If you've never seen clay-on-glass animation before, prepare to be amazed by the bittersweet beauty that is "The Ballad of Holland Island House." The award-winning short film, created by animator Lynn Tomlinson, tells the true story (with a twist) of the last standing home on Holland Island in the Chesapeake Bay.

"I stand alone in the Chesapeake Bay, against the grey horizon," the haunting tune by singers Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle begins. "But a house that's not shelter is not a home, and the seas they are a rising. And the seas they are a rising." 

Holland Island house in October 2009

The Holland Island house as seen in October 2009. (Photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons)

I first heard about Holland Island in 2010, when the subject of Tomlinson's short finally succumbed to the rising waters and vanished into the sea. The once stately Victorian, built in 1888, was one of 70 homes built to support a thriving fishing community. Made primarily of clay and sand, Holland Island was severely impacted by erosion during the 20th century — with its 160 acres in 1915 reduced to less than 80 acres in 2005. Most of the inhabitants moved away, with many taking their homes piece by piece with them. But the Victorian was left behind. 

Of all the animation styles one could use for a story spanning the ages like this one, there's something wonderfully fitting about the muddled lines and drifting colors of clay-on-glass; like our own imperfect memories, tumbled smooth with age and gradually robbed of focus. The last house of Holland Island may no longer stand, but Tomlinson's work has made sure it's never forgotten. 

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

The haunting clay painting animation of the 'Ballad of Holland Island House'
Short film tells the true story of the last house on a long-abandoned and sinking island in the Chesapeake Bay.