The Challenge

Erosion by the numbers at ‘Sconset Beach & Bluff

Each year, ‘Sconset Beach and Bluff is at risk for further erosion. While beach erosion is certainly a “fact of life” in many communities, ‘Sconset specifically and Nantucket overall are special places. The community of ‘Sconset is home to some of Nantucket’s most beloved features (including Sankaty Light), historic homes and family memories. 


Average number of feet each year ‘Sconset Bluff has eroded for the past 10 to 20 years.  In recent difficult storm years, up to 30 feet have been lost from the bluff in isolated locations.


The closest point between the top of ‘Sconset Bluff and Baxter Road (a public way).


Houses on the bluff that were moved or demolished, leaving vacant lots (eight) or moved back to the roadway (12).


The amount in increased taxes that is being paid by all island taxpayers, due to millions of dollars in lost home value on Baxter Road due to erosion in 2014.



There is both an opportunity and a challenge before us: preserving ‘Sconset Beach and Bluff in a way that limits future erosion, stabilizes the current bluff and does not inadvertently accelerate erosion elsewhere on the island. Doing so may not be the right choice for every community on Nantucket facing erosion challenges, but we are hopeful that protecting ‘Sconset Beach and Bluff can serve as a model for other communities who may choose similar measures in the future.

Benchley 1961


Listen to our Audio Tour, highlighting the major aspects of the erosion control project at Sconset Bluff, by calling 508-443-6443.


The photos & maps linked below show the change in Nantucket’s eastern shoreline from Sesachacha Pond to 1,800 feet south of the southern end of Codfish Park from December 1957 to April 2005. Seven detailed erosion maps for smaller segments of this area are contained as pdfs in a downloadable zip file at Part 1. ;

“Between natural processes and the double-whammy of rising sea level and coastal development, two thirds of New England’s beaches are eroding. Which ones are hardest hit? Woods Hole Group has used state data on shoreline changes through 1994 to find the fastest eroding beaches in Massachusetts. Five Nantucket beaches were named among the top 20 fastest eroding beaches in New England.”