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Definition: Nantucket from Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary

Island, Atlantic Ocean S of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, constituting with adjoining islands Nantucket co., SE Massachusetts; area 57 sq. mi. (148 sq. km.); pop. (2000c) 9520; summer resort. Birthplace of first American woman astronomer Maria Mitchell 1818; pop. grew rapidly in 1990s.


County in SE Massachusetts. See table at massachusetts.


Town, county seat of Nantucket co., SE Massachusetts, on Nantucket Sound in N cen. Nantucket I.; former whaling center.

Summary Article: Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA
from The Encyclopedia of Tourism and Recreation in Marine Environments

This name identifies a county, an island, a town and a body of water, the Nantucket Sound. The island, approximately 120 km2, lies off the coast of Massachusetts south of Cape Cod. It was first entered on a sailing chart by Bartholomew Gosnold in 1602. The island was solely inhabited by a native American tribe, the Wampanoags, until their peace was disturbed by the arrival of Englishmen in 1641. The growth of the community of Nantucket was fostered by the whaling trade, the success of which made Nantucket known worldwide by sailors, whalers and adventurers. For over 100 years the island was a thriving centre for fishing, whaling and maritime business. With the demise of the whale populations the importance of Nantucket as a commercial centre diminished.

In modern times Nantucket has become one of the foremost summer tourism destinations on the east coast of the USA. The old town of Nantucket has preserved its whaling past with an extensive whaling museum. Colonial architecture - including mansions built by successful businessmen and more modest shingled cottages and brick houses - make either a day trip or a summer’s holiday to Nantucket a memorable experience.

It is easily accessible by ferry or aeroplane but is best experienced by sailing from the mainland. Nantucket has a very low profile and is not visible from distances greater than 11 to 13 km. This adds to the feeling of taking an offshore cruise and accentuates the feeling of leaving the world behind.

Lee J. deLisle
© CAB International 2008.

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