Folks on Virginia’s Tangier Island largely make their living on the water, most as blue crab fishermen, others as tugboat captains and second mates, or as tankermen.
The island has sustained its fewer than 1,000 residents for more than 400 years. But today the tight-knit island community and its cherished way of life face a very real threat. Tangier Island is fast eroding as storms and rising sea levels are taking their toll.
A Russia Today documentary entitled “Tangier — The Vanishing Island” examines the problem. Given how severe the erosion is, how vulnerable the island is to hurricanes and the costs of monitoring residents who choose to remain and protect their houses, Coast Guard and Virginia officials want to move the island’s inhabitants to the mainland.
But Tangier Islanders are fighting for their home. It’s hoped that a seawall can be erected that will protect the island from further erosion and enable residents to stay.
Yes, there are costs involved in protecting the island and its residents. Maybe it’s difficult for officials to justify the expense and amount of resources required to serve such a small community of people.
But I think Tangier Island’s true value needs to be weighed, too. So many of our communities have become homogenized and filled with fast-food and retail chains that make it difficult to tell one town from another. We need to recognize that not everyone wants to live in them. Communities like Tangier Island deserve to be preserved.
“It would be a real shame for this island to disappear,” photographer Irene Hinke-Sacilotto says in the documentary below. “There’s a way of life here that’s unique in this country, the crabbers, the oystermen, and so forth. It’s a very hard life and yet we get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.”