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Sea claims graves on a sinking island

Steve Helber / AP

Archaeologist Joanna Wilson, left, and Thomas Klatka work on a grave site being claimed by the sea on the north end of Tangier Island, Va., on April 3. A child's coffin is unearthed in the foreground. Climate change is accelerating what experts say will be increasing flooding along the bay and the foreseeable demise of Tangier. Some areas of the island are losing up to 15 feet of land a year.

Steve Helber / AP

The Swain Memorial Church and a water tower rise above crab shacks on the waterfront of Tangier Island, Va., on April 3. The island's population of 500 is crowded on several ridges of high ground, still only several feet above sea water. Because of its isolation, many residents still retain the linguistic echoes of the island's settlers, primarily from Cornwall along England's southwest coast. A handful of names - Pruitt, Dise, Marshall - dominate the population. John Smith, the intrepid and boastful Jamestown settler, is believed to be the first European to step foot on the island four centuries ago. The arrowheads collected on the beach are remnants of Indians who summered here.

By Steve Szkotak, The Associated Press

TANGIER ISLAND, Va. -- One day after Hurricane Sandy lashed this speck of land in the Chesapeake Bay last fall, islander Carol Moore hopped in her skiff and headed to a stretch of beach along The Uppards, one of the islands that comprise this remote outpost. A favorite haunt, Moore collects sea glass, pottery and arrowheads that she finds among the bleached oyster shells that blanket the beach.

What she found there that day shocked her.

Waves stirred by Sandy's fierce winds had pounded the beach and scattered in the surf human remains from a graveyard of a former settlement called Canaan, an ancestral home of Moore's mother's family. Continue reading.

Steve Helber / AP

Archaeologist Thomas Klatka works on a grave site being claimed by the sea on the north end of Tangier Island, Va., on April 3. Climate change is accelerating what experts say will be increasing flooding along the bay and the foreseeable demise of Tangier.

Steve Helber / AP

A leg bone and foot are unearthed in a grave site on the north end of Tangier Island, Va., on April 3. Archeologists are excavating a graveyard on the north end of the island which is being lost to the sea. The island and portions of the Virginia coast along Chesapeake Bay are among the 10 places on the planet most-threatened by rising seas.

Steve Helber / AP

Gravestones are laid out in front of an abandoned structure on the north end of Tangier Island, Va., on April 3. The island and portions of the Virginia coast along Chesapeake Bay are especially vulnerable to climate change; 35 million years ago, a meteor slammed into the lower bay and land mass continues to seep into its crater. Glaciers that gouged out the 200-mile-long bay about 10,000-15,000 years ago are also causing land to sink.

Steve Helber / AP

A chain fence surrounds the Swain Memorial Church in Tangier Island, Va., on April 3.

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