St. Catherines Island

St. Catherine’s Island (14,540 acres). In 30-square miles the island has been inhabited for at least 4000 years. The interior of the island is not open to the public now.

Archeology and conservation programs are active on the island.  Colonial botanist William Bartram forded a narrow shoal to St. Catherine’s Island, writing “THE sight of this delightful and productive island, placed in front of the rising city of Sunbury, quickly induced me to explore it”, employing it “to employ to the most advantage the time on my hands.” – William Bartram

By 1576, it was the site of the first Spanish outpost in Georgia. St. Catherine’s was the home to Mary Musgrove (interpreter for Georgia founder James Oglethorpe) and her second husband Thomas Bosomworth. A house on the north end of the island, called the Old House, is believed to have belonged to Button Gwinnett, a Georgia signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Sherpa guides calls the island “a type of Noah’s Ark, where breeding colonies can be established to build up numbers of rare animals, which are then returned to zoos or the wild.  More than 14 zoos participate in the program.”

Additionally, the island serves as an undisturbed habitat for osprey, sea turtles and lemurs.  A sponsor in the St. Catherines Island (Ga.) Sea Turtle Conservation Program, St. Catherine’s averages 119 sea turtle nests each year, trailing only Cumberland, Ossabaw, and Blackbeard islands in popularity with the endangered reptiles.

Endemic to the island of Madagascar, protective and reproductive efforts are underway also for the ring-tailed lemur, depicted as the character King Julien in Madagascar —  a 2005 computer-animated film produced by DreamWorks Animation, and a spin-off TV series, The Penguins of Madagascar.

Georgia Southern University reports that scientists, college professors, graduate students and teachers board a boat for the only way on or off the island, ready for weeks of work and study on the turtle conservation.