The Chandeleur Islands are the chain of barrier islands that lie about 30 miles south of Biloxi and 60 miles east of New Orleans, famous for sportfishing and as nesting grounds for pelicans, black skimmers and other birds that give the Gulf its wildlife identity.|
The islands are made from wave-deposited sand and silt delivered from the Mississippi River. The longbow barrier of the Chandeleurs for centuries provided safer passage for boats, and in the early days played into Ship Island's role as a harbor island and helped passage to the Mississippi River.
Of note in history, on Dec. 12, 1814, the mightiest armada ever to approach America anchored at the north end of the Chandeleurs, and in the lee of Cat and Ship islands, prepared to go upriver and attack New Orleans at the end of the War of 1812.
As more people developed the waterfronts of Mississippi and Louisiana, the Chandeleurs were one of Mother Nature's defenses against storms.
Katrina submerged the islands, stripped sand from the beaches and eroded much of the marsh. Little is recognizable from the chain of islands already buffeted by four hurricanes in the 21st century.
A pre-Katrina U.S. Geological Survey showed the Chandeleurs rose up to 18 feet above sea level, but a post-storm survey showed 90 percent of the land had disappeared and elevation didn't top 6 feet.
Abby Sallenger, a USGS oceanographer, told the Sun Herald in mid-March, "We are looking for evidence that the islands will be coming back, but, after several months, we haven't seen any yet."
- KAT BERGERON