American Indians used this Island for oyster harvesting long before John Smith identified it on Western maps of the New World in the seventeenth century. Aside from the few cars, a single payphone and some modern amenities, life on Tangier could almost be taking place in another century.
From a distance, the Island appears mystical, like a resurfaced Atlantis, a picturesque cityscape of crab shacks, mansard roofs, church steeples, a water tower. It is miles from any mainland shore, accessible only by water or air. Up close, it becomes clear that Tangier is a working town. There are stacks of wire mesh crab pots on the docks, cinderblocks and flotsam, sunken and abandoned boats. There are workboats in every slip.
The Island has endured storms, environmental threats, recurrent flooding, and irrelevancy. Yet it has endured. It exists as a perpetual negotiation between man and nature. To visit the Island is to hope that the place continues as it is. But the ebbing away of the island’s landmass threatens all that. If the island itself disappears, everything valuable and worthwhile about it goes with it. So what's the plan?