Trump Told The Mayor Of A Disappearing Island Not To Worry About Sea-Level Rise — These Photos Show How Grave The Situation Has Become

Tangier Island is in the center of Chesapeake Bay.Google Maps/Christian Storm/Business Insider

Twelve miles from either coast of the Chesapeake Bay sits a small island in danger of disappearing.

Tangier Island, Virginia, is one of the most isolated and extraordinary places in the continental US. But the island sits just 4 feet or so above sea level, and a 2015 report suggests that little of it will be left in 50 years.

President Donald Trump, however, disagrees. The Daily Times of Salisbury, Maryland, reports that after Trump saw a CNN report about Tangier Island, the president called Mayor James "Ooker" Eskridge to tell him he shouldn’t worry about a rise in sea levels.

"He said, 'Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more,'" Eskridge told The Daily Times.

But Business Insider photographer Christian Storm visited Tangier Island in 2014, and his photos show how serious the problem has become there.

Christian Storm wrote a previous version of this story.

Tangier Island has been losing ground to erosion for hundreds of years, but the combination of rising sea levels and more severe weather — both augmented by climate change — have increased the rate of land loss.

hristian Storm/Business Insider

Records indicate that in the mid-1800s, Tangier Island encompassed about 2,060 acres. It was home to watermelon farms, grazing cows, and a variety of plant life. But since 1850, over 66% of Tangier's landmass has disappeared underwater.

Research suggests Tangier is losing 9 acres of land a year to erosion and rising tides.

Christian Storm/Business Insider

"We have a pretty high degree of certainty that things are going to get wetter and wetter," Carlton Hershner Jr., a climate-change scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, told The Associated Press in 2013. "Not to be a bearer of bad news for Tangier, but that would suggest that sometime in the next 50 to 100 years the island would basically be underwater."

Just 1.2 square miles, Tangier Island is home to more than 500 full-time residents, down from over 1,000. The total continues to drop every year.

Christian Storm/Business Insider

The island is reachable only by boat — it's a 1-1/2-hour ferry ride from the coast. That keeps the place mostly closed off from the rest of the world. Some islanders go years without seeing the mainland, getting supplies from the mail boat that arrives in the harbor every day.

Most of the men on the island work as commercial crabbers and oyster fishermen, or "watermen," and send their catch to the mainland by boat.

Christian Storm/Business Insider

But being a waterman is becoming increasingly difficult. In an effort to prevent overfishing, Virginia placed a moratorium on new crabbing licenses, and other restrictions have also reduced the length of fishing seasons.

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