Rhode Island’s Ocean and Coastal Magazine

Winter 2018: Geology


This issue explores the geology behind Rhode Island’s maritime history, recreation, and ecology. 

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Correction: The aerial photo on page 20 includes a portion of Providence, but not the filled land described in the article.

From the Editor


Underlying every wave that crashes on Rhode Island’s shore are millions of years of geologic history. In this issue, we examine the many surprising ways that geology shapes life along our coast.

41°N: Rhode Island’s Ocean and Coastal Magazine, produced by Rhode Island Sea Grant and the Coastal Institute at the University of Rhode Island, is dedicated to bringing you stories and images that reveal interesting and unexpected details of scientific discoveries, the ocean economy, Rhode Island history, and the lives of people who work on and around the water.

We are committed to ensuring that 41°N is available to all readers free of charge, but we need your help. Your generous donation today will help support the work of our writers, editors, and photographers as they report on Rhode Island’s maritime people, places, and heritage. We value a gift in any amount, but whether you can give or not, please know that we appreciate your being a part of the 41°N community.

You may make a secure contribution online at urifoundation.org/RISeaGrantGift. Donations are tax deductible.

Gifts of $25 or more will receive a set of eight Rhode Island Sea Grant notecards as a token of our thanks.

Thank you for your support!

Monica Allard Cox, Editor

Write Us
Please write to Letters, 41°N Editorial Office, Rhode Island Sea Grant, URI Bay Campus, Narragansett, RI 02882, or email 41N@gso.uri.edu.





– Features –

Ice and Oysters

An oyster may seem like a simple food; plucked straight from the water, it can be enjoyed on the spot, without any extra ingredients or cooking necessary. While its preparation may seem simple, its consumption reveals a complex story of glaciers and environment. The...

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Laying Low

\An old church converted into two townhomes sits 60 feet above Newport Harbor, safely away from the encroaching sea. It is here that long-time Newport residents Hilary and David Stookey moved nearly five years ago, leaving their previous home along Almy Pond, a...

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Geology in Motion

Surfing in New England often means donning thick, hooded wetsuits, navigating the occasional snow-covered beach, and avoiding rocks—conditions that explain why surfing here was slow to catch on when the sport first took hold in the warmer waters and sandy beaches of...

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A Military History of Narragansett Bay

Narragansett Bay is a gift of the glaciers, which over millions of years left behind a 30-mile long, 102 square-mile navigable waterway, one of the finest deep-water ports on the East Coast. John King, University of Rhode Island oceanography professor, notes that “you...

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We are the Landscape

“We’re interrelated with the landscape; the name ‘Nahiganseck’ (later corrupted to Narragansett by Europeans) means ‘the people of the small points,’ which is describing the topography that we’re on that is adjacent to the ocean,” says Lorén Spears, executive director...

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The Landscape of the Sea

Have you ever stopped to consider that in the pantheon of historic milestones of Rhode Island, there is one event that rises above all others? Moreover, that it underscores the significance of the natural attributes of the Ocean State and its renowned estuary,...

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Providence: City on a Fill

Water was the lifeline for every settlement in early America. However, as villages grew into towns and then cities, some found themselves squeezed into a space that led them to expand by pushing back the sea through a process that archaeologists call “landmaking.” In...

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Between Land and Sea

A 1777 map of Narragansett bay described the area as home to “one of the finest Harbours in the World … fish of all kinds … in the greatest plenty and perfection. Horses are boney and strong, the Meat Cattle and sheep are much the largest in America, (and) the butter...

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Beach Birds

One of the rarest breeding birds in the Northeast finds the beaches of Rhode Island particularly appealing in summer—not for swimming and sunbathing, of course, but for nesting and feeding. Piping plovers, sparrow-sized pale shorebirds classified as threatened on the...

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