Discovered by Captain John Smith in 1614, the Isles of Shoals are a three-mile-long cluster of eight rocky islands and ledges located off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. Bisected by the boundary line of Rye, New Hampshire, and Kittery, Maine, the Isles of Shoals are about five miles east of Rye Harbor. Four of the islands - Star, Cedar, Smuttynose, and Malaga are situated such that they afford a small harbor, known as Gosport Harbor. This harbor, 32 acres in area, is used by commercial and charter fishing boats and recreational vessels, as well as excursion boats from Portsmouth. It is also used by the U.S. Coast Guard out of Portsmouth during search and rescue operations. The Isles of Shoals are popular for summer conferences and are home to a marine biology center operated by Cornell University.
Work in the Isles of Shoals began as early as 1821, when private interests constructed a stone breakwater between Malaga and Smuttynose islands. In 1904, the Corps repaired and strengthened the breakwater to a length of 240 feet and constructed a second stone breakwater, 700 feet long, between Smuttynose and Cedar islands. In 1913, the Corps repaired and strengthened the existing breakwaters and constructed a third stone breakwater, 530 feet long, between Cedar and Star islands. The breakwaters provide vessels with a safe refuge in Gosport Harbor.