Jamestown's Trouble: 'We Can't Get Rid of the Water'

Climate change is threatening the historic site
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2022 1:54 PM CDT
Jamestown's Trouble: 'We Can't Get Rid of the Water'
Jamestown Fort.   (Getty Images/visionsofmaine)

Future visitors to historic Jamestown might need to bring scuba gear. The Virginia site of the first successful English settlement in America is being threatened by climate change, and preservation groups warn that it could be doomed if action isn't taken soon, the BBC reports. The 400-year-old site on the James River is threatened by a rising water table, higher tides on the river, and flooding caused by frequent and intense storms. "There are multiple challenges and they're all related to climate change," says James Horn, president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation. "Essentially, we can't get rid of the water."

On Wednesday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed Jamestown on a list of America's 11 most endangered historical places, the Washington Post reports. "We have a five-year window to make an impact," says Katherine Malone-France, the trust's chief preservation officer. "This isn’t something that can wait 10 or 15 years." Archaeologists say the site is still yielding finds, but they are being outpaced by rising waters and an encroaching swamp. The Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation has raised around $2 million to bolster a 100-year-old sea wall, but officials say much more needs to be done, including replacing the site's drainage system.

Horn describes Jamestown as a "world-class archaeological site and a place of national and international significance." The BBC notes that the site is considered the "birthplace of both democracy and slavery in America." Settlers arrived in 1607 and held the first General Assembly in 1619. Months later, a ship carrying enslaved Africans arrived. (In 2013, scientists said they had found evidence of cannibalism at Jamestown.)

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