Reflections on Chandeleur
Formed more than 2,000 years ago, the Chandeleur Island chain has a colorful past – both geologically and in terms of human use. The shifting sands of these barrier islands in the northern Gulf of Mexico buffer the mainland of Louisiana and Mississippi against storm surge. They are a prized habitat for birds and aquatic animals and comprise the United States’ second-oldest national wildlife refuge. For more than a century, the Chandeleurs have been a favored destination for scientists, naturalists and anglers.
Sadly, the islands are shrinking, and Hurricane Katrina swiftly devoured a significant percentage of their land mass in 2005. Included in this sudden loss was the 102-year-old lighthouse at Hewes Point. The storm’s violent wind and waves scoured the water bottom beneath the light’s feet and sank it to newfound depths in Chandeleur Sound.
Coastal erosion continues to claim more of this amazing landscape, most recently with the passage of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008. Researchers are now concerned that the islands may disappear entirely and much sooner than originally predicted.
To keep the history of this isolated locale alive, Louisiana Sea Grant has compiled this collection of photographs, interviews and information to serve as a gateway for anyone wanting to learn more about the unique coastal ecology, geology and past of our vanishing barrier island systems.