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The motor chugged softly below decks as the cook handed me a cup of coffee and a doughnut midships.
I looked around. The crew were climbing the spars, inspecting the rigging and preparing for full sail in the Atlantic, and I was along for the ride.
Well, a little more than that. In a way my presence on board the Queen Elizabeth II was the entire reason the ship was sailing today.
In the 1580s a small group from England touched down on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. Under the guidance of John Smith and some other guys that dressed funny, the colonists were to establish the first English speaking settlement in the new world.
There was about 60 of them and when winter came, John Smith and a few others headed back to “Jolly ‘ol England” to fetch some supplies. The war with the Spanish got in the way of their plans and with no money to return, they were held up in London for two years.
By the time they finally got back to Roanoke Island, the settlers had disappeared and the mystery of “The Lost Colony” was born.
Today, “Lost Colony Park” is a re-creation of that first settlement. Blacksmiths, apothecaries and even a church help 21st century visitors see what life was like back in 16th century America.
The highlight of the display though is the Queen Elizabeth II. A working, full-scale replica of the ship that brought the settlers over in the 1580s. Normally it’s a static display — it doesn’t go anywhere. Tourists and visitors come on board and are treated to a costumed actor telling people about the ship and what life onboard was like.
Once a year, usually around September or October, the caretakers of the QEII take it out for a little shakedown cruise before it’s put up for the winter. The final cruise gives the crew mates a chance to see what might need repairing over the winter, but it also give the crew a small reward for their work over the hot, North Carolina summer.
Three days and two nights sailing around the Atlantic. Hoisting sails, climbing the rigging and sleeping on deck under the stars. It’s about as close to being an explorer as you can get.
The curators and officers of “The Lost Colony” had seen my work somewhere and contacted me. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in riding the ship for several days during the shakedown.
I didn’t hesitate. I said, ‘let-me-think-about-it-yes’.
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Jerry Nelson is a freelance photojournalist from America. His latest book of photography, Suenitos tells the story of the only daycare inside the dangerous Hidden City. Now based in Argentina, he continues to turn his lens on social justice issues around the globe. Connect with Jerry on MosaicHub, Facebook or LinkedIn today. Have a story that needs to reach national media? Email him today.
In addition to being photo editor for the Internet’s largest collection of Travel Articles, Outbounding, he is also the lead photographer for BuenosTours, the specialists in private walking tours of Buenos Aires
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