Jamestown: USA's first English settlement now endangered

Author

Jane O'Brien

Source(s)
British Broadcasting Corporation

One of the most important historic sites in America has been put on a list of endangered places. Preservation groups warn that Jamestown, Virginia, may not survive another generation because of climate change.

In 1607, the small island near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay became the first successful English colony. It is often described as the birthplace of both democracy and slavery in America.

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The threat from water is nothing new - the James River had already eroded the western part of the island settlement and until digging began in 1994, it was erroneously believed that the original fort was already underwater. Archaeologists have since excavated most of the fort and recovered millions of artefacts. In 2013 they found evidence of cannibalism during the brutal winter of 1609-10, known as the Starving Time. And in 2015 they discovered the skeletal remains of the first settlers.

But climate change is accelerating the pace of erosion and flooding, jeopardising the site as well as further research and the potential for future discoveries.

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Work to repair the 100-year-old sea wall is expected to start soon and plans are underway to overhaul the drainage system and install protective berms with pumps. The projects will cost tens of millions of dollars and funding is urgently needed.

Ms Malone-France says Jamestown is particularly important because of its multi-layered - and conflicting - cultural importance. 

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Situated on low-lying ground near a bayou, it too is experiencing damaging floods caused by extreme weather and erosion.

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