In August 1585 a fleet of five ships organized by Queen Elizabeth I of England’s favourite courtier and explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh, explored the Carolina coast, before disembarking settlers on Roanoke Island. Most left when relief arrived the following spring, but the 15 who stayed had disappeared when a new party of 115 settlers under the command of John White arrived in July 1587. The local tribes were hostile, and with supplies running short, White returned to England later that year to request relief. 1588 was the year of the Spanish Armada, and White was unable to return until August 1590, to find the settlement deserted, but with no signs of destruction or conflict. The fate of the ‘Lost Colony’ has excited much speculation. One plausible factor is climatological: the years of the settlement appear to have been exceptionally dry, and a voluntary evacuation followed by absorption by the neighbouring tribes seems likely.
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