November 18, 2009

Croatan 2009

Filed under: Going Places,What the hell? — Katrina @ 4:39 pm

I meant to write this over a week ago, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. So now it’s about 11 days later. Whatever.

So on November 7 I drove south, stopping briefly in Aquia, VA to get gas and visit Grandma in the cemetery, and on further south until the 4 hour and 40 minute trip brought me to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. It’s like the most popular vacation spot for anyone who lives within 2 hours from Washington, DC, though I hadn’t been there. It was a lovely autumn day, and first Saturday for several weeks that it wasn’t raining, so I went, since I wanted to see something.

Across the Wright Memorial Bridge, south about 16 miles on Croatan Highway, through Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head, and across the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge onto Roanoke Island and into Manteo, and to the northern end of the island. I finally arrived at the site, or at least what they’ve decided is the site since all they know is it was somewhere in that general area. Fort Raleigh, the “site” (see previous sentence) of the infamous Lost Colony of Roanoke, a story that kind of creeped me out when I first learned about it in fifth grade and inspired a creepy-pasta I wrote a few years ago.

Which is why I went. Creepy historical story calls for a Halloween-time excursion to the (approximate) scene, even if 400 years later. What happened, you ask? Sigh, you fail at colonial US history. Well, around 1590, Sir Walter Raleigh and John White and a bunch of other people from England who saw that big land mass on the other side of the ocean and wanted to start calling dibs on it headed that direction, wanting to found Virginia. Well, as the first part of their bad luck, they wound up in North Carolina instead. Okay, so they figured they’d go ahead and settle there, on Roanoke Island. They brought in a few more people. Then they ran out of supplies and sent John White back to England to get more stuff, only for him to get there and get drafted because England had some dumb spat with Spain so they were at war. After three years, what with the war and other issues, John White finally got back to Roanoke Island, only to find… no one. The fort was dismantled and in ruins and everyone had just vanished. Except for a palisade around where the fort was. And etched into one post of the palisade… CROATOAN.

Looking for the lost colonists was difficult since it was hurricane season and the Outer Banks have always been a veritable hurricane magnet (which is obvious looking at a map of the area, all the spread out islands, signs of frequent storms taking a bat to the region). So John White and others had to leave again to avoid the oncoming storm. He and Sir Walter Raleigh spent the following 12 years or so searching the area to find out what the hell happened to everyone, but never found them or any trace, and 400 years later it is still unknown, though there are a buttload of theories.

So there I was in November of 2009, stepping out of my car and wandering around the woods at the site. Okay, little visitor’s center with a small exhibit about the colony, the disappearance, and the local Indians. Wandered back outside to their little paths through the woods, with little signs here and there about what was going on with the colonists up until John White left. There was even an earthen fort created, in the shape that the original fort would have been, with the flag of England in the very middle. And there was the auditorium and set of some Lost Colony play they have there in the summer. All neat, and they certainly don’t have a whole lot built up since they’re trying to preserve the land for more archaeological research to find out what happened there. Which is kind of dumb considering outside the site are neighborhoods and crap, and, again, they’re only guessing as to the exact site.

But… something was missing. Something that you would think would be an obvious thing for the park service to have there, and would disturb nothing and cost very little to construct. Hell, had I found a proper rock or other instrument and been willing to spend the time and risk getting in trouble, I’d have done it myself. What was missing was… a post or tree with the word CROATOAN etched into it. -_-

I wandered the site for a while to see if one had been constructed, because you’d think it’d make sense for the site, which is particularly notorious because of that being found there sans settlers, to have had one. I finally went back to the visitor’s center to just ask if there was one around (which I probably should have done to begin with to save time). The woman there said no, there wasn’t one, but she agreed with me that it would be a good thing to have. Then she told me that there have been a lot of visitors to the site over time who had marked trees or posts with the word CROATOAN, “to be silly” as she put it.

*headdesk*

Historically relevant graffiti is historically relevant! :doitnow:

So the park neglects to put up a reproduction of the palisade post with CROATOAN etched onto it, which is even stupider still since there were a few wooden posts next to the earthen fort, so they really only need a chisel and someone with a functional arm at that point. And when a historically conscious visitor decides to take matters into his or her own hands and carve or write it onto something there, it is just treated as silly graffiti and removed, evident since even though someone had done this, I saw no trace (unless it was small and really out of the way or something).

Anyway, I spent the rest of the day driving around the area, to Cape Hatteras briefly, and to the Wright Brothers memorial where the first flights took place (two important yet unrelated historical sites right near each other!). It was getting dark so I eventually found one of the seafood restaurants, had me a bunch of yummy clams and oysters, and finally headed on back north through Virginia and got home around 11:30pm.

So what the hell are Croatan and Croatoan and what happened to those damn colonists? Croatan was a local Indian tribe. Croatoan was another island just south of Cape Hatteras. Which leads to yet another bit of stupidity in this whole thing. If the colonists had vanished, and all they found was a post with the name of another local island etched into it, maybe, just maybe, that other island is where the colonists went? That’s what Cracked.com is saying anyway (#5). I should assume that in the following 12 years when John White and Walter Raleigh were looking for them, they would have checked at Croatoan, but with the trend of past and present stupidity being displayed so far in all this, I wouldn’t put all that much stock in that! Or the other theory is that the Indians killed them all. Or at least most of them and the ones leftover went to Croatoan and possibly later somewhere else before Raleigh and White could find them. Or maybe they were killed in a hurricane. Or they were abducted by aliens. Or they never were actually there and White and Raleigh just made it all up. Or the etching was a misspelling and they actually were in Croatia. Or Chuck Norris showed up and kicked their faces. Shit, I don’t know.

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