A mountain of sun-bleached bones awaited the unsuspecting explorers.
A ship waving an old world flag was just coming over the horizon. Hugging close to the shore, these men where on a mission, and it did not involve the mountain of bones.
The leader of the expedition was a 39-year old Canadian-Frenchman named Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville. He was commissioned by the rulers of France to re-find something that in modern times we would never think would be lost, the mouth of a mighty river referred to as the Mississippi.
The explorers slowly drifted by La Mobilla, present day Mobile Bay. d’Iberville knew from his vast experience, that this shallow bay was not his goal.
Looking over the ship’s starboard side, was an 18-year old. The combination of sun and hard work made him look much older. This was not his first expedition. He had been a member of the French navy with d’Iberville since he was 12 and it just so happened that he was also the leader’s younger brother. His name was Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, who would in a few short years become the founder of a little town just up the coast called New Orleans.
The year was 1699 and January was coming to a close as the crew lowered its longboats and headed in for a closer look at an island near the mouth of La Mobilla. Rain poured as they explored the shore. The wind howled and the waves rolled.
They docked on the white sandy shore near a pine forest and rushed in to start a fire, which did not come easily. The next day part of the crew went looking for game to hunt, while the others began exploring the resources on the island.
It was not long before they were confronted with a sight that struck fear in their souls and would be talked about to their dying days. At first they could not comprehend what they were seeing, but as they moved closer it was clear that this was not a natural phenomena. A mountain of white stood before them and it wasn’t sand. It was the remains of humans, about 60 individuals in all.
d’Iberville immediately named the island, Isle Du Massacre, which in English translates to Massacre Island. It is not truly known, why the bodies where on the island, but there has been speculation that it was a burial mound that had been uncovered by tropical storms and hurricanes. Whatever the motive it made a lasting impression on our visitors.
The island would retain this name for over 10 years. Then around 1711, d’Iberville’s brother, Bienville officially refers to the island as Isle Dauphine, or as we know it today, Dauphin Island.
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