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THIS IS AMERICA - March 4, 2002: The Lost Colony - 2002-03-01


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Broadcast: March 4, 2002

VOICE ONE:

In Fifteen-Eighty-Seven, more than one-hundred men, women and children sailed from Britain across the Atlantic Ocean. They arrived at Roanoke Island off the coast of what is now North Carolina. This group established the first English settlement in America. However, within three years, the group disappeared without any signs. No one knows what happened to them. I’m Mary Tillotson.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Steve Ember. The story of America’s Lost Colony is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

((THEME))

VOICE ONE:

Britain’s first settlement of families in America was supposed to be along the Chesapeake Bay. However, for unknown reasons, the colonists settled on Roanoke Island instead of sailing farther north.

Roanoke is a low, narrow island that lies between North Carolina’s Outer Banks and the mainland. The Outer Banks are a group of narrow islands along the North Carolina coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

The land on Roanoke Island today appears much as it did when the colonists arrived. The island has thick wetland areas, tall oak trees and a lot of wild animals. Because of this, Roanoke was a good, welcoming place for the colonists to settle.

VOICE TWO:

Soon after the colonists arrived in Fifteen-Eighty-Seven, fighting broke out with nearby Native American Indians. John White had led the British colonists to what was called the New World. He soon recognized that more supplies and arms were needed if the settlers were to survive. So Governor White decided to return to England only a few months after the settlers had arrived.

Ten days before he sailed, Governor White’s daughter Eleanor Dare had a baby girl. Virginia Dare became the first English child born in America. However, Governor White would never know his granddaughter. The last time he saw his family was just before he returned to England.

VOICE ONE:

When he arrived back in England, Governor White found himself trapped. Britain had declared war with Spain in Fifteen-Eighty, and all ships were sent to battle. Finally, in Fifteen-Ninety, Governor White was able to return to Roanoke Island. However, instead of finding the small settlement busy and growing, he discovered it was empty. The only evidence telling where the colonists could have gone were the letters C-R-O written on a wooden stick at the entrance to the colony.

Governor White thought the letters meant the colonists had gone to live with the Croatoan Indians south of Roanoke. He was ready to investigate, but was forced to return to England after a great storm damaged some equipment on his ships. Governor White tried several more times to return to America, but was never successful. He died many years later, never knowing what happened to his family and the colony.

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VOICE TWO:

Today, visitors to Roanoke Island can gain a good understanding of what life was like for the colonists. On 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. In fact, there is a building in the middle of the park that is modeled after the small military structure built when the colonists first arrived.

This model fort is the only structure in the park built in the exact place as the first building. The model fort was built the same way it was created when the first settlers arrived. The fort was mainly a square building with pointed structures called bastions. Bastions are secure military positions used in fighting.

Researchers believe the homes of the colonists would have been built near the road leading from the entrance of the fort. The researchers also discovered many objects from the colonial period. They include iron farming equipment, an Indian smoking pipe, and metal counters used for keeping financial records.

VOICE ONE:

Inside the visitor’s center at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is the Elizabethan Room. This room has wooden walls and a stone fireplace from a sixteenth-century British home. The Elizabethan Room is similar to the kind of rooms found in the home of Sir Walter Raleigh. He was a wealthy British investor who financially supported the Roanoke colony.

Outside the visitor’s center are the Elizabethan Gardens. The Garden Club of North Carolina created these gardens as a memorial to the first colonists. They are also examples of the kind of gardens wealthy supporters of the colony enjoyed in Britain. People visiting the Elizabethan Gardens can enter through a sixteenth-century garden house. Beautiful paths lead visitors among the different flowers and plants that grow throughout the year.

During warm summer nights, visitors at Roanoke Island can see a play called “The Lost Colony.” The Roanoke Island Historical Association has been performing this play since Nineteen-Thirty-Seven. It includes music, dance and the mysterious story of the lost colonists. The show is performed in an outdoor theater near the Elizabethan Gardens. The Waterside Theater is America’s first outdoor theater.

VOICE TWO:

Several kilometers south of Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is Roanoke Island Festival Park. The park has stores, two theaters and an art center. There is also a camp area where visitors can see how British soldiers lived during colonial times. The soldiers were sent to Roanoke Island several years before the colonists. They set up a military settlement that later failed. People visiting this recreated camp area can learn from historians how the soldiers made weapons from wood and metal. They can also learn about the food soldiers ate, how they talked and the games they played.

VOICE ONE:

The most interesting part of Roanoke Island Festival Park is a ship called the Elizabeth Two. This is a representation of a sixteenth-century ship called the Elizabeth. The Elizabeth was one of seven small ships used to transport the colonists to Roanoke Island. The recreated Elizabeth Two is twenty-one meters long and five meters wide. There is also a smaller, seven-meter long boat called the Silver Chalice. This represents the kind of boat the colonists used to carry their supplies from the large ship to land.

Historians working on the boats tell stories about the long, difficult trip the colonists made from Britain to North Carolina. The Elizabeth Two is also a working ship. Two times a year a small crew sails it to other ports along the Atlantic coast.

((MUSIC BRIDGE ))

VOICE TWO:

The mystery of the Lost Colony has never been solved. Yet, over the years, several theories developed to explain what happened to the colonists. Some people believe the settlers did, in fact, go to live among the Croatoan Indians. Others believe the colonists settled with the Pembrook Indians in the southeast part of what is now North Carolina. Several historians think that the settlement split into two groups after Governor White returned to England. They say the larger group traveled north to the Chesapeake Bay where the colonists had first planned to settle.

VOICE ONE:

The most interesting theory about the Lost Colony developed nearly seventy years ago. In Nineteen-Thirty-Seven, a rock was discovered about ninety-six kilometers west of Roanoke Island. It was covered with writing that many people thought was a message from Eleanor Dare to her father. The message reportedly said that the colonists fled Roanoke after an Indian attack.

During the next three years, nearly forty similar rocks were discovered. When put together, they told a great story about how the colonists traveled southeast, and how Eleanor Dare died in Fifteen-Ninety-Nine. Many historians did not believe the story, but the media did. In time, however, an investigative reporter discovered the whole story was false, a trick.

VOICE TWO:

Each year, historians, researchers, scientists and visitors travel to Roanoke Island. They go with the hope of discovering new evidence about what happened to the Lost Colony. Yet, so far, no new signs have been uncovered. The Lost Colony remains a mystery – much like the events that took place there more than four-hundred years ago.

((THEME))

VOICE ONE:

This program was written by Jill Moss. It was produced by Caty Weaver. This is Mary Tillotson.

VOICE TWO:

And this is Steve Ember. Join us again for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program THIS IS AMERICA. Next week, we tell about Jamestown – the first successful colony in America.

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