Nantucket Shoals

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Detail from NOAA nautical chart 12300 showing the Nantucket Shoals in relation to Nantucket Island.

Nantucket Shoals is an area of dangerously shallow water in the Atlantic Ocean that extends from Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, eastward for 23 miles (37 km) and southeastward for 40 miles (64 km); in places water depth can be as shallow as 3 feet (0.91 m).[1] Depth soundings are unpredictable due to the constant change caused by strong currents, which are rotary rather than reversing.[2] The shoals lie just off of a major transatlantic shipping lane. Numerous ships have been wrecked here, most recently and notably the oil tanker Argo Merchant in December 1976. Until 1983, the edge of the shoals was guarded by the Nantucket Lightship.

The oil tanker Argo Merchant aground on Middle Rip, December 15, 1976.

Nantucket Shoals is made up of the following features:[3]

  • Asia Rip
  • Davis Bank
  • Fishing Rip
  • Middle Rip
  • Phelps Bank

According to the 2010 edition of the United States Coast Pilot, the International Maritime Organization has established an "area to be avoided" for the Nantucket Shoals. Vessels transporting oil or hazardous materials and vessels of more than 1,000 gross tons should avoid the area bounded by the points in the below table.[1]

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap
Point Coordinates
(links to map & photo sources)
Madaket 41°16′30″N 70°12′30″W / 41.275°N 70.208333°W / 41.275; -70.208333 (Madaket)
Southwest point 40°43′12″N 70°00′30″W / 40.72°N 70.008333°W / 40.72; -70.008333 (Southwest point)
Near Asia Rip 40°44′30″N 69°19′00″W / 40.741667°N 69.316667°W / 40.741667; -69.316667 (Near Asia Rip)
Near Fishing Rip 41°04′30″N 69°19′00″W / 41.075°N 69.316667°W / 41.075; -69.316667 (Near Fishing Rip)
Northeast point 41°23′30″N 69°31′30″W / 41.391667°N 69.525°W / 41.391667; -69.525 (Northeast point)
Great Point Light 41°23′24″N 70°02′48″W / 41.39°N 70.046667°W / 41.39; -70.046667 (Great Point Light)


  1. ^ a b United States Coast Pilot. Vol. 2 (39th ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Ocean Service. 2010. pp. 178–179. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved April 17, 2010.
  2. ^ Le Lacheur, Embert A. (April 1924). "Tidal Currents in the Open Sea: Subsurface Tidal Currents at Nantucket Shoals Light Vessel". Geographical Review. 14 (2): 282–286. doi:10.2307/208104. JSTOR 208104.
  3. ^ United States Coast Pilot. Vol. 2 (39th ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Ocean Service. 2010. pp. 179–180. Retrieved April 17, 2010.

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