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Cape Cod

Cape Cod, narrow peninsula of glacial origin, 399 sq mi (1,033 sq km), SE Mass., extending 65 mi (105 km) E and N into the Atlantic Ocean. It is generally flat, with sand dunes, low hills, and numerous lakes. Bartholomew Gosnold, an English explorer, visited the Cape in 1602 and named it for the abundant fish found in surrounding waters. Fishing, whaling, shipping, and salt making were important until the late 1800s. Tourism and cranberry growing (Cape Cod is the nation's largest producer) are now economic mainstays. Housing development and population (now about 200,000) have gradually increased, and the Cape is faced with strains on water and road systems as well as with increasing pollution. Towns on Cape Cod include Barnstable; Provincetown, site of the Pilgrims' first landing (1620); Falmouth, location of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; and Bourne, through which the Cape Cod Canal passes. This lockless canal, 17.5 mi (28.2 km) long, 32 ft (10 m) deep, was built (1910–14) from private funds and purchased by the U.S. government in 1927; it accommodates oceangoing vessels and cuts the distance between New York City and Boston by 75 mi (121 km). Parts of Cape Cod constitute Cape Cod National Seashore (43,685 acres/17,686 hectares; est. 1961). It contains beaches, sand dunes, heathlands, marshes, freshwater ponds, and historic sites, including the first Marconi wireless station in the United States.

See histories by H. C. Kittredge (2d ed. 1968) and P. Schneider (2000).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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