Home Massachusetts Henry David Thoreau Gripes About Cape Cod Fog

Henry David Thoreau Gripes About Cape Cod Fog

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Henry David Thoreau wanted a change in the summer of 1857, and so he traveled to Cape Cod from his home in Concord, Mass. He found much that interested him, but he had no use for the Cape Cod fog.


Cranberry Bog in Yarmouth off Union Street

In June he wrote about a snake that had cast off its old skin. “Can’t I?” he asked his journal.

He was 39 years old, an established literary figure after the publication of Walden in 1854.

Thoreau visited Cape Cod four times, and wrote Cape Cod as a series of articles. Like his other travelogues, it includes his thoughts on history, geography and nature as he recounts his travel itinerary.

On June 20, 1857, Thoreau was staying at Small’s in Truro and roaming around the Cape. He complained about the fog in his diary; Thoreau suffered from tuberculosis — it killed him in 1862 — and the fog probably bothered his lungs.

Cape Cod Fog

June 20. This was the third foggy day. It is a serious objection to visiting or living on the Cape that you lose so many days by fog. From time to time the sun almost or quite shines, and you can see half a mile, or to Provincetown even, and then, against all your rules, it thickens up again. An inlander would think it was going to clear up twenty times when it may last a week. I have now visited the Cape four times in as many different years, once in October, twice in June, and once in July, having spent in all about one month there, and about one third the days were foggy, with or without rain.

According to Alden (in Massachusetts Historical Collections, vol. v, First Series), page 57, Nantucket was discovered by a famous old Indian giant named Maushop, who waded the sea to it, and there filling his pipe with “poke,” his smoke made fog. Whence that island is so much in the fog, and the aborigines on the opposite portion of the Cape, seeing a fog over the water at a distance, would say, “There comes old Maushop’s smoke.”

The Cape people with whom I talked very generally denied that it was a phenomenon in any degree peculiar to the Cape. They said that it was just such weather at Boston. Indeed, some denied that it was fog at all. They said with some asperity that it was rain. Yet more rain would have fallen in a smart shower in the country in twenty minutes than in these five days on the Cape. When I got home I found that there had been an abundance of cloudy weather and rain within a week, but not one foggy day in Concord.

This story last updated in 2022.

:Image: Cape Cod fog )Cranberry bog in Yarmouth) by Massachusetts Office of Tourism via Flickr, CC by ND 2.0.

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