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The Surprising Resilience of the Hog Island Fig
Nov 24, 2021 | Atlas Obscura
Picture - The Surprising Resilience of the Hog Island Fig

On an abandoned island off the coast of Virginia, fig trees sprout up on the grounds of a demolished lighthouse. Although human residents left the island in the 1930s, leaving scant ruins in their wake, the fig trees serve as a living remnant of a bygone era.

Situated a few minutes away from Cape Charles, Hog Island has a long history of being inhospitable to humans. Before colonial settlement, Eastern Shore tribes used the land only during fishing and hunting season. In fact, its original name, Machipongo, means “fine dust and flies” in Algonquin.

In 1672, British colonists came to live on the island, many of whom planted fig clippings brought from Europe. But these settlers soon disappeared—an enduring mystery, as there are no records indicating why—and it wasn’t until after the Revolutionary War that the island hosted another community. These islanders—who eventually named the area after a landowner named Captain Hogg—built homes, established families, and developed the island into a charming, secluded escape for visitors seeking respite from nearby congested cities and towns.

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