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St. Catherines Island

OLogy Series
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230

St. Catherines Island

OLogy Series
place

Located off the coast of Georgia, St. Catherines is an island with white sandy beaches, a variety of wildlife, and dense forests of pines. The island is also filled with history. For 4,000 years it was home to the Guale Indians. In the 16th century, the Spanish built a mission here. In 1680, the mission was abandoned. It was lost for almost 300 years, then rediscovered by archaeologists in 1974.

The Mission that was Lost and Found
In the 16th century, Spanish missionaries built churches along the southeast coast of the U.S., including one on St. Catherines Island. It was called Santa Catalina de Guale, after the Guale Indians who lived there and whom the mission was built to serve. In 1597, a small group of Indians led an uprising against the Spanish, and the mission was burned. The Spanish rebuilt the mission, along with many others along the coast. Over the next 80 years, the Spanish and British colonists fought over the island. Finally, in 1680, the British attacked the mission, and it was soon abandoned. Over the years, the mission fell into ruin and the remains were overgrown with forest. It was lost to history until it was rediscovered in 1974 by an archaeologist named David Hurst Thomas.

Archaeologists working on St. Catherines Island have discovered that the island is also used for:

extra-terrestrial research

environmental research

spring break parties

Are you right?

Correct!

Environmental scientists on the island study everything from beach erosion to the behavior of birds, mammals, and insects. They also study the loggerhead sea turtles that come to the island to nest along the beaches.

At the northern end of the island there is a large:

castle

bluff

statue of David Hurst Thomas

Are you right?

Correct!

A bluff is a steep cliff or riverbank. The Guale Indians who once lived on this island used this 25-foot-high bluff as a lookout point.

Endangered species of zebras, parrots, and tortoises live on St. Catherines.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

The island is used to breed exotic species of birds, mammals, and reptiles from similar climates around the world. Then they're returned to zoos or to the wild.

Tourists are allowed to explore the island all day long.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

During daylight hours the public can hike and picnic, but otherwise the island is considered to be a protected wildlife area.

Size: 10 miles long, 14,640 acres
Geography: tidal marsh, wetlands, ponds, dense forests
Climate: subtropical
Owned by: St. Catherines Island Foundation
Cool fact: After the Civil War, the island served as the capital of a new state that was formed for freed slaves.

Image credits: AMNH, David Hurst Thomas.