This is an early photograph of Holland Island, an island you've probably never heard of, for a couple of reasons. First of all, if you're American, Americans are notoriously terrible for knowing nothing about geography. Holland Island is located in Chesapeake Bay. If you're still confused, that's in Maryland. You're welcome. If you're still confused, please repeat 5th grade.
Now, as you can probably guess, Maryland isn't the first destination on your list when you think of somewhere you're going to take a summer vacation to.
But you also probably don't know what Holland Island is because it completely disappeared.
Holland Island was originally a fishing town that was settled all the way back in the 1600's. It was named after Daniel Holland, the first owner of the property. For about 200 years, life was uneventful on this small island, home to no more than a tiny colony. In 1850, that would all change.
In 1850, the Chesapeake area saw a huge boom in fishing and farming, which caused many to flock to the island. By 1910, the island had nearly 360 people living on its shorts, which made it the most populated island in all of Chesapeake Bay. At the height of its popularity, Holland Island was thriving. There were about 70 structures on the island, with a school, a post office and a church. Nearly 90 ships and vessels also peppered the island's shores.
This is the island in 1953. Do you notice something a little off about it?
The islands in the Chesapeake Bay aren't made of rock like most islands, they're made of mud and silt. Which one would you rather build your island on, rock or silt? If you answered rock, you're a smart cookie. By 1914, Holland Island had noticeably started to sink due to its foundation. It would continue to sink until there was only one single house left, slowly awaiting its watery grave.
It's also worth noting that the Holland Island Bar Light, built in 1889, was also completely destroyed by 1960. But that wasn't by natural causes: it was dismantled. In 1931, the lighthouse keeper, Ulman Ownens, was found dead in the light house. As if light houses weren't already creepy enough.
There was blood and the evidence of a struggle, but there were no wounds discovered on his body. The death was ruled a natural one, and the circumstances of the mystery have never been discovered. Perhaps because that's extremely creepy, or perhaps because an automated beacon was eventually constructed, the light house was torn down.
By 1914, residents were already tearing down their homes and abandoning ship. Er, moving back to the mainland. Some, however, decided to stay on the island and press their luck. And press their luck they did - in 1918 a tropical storm swept through the area, damaging the church in the gale. The last remaining residents, who had stayed behind to continue fishing, left in 1922, when the church finally closed.
So, since 1922, the island sat completely deserted, sinking slowly into the ocean. A combo of the melting polar ice caps and the mud and silt foundation of the island's structure caused the erosion to rapidly progress. To all the people who don't believe the ocean is rising, close your eyes at the next few pictures. Maybe abandon the concept of Holland Island all together.
In 1995, Stephen White stepped onto the scene. He bought Holland Island for a tidy little sum of $70k. White was a Methodist Minister who had grown up on the island, and didn't want to see his childhood home sink into oblivion. He created the Holland Island Preservation Foundation.
White's foundation was a 15-year attempt at preserving the island and holding back the water. White built breakwaters out of wood to try to hold back the waves, but they came anyway, and destroyed the breakwaters. White and his wife abandoned the breakwater idea, and turned to sandbags. However, they just split open in the sun and were washed away by the waves, too.
White was not giving up on his mission. He brought in 23 pounds of rock to his childhood home, and placed them around the shoreline in another attempt to hold the waters at bay. As seems to be the theme, this didn't work either, and the water washed past the rocks.
Even with all the disappointments, White was still not giving up. He brought in a bulldozers to replace the shoreline and make levees. But remember how we said we'd rather have an island made out of rock? The silt melted away anyway.
White was going to give it one last try. He sunk a barge right by the last house to try to break the waves from coming and destroying it. But, if you're looking at the same pictures we're looking at, you can probably guess what happened - this didn't work, either. The house continued to sink.
All in all, White spent about $150k in his efforts to preserve the island, but Mother Nature couldn't be stopped. In mid-2010, White sold Holland Island to the Concorde Foundation. But the joke's on them, really, because that was also when the last house fell into the water.
An official task for that studies erosion in Maryland released the following statement: "The state of Maryland loses approximately 260 acres of tidal shoreline each year, resulting in a loss of public and private property, historic and cultural sites, recreational beaches, productive farmland and forested areas." That's really a bummer for Maryland. It turned Holland Island from a five mile long island into, well, nothing.
Here we have a beautiful photograph of what Holland's Island looks like today. As you can see, there actually is no island left at all. You'll have to break out the scuba gear to visit it. RIP, Holland's island. You didn't go down without a fight.