Storms Brighten Aquinna Cliffs, Imperil Lighthouse

The moisturizing storms that enliven the multi-colored clay bands — red, tan, green — on 134-foot Aquinna Cliffs of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts threaten the existence of the photogenic brick lighthouse marking the site for mariners.

Cliff Stearns, natural resources director for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head ( Aquinnah ), offers a low estimate of 20 years until storms claim the structure. The picturesque clay swirls and layers are undergoing a period of pale color possibly furthered by salt
spray from 2011 Hurricane Irene; but Stearns, who has overseen the cliffs for 17 years, foresees a return to vivid color when rains uncover new clay beds — and move the cliffs yet closer to the historic lighthouse.