September 15, 1961

Waves from Hurricane Esther on the beach. In 1961, Hurricane Esther gathered itself into a category-three hurricane as it moved north-northwest from the Cape Verde Islands. The storm peaked with sustained winds of 145 miles per hour and made landfall in North Carolina before it continued north and hit Nantucket on September 26. Twenty-foot waves plowed through Broad Creek Crossing in Madaket and created a channel that cut Smith’s Point off from the rest of Nantucket.

In the days after the storm, local people assumed the channel would close up, but it did not. With a wide opening to the sea established, strong ocean currents continued to redefine Madaket’s shoreline throughout the fall. By November, three homeowners had moved their cottages away from the eroding shoreline. The severed section of Madaket remained an island for more than twenty years and eventually became known as Esther’s Island. In the mid-1980s, shifting sands reconnected Esther’s Island to Nantucket.

Excerpted from On This Day In Nantucket History
By Amy Jenness
The History Press
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The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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