to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.
I'm Faith Lapidus. Roanoke Island is off the mid-Atlantic coast of the United
States, in North Carolina. In fifteen eighty-seven, more than one hundred
people arrived from England to live on the island. Three years later, they were
gone. Today we revisit the mystery of whatever happened to America's "Lost
Britain's first settlement of families in America was
supposed to be along the Chesapeake Bay. The colonists, however, settled on
Roanoke Island instead of sailing farther north. No one knows why.
is a low, narrow island between the mainland and the islands of the Outer
Banks. The island has thick wetlands, tall oak trees and a lot of wildlife.
Today it appears much as it did when the colonists arrived.
The one hundred seventeen men, women and
children were not the first white people to try to live on the island. A group
of more than one hundred Englishmen had arrived two years earlier, in fifteen
eighty-five. But they arrived too late in the year to plant crops, and their
supplies nearly ran out. They also fought with Indians. The Englishmen returned
home the following year.
Then came the families of what would
become the Lost Colony. Governor John White led this group to the New World.
Soon, he recognized that the settlers would need more supplies and weapons to
survive. So, after only a few months, he decided to return to England.
before he sailed, his daughter Eleanor Dare had a baby girl. Virginia Dare
became the first English child born in America.
John White would never know his
granddaughter. The last time the governor saw his family was just before he
returned to England.
arrived in England, John White found himself trapped by the situation there.
Britain had declared war with Spain in fifteen eighty. All the ships were sent
in fifteen ninety, Governor White returned to Roanoke Island.
But he did not find the small settlement
busy and growing. Instead, it was empty. Where could the people have gone? The
only evidence was cut into a tree and a fence: the letters C-R-O and the word
White thought the colonists had gone to live with the Croatoan Indians south of
Roanoke. He was ready to investigate. But a great storm damaged some equipment
on his ships. He was forced to return again to England.
The governor tried several more times to
go back to America. He never succeeded. John White never knew what happened to
the colony or his family.
have theories. Native Americans may have killed the colonists. Or the British
could have been killed by Spanish troops who came up from what is now Florida.
Or perhaps the settlers went farther inland. There, they might have met
friendly Indians and married into their tribes.
The most interesting theory about the Lost Colony started
with a rock found in nineteen thirty-seven. The rock was discovered less than one
hundred kilometers from Roanoke Island. It was covered with writing. Many
people thought it was a message from Eleanor Dare to her father, telling him
the colonists fled the island after an Indian attack.
forty other rocks were discovered over the next three years. Together, they
told a story of how the colonists traveled, and how Eleanor Dare died in
Many historians did not believe the
story. But many reporters did. In time, however, an investigative reporter
discovered that the whole story was a lie.
time passed, the settlement itself disappeared. Trees and bushes started to
cover the buildings.
In about sixteen fifty-three, a trader
named John Farrar and three friends landed on the island from Virginia. Some
historians say the group found objects from the Lost Colony and left with them.
In the eighteen
sixties, during the American Civil War, Union soldiers won a battle on Roanoke
Island. While there, the soldiers apparently dug for evidence of colonial life.
In the nineteen forties, professional
archeologists started to investigate the island. But little has been found in
The Institute for International Maritime
Research, based in North Carolina, is looking for more objects from the
colonial period. But its director, Gordon Watts, is not digging for the
artifacts. Instead, the archeologist is diving for them. The research is part
of a project to search on land and in the water for remains of the Lost Colony.
North Carolina lawyer named Phil Evans organized a group called the First
Colony Foundation to raise money for this purpose.
In the nineteen eighties, Mister Evans
worked at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. During that time, he found
what was left of an old well from colonial days. He made this discovery in
Watts says the sea, over time, may have worn away areas of land. As a result,
he says other objects from colonial life may be under the waters of the Roanoke
other experts reject this erosion theory. But National Park Service
archeologists did underwater research in two thousand. They found more than two
hundred places that might contain historical objects.
Mister Watts and his team have begun
work on the northeast side of Roanoke Island. In October of two thousand five,
the divers explored an area close to shore. So far, their findings have
included pieces of a brick that could be from building materials used in
Visitors to Roanoke Island can learn
more about the Lost Colony. At the northern end of the island is the Fort
Raleigh National Historic Site. This park was developed on the same land used
by the colonists.
from the colonial period include an Indian smoking pipe. There are pieces of
iron farming equipment. And there are metal counting devices used for keeping
A model fort is the only structure in
the park built in the exact place as the first building. The model was designed
to look the same as when those first Englishmen arrived. The fort was mainly a
square building with pointed structures called bastions. A bastion is a secure
position used for defense against attack.
the visitors center at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is the
Elizabethan Room. It has wooden walls and a stone fireplace. The fireplace is
from a sixteenth-century British home. The Elizabethan Room is similar to rooms
in the home of Sir Walter Raleigh. He was a wealthy British investor who
supported the settlement of Roanoke Island.
the visitors center are the Elizabethan Gardens, created by the Garden Club of
North Carolina. Beautiful paths lead visitors among flowers and plants. People
visiting the Elizabethan Gardens can enter through a sixteenth-century garden
summer nights, visitors to the island can see a play called "The Lost Colony."
The Roanoke Island Historical Association has been performing this play since
and dance tell the mysterious story of the colonists. The show is performed in
a historic outdoor theater near the Elizabethan Gardens.
Questions about Eleanor Dare and the
other lost colonists continually bring historians and other researchers to
Roanoke Island. They hope to discover new evidence about what happened to the
young mother and her baby. For now, the mystery of America's Lost Colony is a
story whose ending remains to be written.
Internet users can read and listen to
our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Visitors can also find a link to the
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, with information about a free electronic
field trip for students. I'm Faith Lapidus.
I'm Steve Ember. Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and Jill Moss. It
was produced by Caty Weaver. Please join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA
in VOA Special English.