Mystery of the Roanoke Documentary

The mystery of America’s first colony is one of the great unsolved events of this country’s written history.

For those of you who don’t know, here’s the short version. Before Jamestown and that liar John Smith, English settlers colonized the “New World” on an island in North Carolina during the late 1500s. Because they essentially set-up their fort on a swamp and did not adequately prepare supplies for the new environment, their governor John White had to return to England.  Because of politics and armadas and Queen Elizabeth’s lack of interest, it was three years before he came back with help.

And when he did, the whole colony had vanished.

They left behind a single clue, the word CROATOAN carved into a post. White asked the local Croatan Native Americans, but they had no idea where the settlers had gone.

It’s a great story, right! Did they join a Native American community? Did they try to swim back to England? Did they just die out? Did aliens abduct them? The mind reels!

But that is not my mystery this week. Oh no. My mystery is how could any documentary about such a subject be boring?

History Channel aired a special on the controversial Dare Stones. The stones are a series of rocks found in the 1930s which were supposedly clues left by White’s daughter, Eleanor Dare. The stones were determined as fake decades ago, but the documentary wanted to prove that one amongst them could have been authentic.

The television special was essentially two men driving back and forth up the east coast. They talked to the same three or four people while overdramatic music would crescendo at inappropriate moments.

Every once in a while, re-enactors appeared to represent the lost colonists wandering through the woods. They were led by an actress meant to be Eleanor herself. If she was not trudging through the same patch of trees over and over again, she was staring longingly at the sea or down at a rock. That was pretty much it. Three scenes of historical re-enactment played repeatedly before or after each commercial break to buffer the footage of the two men driving.

This went on for an hour and, I confess, I dozed in and out yet could still follow everything perfectly. That should give you an idea of how little was actually said.

At the end of the hour of repetitive hypothesizing and talk of stone testing, the result was (drumroll and spoiler alert) — Inconclusive!

That’s right! All of that hemming and driving and staring into the sea and the only way to find out what they decided is to watch the TWO HOUR follow-up documentary featuring the same men. I don’t think I could do it.

This is nothing against the people on the program or what they were trying to do. The mystery here is how could they take something so fascinating and make it so damn boring

Even the actress playing Eleanor Dare looked bored and she got a free trip to the beach!