Did a hurricane wipe out the first Roanoke Island settlement?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Clearly, hurricanes were a risk for the Roanoke Island settlement, which was offered scant protection from the storms by the North Carolina Outer Banks. However, no archaeological evidence exists that suggests the settlement was destroyed by a hurricane. The first attempt at establishing a permanent settlement on Roanoke Island ended in 1586, when Ralph Lane and a small group of colonists left the island with Sir Francis Drake, who stopped there on the way back from privateering in the Caribbean. But the colony was resettled, and the second attempt, known popularly as the "Lost Colony," was more mysterious.

When governor John White returned to the colony from an extended trip to England (with the purpose of getting supplies for the colony) he found that the site was completely abandoned, with a single word, "CROATOAN," carved on a tree. White took this to mean that the colonists had left for nearby Hatteras Island, then called Croatoan Island, but could not search the island due to bad weather. Some anecdotal evidence for this exists, and it is very likely that the colonists were simply assimilated into Algonquian society. The Jamestown settlers, however, thought the Roanoke colonists had settled inland among Tuscarora peoples, in modern Bertie County, which was consistent with local Indian claims.

In the spring of 2012, researchers noticed that a map drawn by Governor White around 1587 had a paper patch over an area in Bertie County, northwest and across the Pamlico Sound from the Roanoke Settlement. Underneath the patch was what appears to be a symbol of a fort. This would have been a logical place for a new settlement, and some scholars believe White and Sir Walter Raleigh planned to establish a permanent base there. So it is very possible that the settlers went there. The site is currently located under a golf course, and initial investigations are underway to determine if it is viable for excavation. 

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