Last Island, Louisiana: A Climate Change Casualty

Last Island, also known as Isle Dernière, was a barrier island in far southern Louisiana.

The island was home to a resort, hotel, casino, and about 100 summer homes, all of whom enjoyed the white sandy beaches and continuous breeze, making the island much cooler than mainland Louisiana.

Map of Last Island as it appeared in 1853.

In 1856, a major hurricane, known as the Last Island Hurricane, swept through the island, with a 13 foot storm surge (the elevation of the island was only 5 feet). Over 200 people were killed, and every structure on the island was destroyed. Last Days of Last Island delves further into the hurricane and its effect on the island.

The Hurricane’s storm surge and subsequent erosion caused the island to split into two. Further storms, erosion, and climate change have contributed further to the former island’s demise, which is today five uninhabitable islands; East, Trinity, Whisky, Raccoon, and Wine Islands, each of which has disappeared and reappeared in recent years due to fluctuations in tides. You can spot the islands here on Google Maps

Much more land was visible on the 1956 USGS Topo Map.

Today, what is left of the islands are a home for tropical birds. However, the story of Last Island is an important lesson that low-lying communities have had to grasp with, especially in the last decade, as the Mississippi River Delta is one of the fastest-disappearing places on the planet, largely as a result of anthropogenic climate change, which takes on many forms, both in increasing greenhouse emissions, and environmental factors such as upstream dams, the BP oil disaster, shipping practices and oil and gas infrastructure, to name a few.

A football field worth of land is lost in the Delta every 100 minutes, and islands and low-lying areas are at risk all across the world. This is not a political take, and the politicization of science is a terrible thing for society as a whole. I hope we are able to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change by 2030 or sooner. 

Thanks as always for reading!

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