Roanoke Island

Roanoke Island


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Roanoke is a 19 km (12 miles) long and 4.8 km (3 miles) wide island, off the Atlantic coast in the Croatan Sound between the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds. It was probably first explored by Verrazano in 1524 and possibly some Spanish navigators visited it later. The English navigators Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe were exploring the region for Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584. They returned with such glowing accounts that Raleigh dispatched a colonizing expedition, which was led by Sir Richard Grenville and Sir Ralph Lane.

The colonists landed on Roanoke Island in August 1585 and built the 'Citie of Ralegh', or New Fort, but they returned to England the next year. In 1587, Raleigh sent another group under John White, who was forced to return to England for supplies. White was unable to return until 1591, only to find the colonists gone and the letters CROATOAN carved on a tree. This gave rise to a theory that the settlers had moved to Croatoan Island or had joined the Croatoan, or Hatteras Native Americans. Another theory was later advanced with the discovery of some 40 stone tablets between 1937 and 1940, inscribed with what some believe to be the history of the 'lost colony'. The tablets are now kept at Brenau College in Gainesville, Georgia.

The inscriptions tell of the death of many of the colonists from disease and Native American attacks, including Virginia Dare, believed to have been the first white child of English parents to be born in America. Others migrated into the country's interior, as far away as Atlanta, Georgia. The stones' authenticity, however, is questionable.

In 1937, Paul Green's symphonic drama The Lost Colony was presented to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the landing of White's colony. Archaeologists at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site uncovered many artifacts of the colony during the late 1940's. In 1998 scientists said that a study of tree rings showed that the colonists had faced one of the worst droughts in the area's history.

Roanoke is off the northeastern coast of North Carolina, some 270 km east from Raleigh and 380 km southeast from Washington D.C. Manteo is the island's chief town and tourism and fishing are the principal industries. Accommodation and restaurants are widely available.


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