A full house gathered last Tuesday night at the Vineyard Haven Public Library for a presentation of one of the most pressing issues facing the Island: coastal erosion. The program featured a screening of Kathie Rose’s short documentary The Breach, about erosion on Chappaquiddick, and a talk by Bob Woodruff detailing changes to the South Shore as a whole.
Ms. Rose spent four years working on her film, spurred on to act after a visit to Chappaquiddick in 2009. A large August storm had just come through and flooded parts of the Island beyond recognition.
“It was just overwhelming,” Ms. Rose said. A professional photographer, she had recently begun taking videography classes at Featherstone and MVTV, and saw film as a way to present the Chappy story, which began in 2007 when an April storm broke through the barrier beach at Norton Point and fundamentally changed the nature of erosion there. Ms. Rose began filming and shooting stills, receiving editing help from friend Chris Mara.
The Breach, which is available for viewing at any of the Island public libraries, features serene Chappy landscapes interspersed with more dramatic clips of the changing beaches. One tracking shot of long, bare tree roots extending down a 20-foot cliffside drew murmurs from the audience. Ms. Rose also interviewed several Chappy experts, including Jeffress Williams, a marine geologist based in Woods Hole, Chappy ferry owner Peter Wells and captain Brad Fligor, and Trustees superintendent Chris Kennedy. The film also discussed the impact erosion had on two homes at Wasque Point — the Schifter house, which was moved away from the edge of Wasque, and the Wax house, which was saved via a natural deus ex machina when the tidal currents changed.
“[Erosion] not only changes the land, it changes the sea,” Ms. Rose said, after the film. Working on the project had made her more aware of climate change, she said, and of the need to mitigate its effects while preparing for an increase in the violent storms that led to the breach.
“At any rate, I just feel like we have to do something,” she said. “I just feel like we have to wake up.”
Mr. Woodruff presented an overview of Island geology, going back to the Vineyard’s glacial origins.
“It’s a museum of glacial geology,” he said. Mr. Woodruff noted that breaches had occurred several times in recorded history, although none had the dramatic effects of the 2007 event.
“This is nature,” he said. “It’s all nature at work . . . the big picture is Planet Earth.”