A fire ravaged the Eastern Shore Library of the College of William and Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science Nov. 18. The blaze destroyed the entirety of the ESL’s main research building, Seaside Hall, which housed office space, several classrooms, laboratories and a small library.
The 3,100 square-foot building, located in the city of Wachapreague on the ocean side of Virginia’s Delmarva peninsula, was abandoned at the time, and no one was hurt. The Virginia State Police are currently investigating the cause of the fire.
VIMS employees are currently taking inventory of materials lost to the fire. According in an initial assessment of monetary loss made by VIMS Risk Manager Carol Tomlinson, total damages add up to over $1 million.
The fire left nothing to recover, completely destroying 100 percent of Seaside Hall’s lab equipment and computer systems, according to ESL Director Mark Luckenbach. Fortunately, VIMS scientists had minimized data loss by backing up information on ESL computers to servers located in other buildings. The ESL lost its entire collection of biological specimens to the blaze, including samples of preserved fish and invertebrates, as well as a catalogue of pressed algae with entries dating back 50 years that VIMS officials described as “irreplaceable.”