Rising sea level threatens Jamestown

Posted at 7:41 PM, May 15, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-15 19:41:36-04

Jamestown, Va. - People from all over come to Jamestown to experience the first permanent English colony in America. But by the end of the century, pieces of our country's history could be underwater.

"It would be a real shame to lose this. We've finally found it," said Bly Straube, an archaeologist for the Jamestown Rediscovery Archaeological Project.

Straube is one of several scientists always at work, uncovering artifacts and digging up new discoveries. A few weeks ago, they unveiled evidence of cannibalism at the settlement, including bones of the victim now known as Jane. But rising sea levels could put this and the work archaeologists still have to do in danger.  In fact, climate scientists say by the year 2100, parts of Jamestown could disappear.

"Americans will not have a place to come to. I mean, there's nothing like standing on the spot where you know all this history happened," says Straube.

Most of Jamestown is above sea level now, but rising water is a big concern for archaeologists in whether they should dig everything up or leave some artifacts in place for scientists to find down the road.

"If Jamestown's underwater in 100 years, the archaeologists of the future, the people who come after us, will really be excavating the collection. It's really incumbent upon us to record everything accurately and in great detail because someone won't be able to come along in the future and re-excavate or double check as we often do as archaeologists," said Straube.

NewsChannel 3 spoke to Dr. Carl Hershner of the Virginia Institute for Marine Science. He says parts of Jamestown could be inundated with water in the next 50 to 100 years. In fact, if water levels rise 5 to 6 feet by 2100 based on some model predictions, parts of the James Fort at the settlement could be threatened.  But to fix this problem, possibly with a levee, isn't going to be cheap.

"Any option is going to be expensive. So really, what we have to do is sort of concentrate on getting as much information as we possibly can while we can," said Straube.


Cannibalism evidence found at Jamestown