Strange Visitors on Nantucket that Are Not Here for Figawi

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by Dr. Sarah D. Oktay
Director, University of Massachusetts Nantucket Field Station

Tyler Bradbury and Mike Strazzula were in Madaket enjoying the sunset on a warm spring evening when they saw this giant white thing flapping in the surf. What they were looking at was a rare oarfish, the longest bony fish in the ocean.  Also known as King of the Herrings, oarfish have ribbon-like bodies that can grow up to 50 feet in length.  The fish is found worldwide, but is most common in cooler waters at latitudes greater than 15° and in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.  It normally ranges as deep in the ocean as 3000 feet but they occasionally venture into shallower waters, especially after storms.  Its scaleless body is covered with a silver to silvery-blue skin and is topped with an ornate, red dorsal fin that resembles a decorative headdress.  This dorsal fin runs the entire length of the fish, with a tiny spine projecting above each of over 400 individual fin rays.  The pelvic fins of this fish are elongated and similarly colored.  They swim vertically, heads up, with their bodies stiff and undulating only the dorsal fin.  Large adults have been known to kill themselves by swimming onto beaches.

It has a small mouth with no visible teeth.  Their diet consists mainly of plankton, small crustaceans, and small squid that they strain from the water using specially formed gill rakes in their mouth.  In turn, the oarfish may be a food source for larger ocean carnivores such as sharks.  They normally stay in very deep water and rarely venture near shore.
Little is known about the reproductive habits of the oarfish, although they have been observed spawning off the coast of Mexico between July and December.  After spawning, the eggs are abandoned by the adults to float on the ocean surface until hatching. Once hatched, the tiny larvae feed mainly on plankton until they mature. Adult oarfish are thought to live solitary lives.

Big kudos go to Mike Strazzula, Tyler Bradbury, and Chris Kinch who shared this discovery and returned the oarfish safely to the ocean.  They also quickly alerted the Maria Mitchell Association and, through the magic of Facebook, the image made the rounds of the island so that all of us could be on the lookout for it.  If you find an oarfish alive, please get it back to the water.  If found on the beach dead, the Maria Mitchell Association asks you to call 508-228-9198 or bring it to the Maria Mitchell Association on 4 Vestal Street so that it can be studied and recorded.

If that wasn’t enough excitement for the month, apparently some white beluga whales got wind of a gathering around Nantucket and decided to make a very rare appearance in our local waters.  Also on May 4, Jesse Dutra reported to me via Facebook that he saw white beluga whales near the jetties in Nantucket Harbor.

For the full article and photos, visit YesterdaysIsland.com

Giant Oarfish on Nantucket. Photo courtesy of Maria Mitchell Association

Giant Oarfish on Nantucket. Photo courtesy of Maria Mitchell Association

Confessions of a Whiskey Drinker at Nantucket Wine Fest – Top Three

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With the exception of a bottle of extraordinary burgundy that Wine Fest Founder Denis Toner shared with me one February evening at Fifty-Six Union, the joys of wine are lost on me.  Given the choice, I’ll take whiskey over wine every time.

There, I said it.

This week on Nantucket, with the annual Wine Festival in full swing, a confession like this could be deemed traitorous.  But I can’t fake it any longer, and I’ve recently discovered that I am not alone.  So here are my top three ideas on where a whiskey drinker can come out of the cellar and enjoy Nantucket Island during Wine Festival weekend.

Brant Point Grill is in the heart of the action during Wine Fest, but they also offer a selection of nine different premium whiskeys and have nearly as many bourbons in their repertoire that are perfect served neat.  If you prefer yours in a cocktail, then it’s hard to find anything better than their Barrel Aged Manhattan that is mixed and aged in an oak barrel with medium char and emerges smoother than the newly mixed version, with a tinge of smokiness.

I was a whiskey virgin before Orla Murphy-LaScola introduced me years ago to the variety she and Chef Michael LaScola offered at American Seasons.  Now co-owners of The Proprietors bar & table on India Street, Orla has brought to this new location a superb selection of 21 imported and 15 American whiskeys.  Cocktails of choice for whiskey drinkers here are the No. 3: “Calming, Bright, Serendipitous” and the No. 5: “Clean, Sparkling, and Quixotic.”

Notch 10 year at Cisco Brewers on Nantucket

Notch 10 year at Cisco Brewers on Nantucket

For a heady mix of music and spirits, head out to the open air bar at Cisco Brewers on Bartlett Farm Road for a glass of award-winning Notch by master distiller Randy Hudson of Triple Eight.  The Notch (10-year-old and 12-year-old) has been racking up accolades including a Gold Medal, Double Gold, and Best in Category from the American Distilling Institute, a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition, and American Single Malt Distillery of the year by the Berlin International Spirits Competition — and those are just from 2015 (so far)!

So forget red and white, and savor the golden nectar.

Rodeo Comes to Nantucket

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When we heard the Rodeo was coming to Nantucket from Texas, we envisioned cowboys on horses, not poets at typewriters.  But after reading about the Typewriter Rodeo, we are already working on our topic ideas for their June visit.

The poets of Austin-based Typewriter Rodeo will come to Nantucket in June.

The poets of Austin-based Typewriter Rodeo will come to Nantucket in June.

The Austin writers who make up the Typewriter Rodeo are traveling to New England for the first time ever to participate in the Nantucket Book Festival.  Festival attendees will have the opportunity to give the Typewriter Rodeo poets a topic, and they will create and type on a vintage typewriter a personalized, original poem in minutes. Members of the Rodeo have writing and performance backgrounds.  The Rodeo will be under the festival tent in the Nantucket Atheneum Garden on India & Federal streets on Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20.

Held this year for three days, from June 19 to 21, the annual Nantucket Book Festival is a multi-­day cultural event created in 2012 by a group of dedicated volunteers to celebrate the rich literary history and community on Nantucket Island.  More than 30 authors will present at the festival this year, including Scott Turow, Anita Diamant, Ishmael Beah, Alice Hoffman, Jodi Picoult, Azar Nafisi, and Nathaniel Philbrick.

The Festival seeks to create and renew enthusiasm for books, connect authors with readers, and encourage a love of reading and writing in a younger generation through their partnership with the PEN/Faulkner Foundation Writers in Schools Program. For a complete list of participating authors, up‐to‐date details, and to purchase tickets for ticketed events, visit www.nantucketbookfestival.org.

The 4th annual Nantucket Book Festival will be held June 19-21, 2015.

The 4th annual Nantucket Book Festival will be held June 19-21, 2015.

Nantucket Music Festival To Return to the Island in 2016

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Organizers of the first Nantucket Music Festival last summer knew their idea of a two-day, live music celebration for visitors and residents of the historic resort destination had enormous potential. But, nothing could prepare them for the overwhelmingly positive response they received from sponsors and the performing arts community. The inaugural festival featured a vibrant and eclectic mix of musical performers on two stages at the island’s Tom Nevers Field, August 2nd and 3rd, 2014. In addition, more than 30 sponsors signed on to sample their products and services, entertain customers and tie their brands to the event, all of which taxed the staff and resources of the first-year organizing committee.

NMF founder and seasonal resident Cynthia Dareshori said she and her team were amazed at the response, but they weren’t prepared for such an outpouring of support. “We found ourselves at a caliber of sponsorship most events of this kind don’t achieve in five or ten years, if ever,” she said, “and yet we were still working out the kinks of a massive, first-year undertaking. The supporters were so quick to come aboard, so completely bought-in to our mission, we frankly were a little overwhelmed and had to turn down additional sponsor partners.” Dareshori said after a thorough review of last year’s festival, she made the decision to step back and rescale the event based on feedback from attendees, Nantucket Island officials and the community as well as suggestions from NMF sponsors. “From the very beginning, our vision for the Nantucket Music Festival was this bigger-than-life, live music showcase staged at one of the most naturally picturesque locations in the world, and we accomplished that,” she said. “Our next evolutionary step is to properly scale the event to the needs of the island community and our sponsors so that we’ll have a durable, workable model that can endure for years to come.”

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros performed at the 2014 Nantucket Music Festival

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros performed at the 2014 Nantucket Music Festival

With that goal in mind, Dareshori announced plans for the NMF to return in 2016. “We succeeded in delivering a live, world-class musical experience with no incidents, minimal complaints and property impact,” she said. “Most of our food and merchandise vendors have already expressed an interest in returning next year, as have our musical artists, and our wonderful sponsors are planning even more engaging experiences for our attendees.” Dareshori also reported the Festival’s non-profit Celebrate Music Foundation donated almost $10,000 to the Nantucket Community Music Center and that a beneficiary will be named for 2016.

Nantucket Music Festival launched in 2014 for the enjoyment of popular music by visitors and residents alike on Nantucket Island, the well-known resort community located 25 miles at sea off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The festival features popular bands and musicians in many musical styles including folk, rock, country, blues, jazz, soft reggae, singer-songwriter and others. Net proceeds from the 2014 Nantucket Music Festival benefited the Nantucket Community Music Center through the non-profit Celebrate Music Foundation, Inc.

For more, visit Nantucketmusicfestival.com, find the Festival on Facebook at https:// www.facebook.com/Nantucketmusicmestival or on Twitter @ACKMusicfest.