As the ship made its way along the outer banks, John stood atop the foc’sle, anxious. He was the governor of the little city of Raleigh but he had been absent for a long time. It was August 18th, 1590, exactly 1,085 days since he had left his family under the care of the other hundred-plus colonists in the New World. His granddaughter, Virginia, was only ten days old when he kissed her goodbye, the first child born on those distant shores.
“Are you sure this is the right spot?” the mate asked.
Even after his prolonged absence, it still looked vaguely familiar to John, but something wasn’t right. He sidled along the rail, straining his eyes, hoping to glimpse some movement.
When the landing party finally walked up the beach, no one greeted them. But they did come upon what looked like a fort in the woods. One of the sailors pointed to a bald cypress tree incorporated into the palisade. The bark was scraped away and onto it was etched the word “CROATOAN.”
“It’s a message, they’re safe,” John said, hesitantly optimistic. “It means they’ve gone to live with the Indians to the south. We agreed they’d carve a Maltese cross into a tree if they were forced away by hostiles.”
Suddenly a flash of movement caught John’s attention. A white deer behind a distant tree raised its head and stared into John’s eyes for a moment before bounding silently away. Suddenly he felt sick.
The settlers had not gone south.
Except for that mysterious inscription, they’d simply disappeared. Without a trace.
John White would die back in England, alone, never having found out the fate of his family or the other citizens of the Lost Colony of Roanoke.
Four passing centuries have revealed little else.