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Published: November 26th 2008
As I’ve mentioned (repeatedly), I grew up in Florida. And if you’ve ever been to Florida and trekked through the many wild forests or walked a wooden pathway over swampland or taken a boat through the Everglades, you’re likely to have noticed a threatening bane of the tropics: bugs. Big bugs, bugs that bite, bugs that jump, bugs that you can’t even see. I hate bugs. And so as we are exploring Historic Jamestowne, far away from the tropics, we encounter - ick! - more bugs. Just outside the Memorial Church, brazenly perched upon the top of a stone wall is this horribly huge… bug. I think, from later research, that it is a leaf-footed bug, which fits into the category of True Bug - really: True Bug. It should be Huge and Scary Bug. So aside from the disease, the famine, the miserable weather, and the dirt floors of the barely-existent housing, the multitudinous insects would have had me turning down the one-way ticket to this New World. And don’t even bother calling me again until you put in some central air. And floors.
Since the five of us are visiting Jamestown from our hotel in Williamsburg, we take
What the Heck is That?!?
The horribly large, possibly categorized "true bug."
the Colonial Parkway, a pebble-paved road to lead tourists, tour buses, and the occasional fisherman through the Historic Triangle connecting Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown at a roaring pace of 25 mph. It’s a gorgeous drive through loose forests and over many creeks and marshlands along the James River, but if bumpy roads make you sick, you may want to seriously consider sticking to the highways.
At a fork in the road, we take a left and drive over a barely-there isthmus to reach Historic Jamestowne, located on an almost-island in the James River. Our stop in the visitor’s center introduces us to the first permanent English colony in the New World via an interesting video. The video is projected onto semi-circular screens that curve along the wall above the seating in the circular theatre and also displayed in the center of the round floor, giving the eye plenty to take in as one image fades into another and we learn a little about the English, Indian/Natives, and Africans that lived in and around Jamestown.
After the movie, we walk along the deck pathway that stretches out to the water and the location of the original fort. The actual
This is a 20th century version of the only 17th century depiction we have of her.
1607 James Fort was larger than the structure there now, as the shoreline has moved inland and the location of one corner of the pentagonal fort is now under water. There’s a bit of a chilly wind, but the view is amazing and a walk along the seawall offers the soothing sounds of waves lapping against the rocks. There are still excavations in progress, so we chat with an archeologist and view her recent finds. We explore the Memorial Church, which is a 1907 reconstruction built upon the foundations of the 1639 church. The church tower, however, is original and being built in 1690 is also the oldest surviving English structure in the U.S. There are plaques inside the church commemorating Princess Pocahontas and John Rolfe, her husband, among others. We also see the Archaerium, a museum displaying many of the artifacts that belonged to the early settlers, as well as some of the settler’s remains, and displays on what life would have been like during that time.
Then we’re back in the car and heading to the nearby Jamestown Settlement, which contains a reconstruction of the Powhatan Indian Village, James Fort, and also a Riverfront Discovery Area with
Pathway out to the fort, which you can see in the distance.
fully functioning replicas of the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, the first ships to arrive in Jamestown in 1607. Now, one look at these ships prompted my husband to claim that he would not have been among the settlers of the New World because there was no way he was crossing an ocean in one of these perilously tiny vessels. But, the ships were the coolest part of the Settlement, in my opinion, because you could board them and explore the inside of the Susan Constant, the largest of the three, all the while listening to stories from or asking questions of the costumed and friendly guides aboard. We learned some great stuff, like the fact that there was no helm on the ships because the helm was not invented and patented until the early 1700s. Instead, they steered by the tides and the tiller, which is kind of like a rudder. Also, the term “port” came from ships always mooring with the docks on their left, and the other side’s the “starboard” because the ship’s “steering board” was located on the right side of the ship before the tillers were later placed in the center. Of course, if you’re
The Tercentenary Monument
Put up in 1907 to mark the 300th anniversary of the landing at Jamestown.
not interested in etymology or naval history, you probably don’t care, but I found it fascinating.
The cozy replica of James Fort contained various buildings like a chapel, barracks, and the governor’s house, but the most interesting thing was the guy creating the canoe. He was using the technique of placing a huge tree trunk on its side and burning the top of it slowly, coming back to it now and then to scrape away the ashes until the trunk is hollowed out. This creates the sturdiest type of canoe - something the natives created, not the English, but something the English sometimes purchased from the natives. They last for twenty or thirty years, never capsize, and can be sunk in the winter beneath the ice to then be resurfaced after the ice has melted. This is not as easy as it sounds, though, as the finished product is typically 1,300 pounds.
Some more meandering through the Settlement and gift shop leads us back to the parking lot, where we load up to find some dinner, and then the long weekend is over and it’s time to head home.
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