Bombs and Birds: Noman’s Plan Discussed

It has been an unusual past 100 years for Noman’s Land, that half-forgotten rock off Chilmark and Aquinnah that has occasionally reasserted its presence to Vineyarders with wafting smoke clouds and distant bomb blasts. Shrouded in mystery and explosives, it has seen rumrunners, pirates, hurricanes, and even an accidental internecine gun battle between the Coast Guard and the Navy in 1967.

Noman’s Land Shows Nature’s a Tough Lover

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuge planner Carl Melberg looked around as Noman’s Land came into view. “Some of the old guys remember parking their boats off Noman’s and watching the fighter jets come by,” he recalled. “It was like watching fireworks out there.”

Closed to the public since the 1930s, on Tuesday I had the chance to accompany the Fish and Wildlife Service, the guardians of the island, on their most recent visit to the Noman’s Land Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Noman’s Land Plan Sees Lively Debate

In 1896 William Mayhew escorted a Boston Globe reporter to Noman’s Land to meet the Butlers, the Island’s lone, rather eccentric inhabitants. Mr. Butler, after explaining that their daughter was possessed by the spirit of a Boston milliner and would often race around the house in a fit of hat trimming, conveyed the desolation of the place, perhaps as idiomatically as possible: “We don’t git any news here at this time of year ’ceptin what comes on the wind, and it’s about two months now since we’ve heard from the American Continent.