What happened to the Lost Colony?

In 1590, John White led an expedition to the New World to resupply the English colony on Roanoke Island in what is now North Carolina. But to his surprise, he found the area deserted. What happened to the Lost Colony?

The Lost Colony of Roanoke?

The disappearance of the 119 colonists (including Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World) is one of the greatest mysteries of all time. Under John White’s helm, they arrived in 1587 in order to establish the “Cittie of Raleigh” but landed on Roanoke Island instead. White sailed back to England for more supplies but his return was delayed by the Anglo-Spanish War. He finally returned in 1590 only to find the site completely deserted. Only two clues remained. The word “CROATOAN” was carved into a fort post. Also, the word “CRO” was carved into a tree.

White didn’t expect foul play. The houses and other structures had been readily dismantled, indicating the settlers had taken their time leaving the colony. Also, he’d instructed the colonists to carve a Maltese cross into a tree if they were forced to leave the colony. There was no cross.

Based on the carvings, White assumed the colonists had moved to Croatoan Island (now known as Hatteras Island). However, a storm kept him from conducting a proper search. White would never again return to the New World. It would be another 12 years before Sir Walter Raleigh would mount another expedition to determine the fate of the Lost Colony. However, he was forced to turn back due to bad weather and was subsequently arrested. And thus, the fate of the Lost Colony became a thing of mystery.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Many theories exist purporting to explain the Lost Colony. Some scholars believe the settlers abandoned the colony and assimilated into one of the local native tribes. Others blame warfare with a tribe or perhaps, the Spanish. Still others think the colonists perished during a drought or turned on each other.

Now, experts at the British Museum have shed some new light on the mystery behind the Lost Colony. Using advanced-imaging techniques, they discovered markings hidden under patches on a watercolor map prepared by none other than John White himself (you can also see the map above). The purpose of one patch was to improve the accuracy of the coastline. The second patch is more intriguing. It appears to hide the presence of an inland fort as well as an Indian town near Roanoke Island. Interestingly enough, the original markings may have been made in invisible ink as well.

The outpost was apparently located at the point where the Roanoke and Chowan Rivers emptied into Albemarle Sound. This is in an area explored by the colonists in 1585 and 1586. Thus, its possible the Lost Colony abandoned Roanoke Island at some point and took refuge at the outpost.

“Documentary evidence suggests an early and sustained interest by the English in the Chowan and Roanoke River systems. The discovery of a symbol seemingly representing a fort where the Roanoke and Chowan Rivers meet provides dramatic confirmation of the colonists’ interest in exploring the interior (where riches were to be found) and connecting the two Virginias, Roanoke and Jamestown.” ~ James Horn, A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke

Of course, this remains speculation, at least until archaeologists can conduct a proper excavation in the area. However, if it turns out to be true, it begs a whole slew of new questions. Namely, who marked the map? Did that person know the true fate of the Lost Colony? And if so, why did they keep its continued existence a secret?

The Hindenburg Disaster!

On May 6, 1937, a German zeppelin named the Hindenburg attempted to land in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Suddenly, the 803-foot long airship burst into flames. 35 people died and the era of the zeppelin came to a crashing halt.

The Hindenburg Disaster!

We’re not going to speculate on the conspiracies surrounding the Hindenburg Disaster today…that’s coming later this week. But in the meantime, we wanted to put up this video of the crash. It’s five minutes long and comes from the British Pathe archive. It shows the Hindenburg flying overhead, its final flight over the landing ground at Lakehurst, New Jersey as well as the ill-fated landing attempt. The fire starts at 2:51.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The Hindenburg disaster is one of the most famous disasters of all time. Thirty-five people died while sixty-two others managed to survive the crash.

As we alluded to earlier, the exact cause of the disaster remains unknown. However, there are several reasonable explanations as well as a few wilder conspiracy theories. Regardless, the Hindenburg diaster had far-reaching implications. Perhaps most notably, it destroyed the public’s faith in zeppelins and thus, marked the end of the so-called airship era.

Did Ancient Greeks Discover America?

In 1492, Christoper Columbus sailed “the ocean blue.” But did he really lead the first (or even the second) expedition to reach North America? Or did Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact exist?

Pre-Columbian Mystery: Did Ancient Greeks Discover America?

One of our favorite subjects here at Guerrilla Explorer is pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact. Over the years, scholars have speculated that everyone from the ancient Romans to the Polynesians to the Japanese sailed to America long before Christopher Columbus. There is also evidence of travel going the other way as well, most notably Topa Inca Yupanqui’s legendary expedition in 1480.

We now know the Vikings reached Greenland in the late 900s. And it seems fairly likely that Polynesians traveled to South America between 300 and 1200. However, theories of other trans-oceanic expeditions have yet to be proven. Now, researchers have a new theory to study, thanks Dr. Minas Tsikritsis. Based on his analysis of Plutarch’s text, “On the Apparent Face in the Orb of the Moon,” Dr. Tsikritsis believes the Greeks visited the new world…all the way back in 86!

Here’s more on the possibility of pre-Columbian contact from Canada Greek Reporter:

Dr. Tsikritsis states that, “even before the time of Christopher Columbus, there was a communication which began during the Minoan era and continued until the Hellenistic times. The purpose of these travels during the Bronze Age was related to trade and the transportation of pure copper from Lake Superior of Canada.”

According to his findings it seems that after the first Minoan merchants, the Mycenaeans continued the journey, and, as reported by Plutarch, they sent Hercules to revitalize the presence of the Greek element, which had been diminished by the continuous miscegenation with the locals. Later, during the Iron Age, the interest in the region declined and until the Hellenistic time, it remained only as a conventional ceremonial tradition. So every thirty years some ships were sent to the areas that followed the worship of Cronus in order to renew the priest personnel.

The ancient text by Plutarch states that the dialogue coordinator, Lambrias, asks Sylla the Carthagean to narrate once more a story that he had heard from the servants of the temple of Cronus in Carthage. The story was originally told by a foreigner who was visiting the temple and came from the great continent.

According to Tsikritsis, who analyzed the data with the aid of a special computer program, “the information that is mentioned in the text confirms the description of a journey in 86 AD from Canada to Carthage.”

(See Canada Greek Reporter for more on pre-Columbian contact)

The Book of the Dead?

The Book of the Dead refers to a type of ancient Egyptian funerary text, first used around 1550 BC. Its purpose was to help the dead navigate the dangerous path to the afterlife. For many years, historians have searched the globe for pages from the most famous Book of the Dead. It belonged to Amenhotep, the Chief Builder of the Temple of Amun. However, those efforts have been thwarted…until now.

The Book of the Dead?

Recently, Dr. John Taylor of the British Museum discovered the missing papyrus pages in Queensland Museum. Here’s more from The Daily Mail:

The last missing pages from a supposedly ‘magical’ Book of the Dead from an Egyptian priest, Amenhotep, have been found after a century-long search – in a museum in Queensland.

British Museum Egyptologist Dr John Taylor said he was ‘floored’ by the discovery of the 100 fragments.

It’s the end of a worldwide search by archaeologists for the papyrus scroll – which supposedly contains spells to guide spirits into the afterlife.

Ms Bates said British Museum Curator and world renowned Egyptologist Dr John Taylor had stumbled across a section of the manuscript as part of a Queensland Museum display.

‘After spotting the piece Dr Taylor was shown the other 100 plus fragments held in the Museum’s stores and was floored by what he had uncovered,’ Ms Bates said.

‘These unsuspecting papyrus pieces form the missing part of a highly historically valuable ‘Book of the Dead’ that belonged to the Chief Builder of the temple of Amun, Amenhotep.

‘Sections of this precious manuscript have laid scattered across the globe for a hundred years with some of the pieces held safely in the collections of British Museum, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), New York…

(See The Daily Mail for the rest)

The Longest Bridge of the Ancient World?

During the late 7th century, Maya engineers constructed the longest Maya bridge known to exist in the ancient world. It spanned 113 meters across the Usumacinta River and was designed to allow residents of Yaxchilan to reach their villages and farms.

The Maya Bridge – The Longest Bridge of the Ancient World?

Here’s more from the discoverer of the Maya bridge, James O’Kon:

The Maya city of Yaxchilan is sited within a giant omega of the Usumacinta River. This circular bend in the river developed a 3.2 kilometer wide land mass within the inner curve of the river. This protected area, formed within the confines of the inner curve of the river, created a natural fortress for the city. However, the river is in a flood state for six months of the year, and during the rainy season the broad and swiftly flowing waters isolated the city from access to its domain across the river.

In order to survive as a viable urban center, this ancient city required a dependable year-round way to cross the river. While the site had been studied by archaeologists since 1882, the need for a bridge crossing was not considered as a necessity by archaeological studies. The ancient ruins that were the clues to the existence of this lost landmark of Maya Engineering were hiding in plain sight…The need for a permanent lifeline to insure the survival of the city during the flood season was overlooked by archaeologists until James O’Kon carried out a series of expeditions, forensic engineering investigations, archaeo-engineering analysis, remote sensing, and computer modeling of this structure lead to the digital re-construction of the bridge. Constructed in the late 7th century, landmark three-span suspension bridge crossed from the city center over the Usumacinta River to the north side where the villages and farms were located…

The Pigeon…that Saved the Lost Battalion?

On October 2, 1918, 554 U.S. soldiers found themselves trapped behind enemy lines in the Argonne Forest. Targeted by the Germans and under friendly fire from unknowing allies, they seemed marked to death. But six days later, salvation came from a most unlikely source…a carrier pigeon named Cher Ami.

The “Lost Battalion”?

The “Lost Battalion” seemed doomed from the start. Due to a lack of communication, the troops advanced beyond the other allied forces and were quickly cut off by the Germans. They lacked ample food and ammunition. To get water, the soldiers were forced to crawl to a nearby stream, dodging fire along the way.

Major Charles Whittlesey dispatched several runners to alert the allies to his predicament. But none of them broke through the line. As a last ditch effort, he sent several carrier pigeons aloft with messages tied to their ankles.

The first carrier pigeon reached its destination. Now on full alert, the allies struck out to rescue the Lost Battalion. But unfortunately, this backfired in horrendous fashion. The carrier pigeon’s message contained the wrong coordinates and the Lost Battalion found itself under artillery attack from its own allies.

Major Whittlesey desperately sought to correct the mistake. He sent two additional carrier pigeons into the air, but they were shot down. Then, on October 4, he sent out his last carrier pigeon. This pigeon, an American Black Check by the name of Cher Ami, contained a note attached to his left leg.

Cher Ami – The Pigeon that Saved the “Lost Battalion”?

The Germans took aim at Cher Ami and shot him down. But Cher Ami proved up to the challenge. Somehow, he managed to regain flight and flew 25 miles back to division headquarters. By the time he arrived, he was severely wounded and blind in one eye. However, Cher Ami still had his message:


The allies quickly called off the artillery assault and subsequently, rescued the Lost Battalion. The cost was steep. About 200 men were killed in action. Another 150 were taken prisoner or reported lost.

In the aftermath, Cher Ami became a minor celebrity, especially to the 194 soldiers who managed to survive the incident. They nursed him back to health and eventually awarded him with the Croix de Guerre. Cher Ami died in New Jersey on June 13, 1919. He’s a member of the Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame and his stuffed body (pictured above) is currently on display at the American Museum of Natural History.

Did Marco Polo go to China?

In 1275, famed explorer Marco Polo set foot in China’s Mongol court, the first leg of an epic journey that ultimately encompassed 24 years and 15,000 miles. Or did he?

Did Marco Polo really go to China?

Back in August 2011, we first discussed the controversy surrounding Marco Polo’s supposed travels to China and back again to Venice. After being imprisoned, Marco Polo told his story to romance author Rustichello da Pisa. da Pisa subsequently published it as The Travels of Marco Polo. It was a gigantic hit for the time and served to enshrine Marco’s place in history. However, scholars continue to debate whether or not this journey ever took place.

You see, the account doesn’t mention significant features of Chinese life, such as the Great Wall of China, chopsticks, and the odd practice of foot binding. And there are other problems too…

“Also, Polo described ships with five masts while shipwrecks found off the coast of Japan had only three masts. He used Persian terms rather than local ones to describe places in China. And despite his claim to have worked in Kublai Khan’s court, his name does not exist in any surviving records from that court.” ~ David Meyer, Was Marco Polo a Fraud?

New Evidence Marco Polo reached China?

Now, Professor Hans Ulrich Vogel from the German University of Tübingen has waded into the debate with a new book called, appropriately enough, Marco Polo was in China. Vogel believes that various descriptions in da Pisa’s account prove Marco Polo reached China.

“The strongest evidence is that he provided complex and detailed information about monetary conditions, salt production, public revenues and administrative geography that have been overlooked so far, but are fully corroborated in Chinese sources.” ~ Professor Hans Ulrich Vogel

Most of these “Chinese sources” weren’t available to Marco Polo at the time. And even if they had been available, Marco Polo couldn’t have been able to read them since he didn’t know the Chinese language.

“He is the only one to describe precisely how paper for money was made from the bark of the mulberry tree. Not only did he detail the shape and size of the paper, he also described the use of seals and the various denominations of paper money.” ~ Professor Hans Ulrich Vogel

Marco Polo certainly got some details right about currency and salt production, among other things. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he traveled to China. For example, he could’ve gathered stories about China from other traders in the Black Sea. This would also explain some of the inconsistencies.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Professor Vogel’s research is an interesting addition to the debate. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely we’ll ever know the full truth behind Marco Polo’s journey, especially since no authoritative version of The Travels of Marco Polo exists. It was originally copied by hand and adapted in the process, meaning early versions of it differ in significant ways.

“Regardless, Marco Polo’s story is still important. His book inspired a generation of explorers to action, most notably Christopher Columbus. For that alone, he deserves to be remembered as one of the most important figures in the history of exploration.” ~ David Meyer

Gladiator Babes!

Butt-kicking female warriors are hardly a new concept. They’ve been around for centuries. Now, a recently discovered statue indicates women did battle all the way back in the ancient Roman Empire…as female gladiators.

Did Female Gladiators Exist?

Female warriors have long roots in history. Now, it appears we can trace those roots all the way back to female gladiators who lived during the ancient Roman empire. Here’s more on a recently uncovered female gladiator statue from Live Science:

A small bronze statue dating back nearly 2,000 years may be that of a female gladiator, a victorious one at that, suggests a new study.

If confirmed the statue would represent only the second depiction of a woman gladiator known to exist.

The gladiator statue shows a topless woman, wearing only a loincloth and a bandage around her left knee. Her hair is long, although neat, and in the air she raises what the researcher, Alfonso Manas of the University of Granada, believes is a sica, a short curved sword used by gladiators. The gesture she gives is a “salute to the people, to the crowd,” Manas said, an action done by victorious gladiators at the end of a fight…

(See Live Science for more on this new female gladiator statue)

The Wave of Poseidon?

In 479 BC, the mighty Persian army marched toward the tiny Greek colony of Potidaea. The northern Aegean Sea had mysteriously retreated, making conditions ideal for a siege. Then disaster struck. The sea surged and hundreds of Persian soldiers died. Potidaea was saved, all thanks to a strange event that has come to be known as “The Wave of Poseidon.”

The Wave of Poseidon?

“When they had made their way over two-fifths of it, however, and three yet remained to cross before they could be in Pallene, there came a great flood-tide, higher, as the people of the place say, than any one of the many that had been before. Some of them who did not know how to swim were drowned, and those who knew were slain by the Potidaeans, who came among them in boats.” ~ Herodotus, The Histories

Herodotus, like many other ancient Greek historians, considered the wave to be of divine providence. It was the work of Poseidon, the god of the sea. In his infinite wisdom, Poseidon had decided to thrash the Persians and thus, save the villagers of Potidaea.

“The Potidaeans say that the cause of the high sea and flood and the Persian disaster lay in the fact that those same Persians who now perished in the sea had profaned the temple and the image of Poseidon which was in the suburb of the city. I think that in saying that this was the cause they are correct. Those who escaped alive were led away by Artabazus to Mardonius in Thessaly. This is how the men who had been the king’s escort fared.” ~ Herodotus, The Histories

Over time, The Wave of Poseidon became a thing of myth. And indeed, that is how modern historians initially viewed it. But over the last few decades, scholars started to study the event in depth, attempting to find a real life explanation for it. They noticed that Herodotus’s account, which was written ~50 years after the actual event, bore some resemblance to a tsunami. Now, new evidence has emerged to bolster this interpretation.

“We wanted to see if these historical accounts are correct and then try to get an assessment of the coastal areas — are they safe or are they not safe?” ~ Klaus Reicherter, Aachen University

A research team led by Klaus Reicherter recently realized the area’s geological conditions were ripe for a tsunami. The seafloor is shaped like a bathtub. Underwater earthquakes and landslides occur from time to time. Models show a regional tsunami could get as high as 16 feet.

Reicherter also discovered layers of sediment that appear to have been carried inland by massive waves. In addition, they excavated numerous shells in a nearby city, far away from land. A dating analysis indicates the shells landed in the soil around 500 BC, give or take 20-30 years.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Many historians view historical accounts of magic and divine intervention as pure myth. But we here at Guerrilla Explorer tend to think many of these strange stories have real-life roots. It appears we can now add The Wave of Poseidon to this category. Interestingly enough, if the tsunami had happened a few decades later, it might have never achieved its mythical status. About fifty years later, in 426 BC, the Greek historian Thucydides became the first person in recorded history to speculate that earthquakes, and not some ancient god, were behind massive waves.

“The cause, in my opinion, of this phenomenon must be sought in the earthquake. At the point where its shock has been the most violent the sea is driven back, and suddenly recoiling with redoubled force, causes the inundation. Without an earthquake I do not see how such an accident could happen.” ~ Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

The Lost Spitfire Squadron?

In August 1945, a dozen Spitfires were shipped from England to Burma. Another eight were mailed in December. However, they were considered excessive and soldiers were ordered to bury the boxes before they’d even been unpacked. What happened to the Lost Spitfire Squadron?

The Lost Spitfire Squadron?

After fifteen years and over $200,000, British farmer David Cundall recently announced the discovery of the forgotten Spitfires. He was inspired to search for them by a comment made by a U.S. veteran to his friend Jim Pearce.

“‘They told Jim: ‘We’ve done some pretty silly things in our time, but the silliest was burying Spitfires.’ And when Jim got back from the US, he told me.” ~ David Cundall

According to Cundall, the Spitfires were buried under forty feet of soil in their original crates. The individual parts were waxed and wrapped in greased paper. The wings were folded back against the bodies. The joints were tarred. These efforts, designed to protect the planes during the shipping process, may have helped to preserve them as well.

Why were the Spitfires Abandoned in Burma?

The Americans expected the British to return to the burial site and dig them up. But this never happened, partly due to the increased production of newer, faster jets.

‘In 1945, Spitfires were 10 a penny. Jets were coming into service. Spitfires were struck off charge, unwanted. Lots of Spitfires were just pushed off the back of aircraft carriers into the sea. On land, you couldn’t leave them for the locals – they might have ended up being used against you.” ~ David Cundall

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Prior to Cundall’s discovery, there were only 35 Spitfires in existence. Strong demand and high prices (a refinished Spitfire sold for ~$3 million in 2009), have led aviation enthusiasts to search the globe for rumored caches of buried planes. So, where are Cundall’s new Spitfires? For the moment, they’re still underground, deep in the jungle.

“We sent a borehole down and used a camera to look at the crates. They seemed to be in good condition.” ~ David Cundall

They are likely to remain that way for at least a little while. International sanctions make it illegal for Burma to ship military materials in or out of the country. However, British Prime Minister David Cameron recently visited Burma, attempting to strike a deal to lift the sanctions as well as permit Cundall to excavate the site. With any luck, these Spitfires may eventually see the light of day and after more than six decades, finally reach the skies.