While islands don’t float and can’t flip over, they are subject to one hazard that can sometimes end with their disappearance…erosion. This isn’t a situation that many of us would ever notice in our lifetime, but on one island…Holland Island, located in the Chesapeake Bay, erosion quickly became a problem. In 1910, Holland Island, considered the most populated island in the Chesapeake Bay, was thriving with 360 residents. Besides historic Victorian homes, there were many other homes, shops, a school, and a church.
Despite its historic value, erosion gradually ate away at the island which greatly concerned its residents. Erosion just doesn’t care about historic value, sentimental value, or even about people’s lives. It is just a part of nature, and if a piece of ground doesn’t have a solid base, and plenty of vegetation to keep the ground in place, wind, rain, snow, and in this case, water from the bay will eventually erode the ground to a dangerous level. That was the situation that Holland Island found itself in 1910.
In 1914, in an attempt to try to slow the erosive loss of their precious island, the residents had stones shipped in to build walls and tried to even sink ships in an attempt to slow it down, but nothing worked. Finally, giving up, most of the residents tore down their homes and moved inland. Many of the buildings still remained, but the town was largely a ghost town. When a tropical storm hit in 1918, it damaged the church. By 1922, the few people who had stayed finally left after the church closed down. One man, in 1995, tried for 15 years to preserve the island, spending a fortune, all to no avail. Finally, the last house crumbled and fell, ending the fight to save Holland Island.
In April of 1993, my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and I took a trip to the Seattle, Washington area where our sister, Caryl Reed and her family were living at the time. I had not been there before, and so was excited at the prospect. We planned to have dinner at the Space Needle, do some shopping, visit Friday Harbor, and the one I was most looking forward to, Mount Saint Helens. Since the mountain had blown up on May 18, 1980, I had been intrigued. My parents had gone there, but I was married and so didn’t go along. On that trip, because the roads there didn’t open until May, and this was April, the viewing of Mount Saint Helens was not to be, unfortunately. I was disappointed.
I will never forget hearing about the coming eruption in the news, on March 15, 1980. When we first heard about it, people were riveted to their televisions, but as time went on, I suspect that people got bored with it. After two months, it got to the point where we all wondered if it was just a false alarm. Then, at 8:32am Pacific Time on May 18, 1980, the mountain blew up…literally. Suddenly, everyone was riveted to the television again. It was just shocking, and since 9-11 had not happened yet, it seemed like the most shocking thing we had ever experienced…in my lifetime anyway. I remember going out to my car and finding ash all over it. I had a hard time believing that a volcano that was over a thousand miles away in Washington state, could dump ash on my car in Casper, Wyoming. The ash went completely around the globe within a matter of days. Of course, it was nothing like what they had in the area surrounding the mountain.
When my daughter, Amy Royce and her husband Travis and son, Caalab moved to the Seattle area, and then decided to renew their vows, we decided to make the trip up for the ceremony. I wanted another chance to get to see Mount Saint Helens. My first attempt was thirteen years after the eruption, and that attempt was twenty two years ago. It was time. We had a rather small window of time to go see the mountain, with everything that has been planned at Amy’s house. So, Thursday was the day. Unfortunately, we seem to have picked the worst day of the days we would be here. Nevertheless, we went in the hope of a view of the…for me anyway…elusive Mount Saint Helens. Our grandchildren, Shai and Caalab Royce went with us. They were born well after Mount Saint Helens blew, and really knew very little about it…until today, that is.
Our first stop was to the visitors center, where we looked at the exhibits displayed there and watched a really good movie that told of the events leading up to and including May 18, 1980 and beyond. After we left, I think they had a much better idea about the magnitude of the whole event. We drove up to the area where we could finally view the mountain itself, only to find it sitting right there in front of us…completely shrouded in clouds and mist. We could see where the ash had landed and where the water and mud had carved out deep crevasses. We could see where erosion had taken its toll on the area, and where trees had been wiped out, and now rather small ones have grown up in their place. We could see the base of the mountain, and really, almost half way up it, but the now famous space left when the top that is no longer there blew, was still not visible to me. Sadly, I guess some things are simply not meant to be.