The lost islands of Chesapeake Bay in Second Life

Chesapeake Bay; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrChesapeake Bay – click any image for full size

Update: in keeping with Serene and Jade’s approach to having their region designs open for approximately a month, Chesapeake Bay has now closed and the host region is under private holding. SLurls have therefore been removed from this article.

Serene Footman and Jade Koltai have opened their February region design – called Chesapeake Bay – and, given it is by two people who always produce the must stunning vistas in Second Life, it is utterly captivating.

Our latest sim is located in the Chesapeake Bay, an estuary in the US states of Maryland and Virginia.  The Chesapeake Islands are famous for the simple reason that they disappeared. Built on clay and silt, over the course of a century the islands were gradually submerged as a result of erosion exacerbated by sea level rise. They were the islands that sank.

– Serene Footman, introducing Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrChesapeake Bay – click any image for full size

For the build, Jade and Serene have focused on two islands in particular:  Holland Island and Sharps Island, with a particular focus on the former while blending features of both into a unique setting and memorial to both with all of the attention to detail and care in design that make their work among the best to be found in Second Life. As with all of their regions, this design carries within it a story – or rather stories. The first – and primary – story is that of the attempts of a husband and wife team to save Holland Island and the last remaining house standing upon it, all that remained of a place once home to over 400 watermen and farmers, and their families.

Stephen White, a waterman and Methodist Minister, first visited Holland Island when he was a boy. Years later, he was visiting one of the island’s three cemeteries when he saw an inscription on one of them.
The discovery inspired Stephen White to embark on a campaign to stop Holland Island from disappearing into the sea. He purchased the island for $70,000, and set up the Holland Island Preservation Foundation. For fifteen years, Stephen and his wife waged their own battle against the sea. Spending $150,000, they built wooden breakwaters, laid sandbags and carried 23 tons of rocks to the island and dropped them at the shoreline.

– Serene Footman, describing Stephen White’s attempt to save Holland Island

Chesapeake Bay; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrChesapeake Bay – click any image for full size

The waters of the Chesapeake were not to be held back, however, and in 2010 that last house, originally built in 1888, collapsed, forcing the Whites to admit defeat and sell the island. The remnants of  that last house was completely lost to the waters of the bay in 2012.

Hoewever, for this incarnation and in recognition of the Whites’ attempts, the house remains, much as it appeared in 2010 after the initial collapse. It sits on the west side of the island, the carcasses of the vehicles used to try to shore up the land around it slowly drowning under the rising waters, watched over by sea birds and waterfowl.

Chesapeake Bay; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrChesapeake Bay – click any image for full size

North of the Last House is an automated lighthouse sitting on a platform, marking the second story commemorated by the region: that of lighthouse keeper Ulman Owens. The light sits atop a platform once home to the Holland Island Bar Lighthouse, also built in 1888, and manned through until 1960, when the automated tower replaced it on the platform. In 1931, keeper Owens was found dead in the lighthouse kitchen amidst a scene of apparent violence, including a bloodied butcher’s knife close to the body and bloody stains within the room, although the body itself showed no significant wounds.

Initially, his death was ruled the result of a fit, rather than foul play. But subsequent investigations and an autopsy suggested Owens may have been murdered by local rum runners or that, given he had at least two affairs that caused the women involved to leave their husbands, he might have been set upon by an angry husband. However, as the autopsy revealed Owens had heart disease, the ruling of accidental death was held, and the case closed.

Chesapeake Bay; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrChesapeake Bay – click any image for full size

Sharps Island, although some distance from Holland Island in the physical world, is represented in the region by a reproduction of the “leaning tower” of the (deactivated) Sharps Island Light, and the ruins of a second large house. The latter represents the popular (if short-lived, due to the island’s continuing erosion) hotel built by Miller R. Creighton in the late nineteenth century. Sharps Island itself finally vanished under the waves in 1960.

Today, Holland Island is marshlands and sandbars, home to a great many varieties of birds and waterfowl, and Serene and Jade have captured this within their design, which is finished with an atmospheric windlight and superb sound scape.

As with all of Jade and Serene’s builds, Chesapeake Bay won’t be around forever, so do make a point of visiting; you won’t be disappointed. Be sure, as well, to read the excellent piece on the region and its inspiration on the Furillen blog.