Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm
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.
Roanoke 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
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.
Ten days 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.
When he 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 to battle.
in fifteen ninety, Governor White returned to Roanoke Island.
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 Croatoan, C-R-O-A-T-O-A-N.
John 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
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.
Almost 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 fifteen ninety-nine.
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.
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.
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.
the nineteen forties, professional archeologists started to investigate the
island. But little has been found in recent years.
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.
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 Roanoke Sound.
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.
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 colonial times.
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
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
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.
Outside 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 house.
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.
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.