Nantucket [key], island, c.14 mi (23 km) long, from 3 to 6 mi (4.8–9.6 km) wide, SE Mass., lying c.25 mi (40 km) S of Cape Cod, from which it is separated by Nantucket Sound. Muskeget Channel is located between Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard to the west. Exhibiting evidence of glaciation (terminal moraine, outwash plain), Nantucket has sandy beaches and low, rolling hills composed of sand and gravel. It is sparsely vegetated; wild cranberries, heather, and wild roses predominate. Nantucket and the small adjacent islands constitute both Nantucket town and Nantucket co. Settled in 1659, the island was part of New York from 1660 to 1692, when it was ceded to Massachusetts. Nantucket was a major whaling port until the decline of the industry (c.1850), and it later developed into a well-known resort and artists' colony. The village of Nantucket is the trade center of the island and is known for its many old houses. The island has a whaling museum and an 18th-century windmill. The first U.S. lightship station (est. 1856) is located near Nantucket.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: U.S. Physical Geography