Pat Shingleton: "Tree Rings and Plymouth Rock"
Before the pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, 117 colonists landed at Roanoke Island, known today as North Carolina, on July 22, 1587. The settlement vanished without a trace and is recognized as one of the most intriguing disappearances in American history. In 1998, tree-ring scientists, known as dendrologists, uncovered a possible answer. Evidence of a dreadful drought was detected from the rings on a cluster of bald cypress trees. In addition to the tree rings, Croatoan Indians carved clues of weather conditions into nearby trees. The 1998 research was added to diary entries from the Jamestown settlement. Narrow tree rings at 1587 and 1610 signify extreme droughts believed to have severely impacted settlers at Roanoke Island and Jamestown. In addition, the crossing for the Pilgrims was difficult. The winter of 1620 was "a calm winter, such as was never seen here" wrote Thomas Dudley of Massachusetts Bay. Details as to subsequent winters at Plymouth are sketchy. Journals that were returned to England may have been weighted toward favorable weather, designed to not only please sponsors, but to persuade other settlers to come to America. Almost half of the original passengers and crew of the Mayflower encountered disease during their first winter on the shores of Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bay. Many stayed on the Mayflower, anchored a mile offshore. If weather conditions permitted, the settlers went ashore each day to build adequate shelters.