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Ice chunks a tourist attraction along Wellfleet beaches

Andrea Cordeiro went to Duck Harbor, along Wellfleet’s inner bay, to check out the ice chunks.Andrea Cordeiro

Huge chunks of snow and ice continue to wash ashore on Cape Cod amid warmer temperatures this week, drawing crowds of early-season tourists to Wellfleet but also disrupting fisheries and damaging docks.

Wellfleet officials say they are acting as tour guides for curious onlookers headed to the bay to catch the unusual vista along the inner harbor this week.

“I’m thinking it’s time to change my title to ‘new tour director for iceberg sightings,’ ” said Bob Prescott, sanctuary director at the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

These are not technically icebergs — those come from glaciers and are made of more solid ice than snow — but that distinction seems unimportant to the people driving in from as far away as Western Massachusetts to see them.


“Everyone has been locked inside for so long, and they’re looking for any excuse to get out,” Prescott said. “It’s beautiful down there.”

The ice chunks form in open water, and then get left behind on the sand as the tide recedes. When the water returns, they move up the beach. The largest ones appear on Wellfleet’s inner harbors.

Although the rarity of the human-sized ice wedges has been a reprieve from the woes of the harsh winter, officials who work by the docks say it’s been nothing but a headache.

“We will be happy when they all go,” said Wellfleet assistant harbormaster Ted Skiba.

Skiba said the chunks have been causing significant damage to boats and docks as they float through the harbor. The ice on the water has also disrupted the local shell-fishing industry.

“The warmer temps are a blessing for us,” he said.

Still, Skiba has been getting calls “every minute,” and visitors have been stopping by to ask for directions to the best viewing spots.

Even he couldn’t deny that the spectacles are worth checking out.


“I’m more interested in getting our docks fixed. But it’s cool, though. For people who don’t see it all the time, it beats sitting on the couch,” he said.

Andrea Cordeiro

Andrea Cordeiro of Plymouth was among those who couldn’t resist a beachside adventure.

“It was awesome. It was a beautiful day and something amazing to see,” she said of her trip Wednesday.

When she drove to Duck Harbor at 9 a.m., Cordeiro said roughly 40 people were walking along the beach, some climbing on top of the chunks of ice as others snapped photos.

Cordeiro said most of the ice chunks she saw were more than 5 feet tall, and in some cases as long as 8 feet.

“Some of them were massive,” she said.

Jennifer Pierce, executive administrator at the Wellfleet Chamber of Commerce, said she’s seen “quite the influx of visitors,” as images of the beach have been widely shared online.

“Both visitors and locals alike have been actively out and about surveying the large ice chunks at our bay side beaches. The warm spring like temperatures and blue skies make the viewing of the frozen salt masses along Wellfleet’s waters a truly inspirational experience,” she said.

Winnie the five year old golden retriever checked out the ice.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff/Globe staff

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.