brown shape there on the ice amongst the gulls. Harumph! I said to no one but myself, what a view spoiler and how utterly trashy that a large brown paper lawn and leaf bag should blow out to the middle of the pond and become stuck there. And then the brown shape slithered into the pond. I not only saw it, but heard the very distinct sound of a creature sliding expertly into water. I tried in vain to catch another glimpse and spent the remainder of the morning half spooked and half kicking myself for not more hurriedly making the effort to film and photograph the “garbage bag.” If only I’d known it was alive!

Shortly after the creature encounter, I read about the Ten Pound Island sea monster sightings and concluded, that yes, a mysterious sea creature could easily swim around Eastern Point Lighthouse, haul up at Brace Cove, cross the causeway, and have himself a swim at Niles Pond, if he were so inclined.

I thought about this beast encounter for weeks and at one point, somewhat embarrassedly, asked my husband to come with me to photograph a moonlit evening at Niles Pond as I wasn’t sure I wanted to come face to face with such a great creature at night. By myself. Being the good sport that he is, he came, if just to prove that it was perfectly safe to photograph in the moonlight.

As mentioned, I’ve been hesitant to write this until very recently when at Henry’s Pond, on a rainy and chilly early spring morning I spied for only a few moments what appeared to be a very mini version of the Niles Pond creature. It was swimming at top speed with a long sinuous streamlined shape beneath the surface of the water and only a bit of its head visible above the water. I took a blurry snapshot and raced home to search books and internet for any clues. The creature was too big to be a muskrat and its tail too slender to be a beaver. I am almost certain that what I saw at Henry’s was a North American River Otter. Two weeks passed when while filming Mr. Swan, again on an overcast morning at Henry’s, the little creature energetically appeared near the marshy shore on the opposite side of the pond, looked all around, dove, re-emerged, again looked all about, and then disappeared. This time I was able to capture a few seconds of video of this inquisitive little otter.

What I have learned about North American River Otters is that they can grow very large, up to five and half feet and weigh thirty pounds. There is the Great River Otter of South America, which can grow over six feet, but the creature I saw at Niles was about four and half to five feet long.

Well there you go, a modern day fanciful beast encounter. After seeing my beast, I think it quite easy to understand how sea monster stories from days gone by could so easily capture people’s imaginations.

Please write if you think you have seen a River Otter in your neighborhood. Thank you!

Look toward the marsh in the first clip, with Mr. Swan in the foreground. You can see the bobbing head of the otter in the background. I was hoping to see the otter again and try to capture better footage but it has been several weeks and no further sightings.

Cape Ann Earthquake 260 years ago today

260 years ago today at 4:30 AM November 18, 1755, The Cape Ann earthquake struck. Epicenter was only 24 miles east of Gloucester, some ships thought they were going aground. A few steeples all the way down to Boston tipped and some chimneys fell. If it happened today, 2 billion in damages. There was an earthquake in Medfield this morning.

260 years ago today at 4:30 AM November 18, 1755, The Cape Ann earthquake struck. Epicenter was only 24 miles east of Gloucester, some ships thought they were going aground. A few steeples all the way down to Boston tipped and some chimneys fell. If it happened today, 2 billion in damages. There was an earthquake in Medfield this morning.

“Mother Ann” on a Beautiful Day


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mother Ann is a rock formation located near the Eastern Point Lighthouse in Gloucester, Massachusetts, United States.  When viewed at the correct angle, the formation appears to be the silhouette of a reclining Puritan woman.  It is also believed locally that the formation represents the royal mother of King Charles I,  Anne of Denmark, after whom Cape Ann is named.

The formation may have been named by Captain William Thompson of Salem in 1891, and has since been compared to New Hampshire’s Old Man in the Mountain.[3] A nearby whistling buoy is known as “Mother Ann’s Cow”.

NEW FILM: Luminescent Sea Salps

These salps were filmed in Gloucester’s inner harbor and had a luminous appearance in the blue lights of the fishing boat Hot Tuna, the largest boat in the Wicked Tuna fleet. I think the song “La Luna” by Lucy Schwartz adds to the magical movement of the salps and other creatures in the glowing blue. (So sorry to Captain Ott for startling him while hanging over the edge of the dock to film the salps at the rear of his boat, and Hey to Nicky Avelis!)

Sea salps are warm ocean water creatures, exploding in population during algae blooms. With beating heart, notochcord, and gills they are more closely evolutionarily linked to humans than to jellyfish. Sea salps are individual creatures that through asexual reproduction, can form linear chains up to fifteen feet long!

Salps are planktonic (free floating) members of the subphylum Tunicata. Tunicates get their name from the unique outer covering or “tunic,” which acts as an exoskeleton. The sea salp’s tunic is translucent and gelatinous; in some species it is tough and thick.

John Theo’s new murder mystery novel Cape Ann (CLEAN READS, 2015) is now available where all e-books are sold.


Jeremy Callahan is an ex-cop turned schoolteacher. He lives in the small seaside town of Rockport, Massachusetts, located in the heart of Cape Ann.  His best friend is Brian Walden, a CEO of a software company located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One night Brian is gunned down in front of Jeremy by an apparent drive-by-shooting. Jeremy utilizes his law enforcement background to embark on a mission to find out who murdered his friend. While on the trail he runs into the FBI, Securities and Exchange Commission and into the arms of a beautiful new Harbormaster named Carrie.


John Theo Jr. has been a freelance writer for over ten years publishing both fiction and non fiction. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He is an adjunct professor at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts, where he teaches screenwriting. Cape Ann is his second full length novel. John lives on Cape Ann, Massachusetts with his family.  

Check out the Facebook Page here-



Gloucester’s 5th Annual Overdose Vigil

Some pictures from last nights 5th Annual Overdose Vigil. A time to remember those lost and to highlight the epidemic heroin addiction has become; an issue Gloucester has become a widely recognized leader for coordinating police to get help for addicts, not arrests. Speakers told about their loss, experience and hope that one day there will be no need for a vigil. With candles lit, the names of all family and friends lost was read to close out the evening.

“Art, Rocks!” Sunday! Heads Up! 08/16/2015 at 5:00pm

I heard an Art Rock will be left somewhere on the Harbor Walk on the Waterfront today 08/16/2015 at 5:00pm.

A post on GMG at 4:59pm will give a hint of it’s location.

Try to find it if you dare or don’t if you don’t give a crap.🙂



Game 1 Intertown Twilight League Championship Manchester-Essex Vs. Rowley

The Manchester Essex Mariners and the Rowley Rams squared off Saturday afternoon in game one of their best of 5 championship series. Manchester-Essex Mariners took control early and won the opener 9-3. Rory Gentile got the win and Mike Cain went deep for the game’s only home run.


Founded in 1929, The Intertown Twilight League is the oldest active amateur baseball league in the country, and is recognized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame as such.


Game 2 of the series is played Sunday at 4:00PM in Rowley with Game 3 on Wednesday at 5:30PM back at Memorial Field in Essex.

The Healing Wall – Before Opening

I was taking pictures of the Wall yesterday, before the crowds. Very impressive display. Looking forward to seeing it with people there!

Friday Crowd at Pavillon Beach


Glossy Ibis Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015JPGThank you to the wonderful Anderson Family for sharing their Glossy Ibis sighting. After Chris’s super tip, I easily found them foraging in the fields several mornings in a row. I think there are anywhere between 20 to 30 members to the flock. They don’t allow you to get very close. Someone with a a 300-400mm lens may be able to take much better close ups. Nonetheless, they are fun to watch. I imagine since they are here at the end of June, the ibis may be nesting.

Dear Readers, If you see the Glossy Ibis, can you please share the time and day of your sighting. I understand from Mass Audubon that they rarely breed in our region and it would be exciting if we sighted a breeding pair. Thank you!

And thank you once again to the Andersons who this past year have supplied us with Snow Goose, Brant Geese, Snowy Owl, and now Glossy Ibis tips!!!

Glossy Ibis in flight Gloucester Massachusetts  ©Kim Smith 2015JPG

Niles Beach Fog Saturday 05/30

Until the fog burned off the International Dory Eliminations race directions were going to be simple:  “If you see Hammond Castle, turn around…”

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