As sea levels have risen because of climate change, and the geology beneath the Chesapeake region has settled naturally over the last two centuries, more than 500 islands – large and small – have vanished beneath the waves.
Some of these bay islands held hideaways for pirates, hunting lodges for the rich, brothels for watermen, the sites of illegal boxing matches and gambling dens, even an unusual enterprise to breed and skin black cats to sell their fur to China. This last scheme failed when the bay froze and the cats, wisely, ran off across the ice, according to William Cronin’s book, The Disappearing Islands of the Chesapeake. Others – such as Sharp’s Island and Holland Island -- were simply the homes of farmers and fishermen, or mosquito-infested scabs of marsh grass.
On a recent afternoon, I set off in a kayak to find a tiny island that – strangely enough – has been heading in the opposite direction: rising from the bay, and growing over the years.