Historic 400-Year-Old Colony is Rapidly Sinking from Climate Change

Jamestown, Virginia – first permanent English settlement in North America is threatened by rising water from Climate Change. Photo Credit (Julia Rendleman/Washington Post)

Greetings! The 400-year-old historic colony of Jamestown, Virginia is now quickly becoming another victim of climate change as the rising waters of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic ocean surge up the James River. As a result, the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently placed it “on a list of the country’s most endangered historical places.”

If you visit the area, you can now see in the James River, “barges filled with stone are waiting to bolster the century-old concrete sea wall that is failing under the relentless pressure of the river.” 

James Horn, President of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, which conducts archaeology and maintains the original settlement site said, “Jamestown is a world-class archaeological site and a place of national and international significance. The threat to the site of one of the nation’s very first cultural hubs … brings home the challenges that climate change pose to our entire society.”

Katherine Malone-France, chief preservation officer for the trust, said, “You’ve got resources there underwater, that are staying underwater. Jamestown demonstrates that the threats to our cultural resources from a changing climate are incredibly urgent. We have a five-year window to make an impact. … This isn’t something that can wait 10 or 15 years. This is our collective heritage.”

In 1607, Jamestown became the place of the “first permanent English settlement in what would become the United States. The earth here holds the bones of hundreds of the early colonists and the artifacts that are clues to their lives. It is also the place where, in 1619, the first enslaved Africans arrived, and where generations of Native Americans had already lived for centuries.”

One expert commented, “It’s an archaeological trifecta. Queen Elizabeth II of Britain has visited. So have presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush, Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and an array of political and public figures.”

There have been incredible discoveries there in recent years including, “the location of the colony’s ‘lost’ fort and the remains of the colonial VIPs. But the location is on a low-lying tidewater island menaced by the river on one side, a swamp on the other and what the archaeologists believe are increasingly frequent deluges of rain caused by climate change.” 

Michael Lavin, Director of Collections and Conservation for Jamestown Rediscovery explained, “Drainage systems date back to the 1950s, and archaeologists have had to use sump pumps to empty water-filled excavations.”

Part of the problem “is of course sea level rise,” Archaeologist Mary Anna R. Hartley said, She was protecting a sandbagged excavation site dating back to 1608. “Some of it is groundwater coming up,” she said. “The other thing is these tremendous rain events we’re getting, I’d say, in the last 12 to 15 years. We’ll get between 4 and 10 inches of rain all at once. And there are multiple instances and events like that.”

She said the archaeologists keep their smartphones tuned to weather reports and one eye on the sky over the mile-wide river. “When you see a storm directly across, it’s almost too late,” she said. “You better hurry up and close what you can. Our defenses are always the sandbags. If you get that much rain that fast, it’s pretty much like a hurricane or a nor’easter,” she said. “And almost on a weekly basis, we’ll get one of those rain events. … The inundation is outpacing us.”

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Keep watching for more of my updates on climate change!

If you see any sick or injured manatees, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: 1-888-404-3922 (FWCC). They are the folks who are responsible for rescuing us in Florida.

Here’s the Save the Manatee Club link to learn more about us manatees …


Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …


~ Kobee Manatee

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