Dwight Peck's personal website

Winter 2021-2022

A photographic record of whatever leapt out at us

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Roanoke Island, NC: Manteo and 'Fort Raleigh'

Deeply disappointed that our hopes for a nature trail adventure at the Alligator River NWR have all come to naught, we're regaining our good spirits by walking round in the wharf district of Manteo. It's the Dare County seat and the only town on Roanoke Island, except for Wanchese, a 'census-designated place (CDP)' of ca. 1700 residents at the southern end of the island, in the middle of the huge Roanoke Island Marshes Dedicated Nature Preserve.

Following the disappearance of the 'Lost Colony' in the 1580s, settlers began showing up on Roanoke Island from the mid-17th century. Dare County was formed in 1870, and a county seat and courthouse were built on the site of the present town of Manteo; a post office was added in 1873, when the settlement was given the Manteo name (more euphonic than 'Shallowbag Bay'), and it was incorporated as a town in 1899. It presently has about 1,500 permanent residents but apparently a lot of accommodations for visitors.

In the photo is the former county courthouse, centrally located on Queen Elizabeth St., since 2010 occupied by the Dare County Arts Council. The present courthouse complex is south of town near the junction of Rte 64 and 64 Bypass.

This foundation story must all have been riding the crest of a 19th century wave of public interest in the 'Lost Colony', the first attempt at English colonization in North America. Dare County was named after the first English child born here, Virginia Dare in August 1585, daughter of Ananias Dare and Eleanor née White, and granddaughter of the settlement's 'governor' John White. Manteo and Wanchese were important figures amongst the Algonquin-speaking Native American tribes who initially welcomed and succored the first settlement in 1585; both of them had accompanied the 1584 reconnaissance mission back to England for the winter, returning the next year.

Whilst the rest of our party ventures into Poor Richard's Sandwich Shop to line up our lunch for a dockside picnic, we'll wander round and see how the serious boating community lives.

Even at a first glance around, it's good to see that some of our boaters have a lively sense of humor.

There, across Shallowbag Bay and moored to a small island that hosts the Roanoke Island Festival Park, we espy the 'Elizabeth II', a replica of the sort of ship what would have ferried over the original colonists in Elizabethan times, dedicated in the presence of actual royalty (to wit, Princess Anne) in July 1984.

A lovely looking thing she is -- but it's painful to imagine a hundred or more disspirited voyageurs sitting in that thing for a bouncy three month trip from England. Without oranges. Or restrooms.

Out of a perverse curiosity, we'll tiptoe over for a look at the sad gentleman's flapping blue flags on his boat.

What very fine watercraft; one is envious; but someday . . . someday. . . .

Here we are -- this will be fun.

First, a bright red gesture of support for the Former Guy and his big plans for our future. And then . . .

. . . some very clever slogans, dreamt up by a roomful of college sophomores on loan to the Former Guy's not-yet-official-campaign: 'Don't blame me, I voted for Trump'. Brilliant.

That is a very photogenic replica ship, the Elizabeth II -- it was built here, a 50-ton square-rigger that apparently does make short trips along the coast here from time to time. It's said to be modeled on one of Raleigh's seven ship expedition in 1585, perhaps the one that was indeed called the 'Elizabeth'.

Nice paint job, too

That's a look across the Sound to Nags Head, just south of the Jockey's Ridge State Park and its sand dunes.

Lunch must nearly be ready, we'll . . .

. . . go stake out a bench-with-a-view.

Glorious sandwiches are now being unfurled, with pickles and little bags of potato chip souvenirs, as we survey the calming and friendly environment here. That's Kristin, making sure than no one steals our pickles, or chips.

Just over at the next dock, there's a perfect cornucopia of hilarious political flag-waving. True story: As we were munching pickles, a couple passed by near us and the lady said 'Look at all these Trump flags', and the gentleman replied 'They're all over the place. Wrecks the view.'

The sophomores-on-loan have been hard at work on these -- the 'FJB' flag probably doesn't need interpretation here, nor does the 'Let's Go Brandon' beneath it. Speculating about how much each of these artistic triumphs must cost is probably irrelevant for someone who can splash cash for a nice boat like that.

In the absence of any more pickles, we're going to walk over to the little Roanoke Island Festival Park and see what's what, if anything, out of season.

-- Swimming in sewage here! Just saying. Own risk, etc.

Hopeful for a genuine Roanoke Festival experience

How acutely performative -- Gaudy Flagwavers do like to stand out from the crowd, no matter how it might be received by one's neighbors. The absence of the dignity gene, perhaps.

A look back at the Manteo waterfront -- way down at the far left end is a tiny spire sort of thing which we, distracted by sandwiches and pickles, missed entirely and is a well-known feature of the town's attractions: the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, on a platform 40 meters out into Shallowbag Bay, is a small red-roof cottage surmounted by a 19th century Fresnel lens (lent by the US Coast Guard) in a replica of one of the same name formerly on the coast of Wanchese (there's a borrowed photo below) -- that one was decommissioned in 1955 and fell apart when being moved by a private buyer, and this one was built to thrill the tourists in 2004.

The adorable Elizabeth II -- perhaps it's that inspired blue streak that makes it so special.

We're on the island, and here's the Outer Banks History Center (locked up tight), and . . .

. . . behind that, the 'Adventure Museum' and the Roanoke Island Festival Park ('Interactive historic attraction & museum') (locked up tight). Worse luck for us, we may never have another chance to get on that ship. (Though I once had a chance to board the US Coast Guard's three-masted training barque the Eagle in Groton, Conn.)

We'll have a last walk round the small downtown, waterfront area before we scuttle off northward to indulge ourselves in the Fort Raleigh experience.

That's the central Budleigh Street (Budleigh is a town in east Devon -- possibly we're invoking the origins of some of the first colonists).

We're on Queen Elizabeth Ave at the moment, parallel to the waterfront. The historical Queen Elizabeth I is important for Roanoke for the indirect reason that the 'Virgin Queen' gifted her then favorite courtier, Walter Raleigh (pre-'Sir'), with an open-ended commission to develop this area (which is why he called it 'Virginia'). The original purpose was to set up a military base for English privateers preying on the Spanish treasure ships in the Caribbean, but Raleigh, briefly, dreamt of bigger things, like a permanent colony with his name on it. Preferably with lots of gold lying all about there on the ground.

Apropos, here we are on the intersection of Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh Streets. (That's the front of Poor Richard's Sandwich Shop across the street.)

There's that neat ship again.

On our right is the Lost Colony Brewery & Tavern, which looks wonderful but it's too early in the day for us.

That's the Avenue Grille and Goods at the end of Queen Elizabeth St -- the cute Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is directly behind that, but we didn't notice at the time. But . . .

. . . here's what it would have looked like, if we had noticed (photo from Google Maps).

Back around to Walter Raleigh St.

The Downtown Bookshop on Raleigh St. And now it's time to move on.

The Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Just three miles farther on, at the north end of the island, not far from the North Carolina Aquarium and the Dare County Airport, is an interesting collection of educational and touristic features grouped round the theme of the late 16th century attempts to establish an English presence here.

The land here, understood to be the site of the original 1585 settlement, was purchased from a local family by the predecessor of the Historical Association in 1895, and it soon became a popular destination; in the 1930s, a speculative fort and town were built (now gone), Pres. Roosevelt visited in 1937, and the Paul Green 'outdoor symphonic drama' The Lost Colony was first performed in the same year, and has been daily during the summers every year since (except during WWII). The property has been enlarged since, and this fine Visitors Center was built in the 1960s.

The Center has informative displays about the 1580s expeditions, the Tudor English ethos of the settlers, the 1862 refuge for escaped slaves maintained by the Union Army garrison here, and a PBS film about the Lost Colony and the many theories about it. There is also authentic-style Elizabethan Garden on the grounds, run by the NC Garden Club.

A very brief intro to the 'Lost Colony' -- In the mid-1580s, Queen Elizabeth presented one of her favorite courtiers, the West Country gentleman Walter Raleigh (or Ralegh, knighted in 1585) with a large tract of land in North America, which he named 'Virginia' in her honor. He promptly financed two ships to make a reconnaissance in 1584; they landed on Roanoke, looked about, and returned with conveniently glowing tributes about the promising economic returns. Local nobles Manteo and Wanchese willingly went along and spent the winter at Raleigh's house in London.

Raleigh soon put together some investors (Drake's circumnavigation 1577-1580 had returned a 4700% profit) and in 1585 dispatched seven ships with 600 men to establish an essentially military base to keep the troublesome Spanish at bay and explore further. Grenville, the commander, helped to build a primitive earthworks and erect a settlement, get to know the local Algonquian Roanoke Native Americans, then left 107 soldiers and colonists to get through the winter until he returned with more supplies the following summer. Ralph Lane, whom Grenville left in charge, was a nasty character, alienated the so far helpful Indians, and even shot one of their chiefs; they became less helpful, many died of European illnesses, and matters became raw for the English.

This is a genuine Tudor paneled room, transported here from an estate in Kent, England -- it conveys the Elizabethan ambience well but is far from what any of the colonists would have seen here.

Grenville didn't show up on time in '86, and when Sir Francis Drake's privateering raiders stopped in on their way up the coast, the Roanoke garrison grabbed a ride home. Grenville then arrived to find nobody home, left 15 men to keep a legal claim alive, and went home as well. Raleigh was already losing interest to some extent, working on new colonies in Munster, Ireland, but in 1587 he found investors to mount a proper colonial project, led by John White as 'governor' and to be called the 'Cittie of Ralegh' -- it reached this site on Roanoke but couldn't find Grenville's garrison, and tried to continue up the Chesapeake Bay, but the pilot refused to go any farther and dumped them all, 117 of them, including White's daughter's family, off right here to repair whatever they could from the 1585 infrastructure.

This is a little monument to 'The Freedmen's Colony', established in 1862 by the occupying Feds as a safe haven for escaped black slave families.

Though, if we read this stele aright, when the war ended the US government cut them loose, and gave their newly-bestowed land away again.

For the 1587 colony, things went wrong from the get go, the Native Americans were understandably antagonistic to the trigger-happy Europeans, relations went from bad to worse, and the colonists hadn't the training to farm or hunt sufficiently well. They sent John White (newly a grandfather in re: Virginia Dare) back to England for more supplies, but once there he was unable to get free to come back. The Spanish Armada was expected in 1587 but was delayed by Drake's raid on Cadiz, but it was sure to come in 1588 and all worthy English ships had been commandeered to form the 'English Navy' in defense. The Armada panic was not over in '88 (and raids were repeated over the next decade), so White couldn't get away until 1590.

This is a recreation of the original 1585 earthworks, based on excavations in 1947 and rebuilt by the Park Service in 1950. It's more or less useless in itself, a hasty first defense, and there were signs of a properly palisaded fort here when White arrived in 1590 -- long deserted, though, like everything else here. By a predetermined sign, the word Croatoan and initials CRO were found carved to indicate where the colonists had gone, but when White's group tried to reach Croatoan (now Cape Hatteras), they ran into a damaging hurricane and were forced to return to England, never able to return.

The 'Lost Colony' has been an unresolved mystery ever since, but with no want of theories -- butchered by Native Americans (no bodies found here), all died of a plague (no bodies), tried to sail back to England in a homemade boat, migrated south, or west, or north, or split up and migrated wherever, or most sensibly of all, assimilated (all those who were willing, anyway) into the Native American communities roundabout.

Our walk takes us along towards the coast, and the 'Lost Colony' Waterside Theater, home of the perennial play on the subject.

An appropriate Tudor architecture

Apparently a Tudor-style blockhouse, but with no loopholes for shooting out of. Perhaps it's just a decorative base for the huge scaffoldings above it.

The theater itself, pretty, and with Nags Head and the Wright Brothers National Memorial in the offing.

We will next approach the Thomas Hariot nature trail.

Treewise, you take whatever you can get round here.

This is a nature trail dedicated to the memory of Thomas Hariot's work during the 1585 expedition. Hariot (or Harriot, Heriot, &c.) was an amazing scientist, mathematician, linguist, translator, and general polymath. Leaving Oxford at 20 in 1580, he was hired by Raleigh as his mathematics tutor and pioneered the maths of open-sea navigation. He helped design Raleigh's ships, served as his accountant, and aided in the planning of the 1585 Roanoke expedition, which he agreed to accompany to document the flora, fauna, native populations, economic resources and prospects -- in preparation for that he spent the preceding year closeted with the Roanoke Algonquin Manteo (who'd come back with the 1584 ships) in Raleigh's Durham House in London, teaching English to Manteo and learning the native language fluently and inventing a phonetic alphabet for transcribing it.

After his year on Roanoke, he published in 1588 his True Report of his ethnographical findings which were influential to future colonists. In later years, he was part of the intellectual circle of the 9th Earl of Northumberland, the 'Wizard Earl', at their regular meetings in the Earl's apartments in the Tower of London, where he was being held for 16 years following the Gunpowder Plot. During those years, Hariot plotted the orbit of Halley's comet and preceded Galileo by a few months in 1609 as the first person to draw maps of the Moon based on telescopic observation, logged the first observations of sunspots in 1610, and introduced a new system of algebraic notation along with several mathematical theorems on optics and refraction. He's sometimes credited with having brought the first potatoes to Europe and introducing tobacco to Raleigh's circle, from which the habit took off in society; when he died in 1621 apparently by skin cancer, it may have been due to excessive tobacco use.

Hariot published little himself (evidently fearing renewal of claims that he was an atheist), and he was largely forgotten until the American poet Muriel Rukeyser published her The Traces of Thomas Hariot in 1970 (a book that I still find difficult to follow through with).

The Hariot Nature Trail. To follow up, John White was disconsolate over the loss of the colonists and his family, tried unsuccessfully to get support for a further mission, and retired to Raleigh's estate in Ireland where he died in 1593; he was a gifted artist, though, and his watercolor pictures of the Roanoke colony and Indians are in the British Museum.

Raleigh himself (who never came to North America himself) in 1591 secretly married one of the queen's ladies-in-waiting (Elizabeth didn't like certain of her courtiers to marry, preferring to think of them as her suitors) and was removed to the Tower for a time; he spent the 1590s in and out of her favor, had a family of his own, was elected to Parliament, explored the rivers in Venezuela in 1595 (looking for gold) -- but was tried in 1603 on shaky charges of treason (called the 'Main Plot') against Elizabeth's successor, the new King James VI and I, convicted, sentenced to death, and sent back to the Tower, where until 1616 he worked on his History of the World, based on sources in six languages. In 1617 he was commissioned by King James as a do-or-die kind of probation to lead an El Dorado gold-hunting expedition up the Orinoco, where some Spanish (and Raleigh's son Wat) were killed in a skirmish, and once back home, the Spanish ambassador insisted that King James carry out his 1603 sentence of execution, which he did, in October 1618. (Raleigh was also an estimable poet; I actually discovered in the British Museum an unknown version of one of the satirical poems attributed to him.) (A worthy recent source for Raleigh's career is Mark Nicholls & Penry Williams, Sir Walter Raleigh, in life and legend (Continuum, 2011).)

That was fun -- though the Elizabethan Gardens, which look great in photos, were out of season and locked up tight.

Back to the OBX (the Outer Banks, for neophytes)

Just in time for a very brief, an anticipatory, walk on a nature trail and Birdlife International 'Important Bird Area', just between Duck and Corolla

No birds yet. No other wildlife either.

We haven't got all day for this. Perhaps we'll come back later. (We didn't.)

Next up: A reading day by the pool, and a visit to historic Corolla downtown

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 3 April 2022.

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