story / editorial
/ local news
Stolen , Hidden , Taken and maybe still more to be found
by Matthiew Harper
Bay Islands are enjoying a real estate boom with record sales.
As foreigners eager to bag a piece of this relatively unexplored
jewel come in droves by sea, land and air, much of the island's
real hidden treasures have already been plundered by people whose
names have never been heard of. Even though tales of hidden riches
and of the colorful adventurers who discovered them are part of
island legend, the veracity of most of these tales is doubtful.
Driving along an increasingly busy Roatan main road past an international
airport, it is hard to imagine a time when this place was only
inhabited by Indians in loincloths, wild boar and from time to
time an English redcoat chasing a toothless buccaneer. On the
sill largely underdeveloped east-end though there is a tangible
sense of history. You can look out over a lagoon and picture a
galley moored out while its crew a deep hole on the land nearby
digs ready to bury a casket of coins and jewelry or imagine a
ritual Indian burial at a cave mouth where a tomb is adorned by
jade beads. These images are supported by a historical knowledge.
A load of self confidence brought a certain Frederick Arthur (
AKA Mike) Mitchell Hedges to Roatan. In the 1920's he arrived
on the island on boat the Amigo together with his daughter Sammy,
adopted daughter Anna, assistant Jane Harvey Houlson and friend
Roatan has a way of attracting characters and Mitchell Hedges
was no different. He lived on Roatan for seven years, mostly in
Santa Helena, where he moored out from Rocky Point. He is famous
for his discovery of the most famous of the Crystal Skulls that
supposedly possess supernatural qualities. Hedges found the skull
in the ancient Mayan city of Lubaantuun in the Toledo district
Mitchell Hedges was born in Buckinghamshire, England and held
a degree from University College, London. He was an adventurer
in the traditional imperial mold, having fought with Pancho Villa
in Mexico, crisscrossed remote parts of Panama and held world
records for the capture of large fish (as documented in his book
'Battles with giant fish'). According to local island lore, the
famed crystal skull was procured not in Belize, but in Santa Helena
where Mitchell Hedges exchanged it with a local fisherman for
two sacks of flour.
Wherever it was discovered, the origins of the skull are still
unknown. Its symmetry and the method used to make it have baffled
crystallographers. "The damned thing shouldn't be!"
said a scientist from Hewlett-Packard when the crystal was submitted
to the lab for tests in the 70's. "How it came to be in my
possession I have reason for not revealing," wrote Mitchell-Hedges
in his memoirs.
Santa Helena was M-H's favorite part of the island and he was
fascinated by its caves. The islands were at one time inhabited
by Paya Indians, who developed a less advanced civilization than
the Maya. M-H discovered many common Payan artifacts. He also,
mysteriously, discovered many that were evidence of a civilization
far more advanced and ancient than the Maya, or Toltec that were
the only known Indian groups of the area.
An example of one such artifact is a jade statuette of a branded
sheep. Archaeological scholars have always denied the use of domestic
animals by the Maya, yet scholars of the Royal Geographical Society
said that M-H's artifacts were in Helene because it had once been
used as a trading post by the Mayas .This made no sense to M-H,
who argued that the closest civilized peoples to the south of
the Mayan world were the Inca who would have never traveled this
far to trade.
Mitchell - Hedges believed that the artifacts found in the Helene
caves were left behind from survivors of what he called "the
big earthquake" when cataclysmic flooding and sinking caused
the disappearance of the continent of Atlantis mentioned by Plato.
A fervent believer in Atlantis, he presented other evidence such
as the presence of freshwater sharks in Lake Nicaragua, (the only
of their kind in the world), that he said were trapped from the
ocean after the event. Mitchell Hedges maintained that the crystal
skull was also was left behind by the highly advanced Atlantis
Mitchell Hedges seven-year stay on Roatan ended abruptly, but
not unhappily, for him or his crew. One morning while the Amigo
was moored off Bailey Cay in Old Port Royal, Dr. Ball was on the
cay surveying. His compass needle began spinning wildly indicating
the presence of a large amount of metal. He signaled to Mike who
came ashore with an excavation detail. They began digging and
found two wooden chests loaded with gold doubloons. They kept
digging and found another two that contained jewelry of precious
chains and emeralds. Several hours and much shoveling later, a
report came to M-H's attention that the excavation had been reported
to police in Coxen Hole and that they would be sending a delegation
at first light. That night, loaded with his spoils, Frederick
Arthur "Mike" Mitchell Hedges weighed anchor on the
Amigo and set sail to Belize City.
man with a tremendous sense of history and a fertile imagination was
Howard Jennings who, together with his friend the famed writer, Robin
Moore (author of "French Connection" and "Green Berets"),
came to Port Royal in the early 1960's searching for treasure. Jennings
believed that he was being guided by the ghost of the long dead Captain
Jennings, a pirate who trafficked in these parts in the 1770's and
whom Howard claimed as his ancestor.
More accurately though, he came to Roatan at the urging of Moore,
who had come across some old naval survey maps at the British Museum.
The maps had been drawn by Lt. Jeremy Thandyke in 1843 and detailed
the whole island. Most interesting to Moore and Jennings was the presence
on the maps of the ruins of an old colonial, possible pirate settlement
called Augusta. Howard was convinced that the pirate and later governor
of Jamaica, Henry Morgan, had hoarded some of his plunder from his
raids on Panama. He felt that among these treasures was the famed
chain of Huascar which was a 10 ton gold chain that once surrounded
the square in Cuzco, the ancient Incan capital. The chain had been
taken by Pizarro, was hidden, and was believed to have been in the
possession of Morgan after his Panama jaunt.
Upon their arrival at Port Royal, with a local guide the treasure
hunters immediately set about looking for Augusta for which their
only clues were that it was located on a flat area next to a creek
mouth. Eventually they located such a place. They worked the area
extensively with detectors, but only found rusty cannonballs and oak
After several fruitless days of working the site known as Fort Frederick,
and with their patience wearing thin, the promise of a rum and coke
on the porch at Merlees Island Inn in Oakridge where they were lodged
seemed more attractive. On their way back, Howard asked to stop at
the unusual ironshore island formation commonly called the Cow and
the Calf in front of Lime Cay where he noticed for the first time
the presence of what appeared as a man-made staircase.
Inspired perhaps by the ghost of Captain Jennings, Howard thought
it an ideal place for a pirate to bury treasure. With the rain beginning
to pour, he worked up the steps to the top with the detector finding
nothing. On his way back down, at the base he picked-up a strong signal
and began digging away the topsoil until he came to a rocky crack.
Pushing his hand through the crack he felt a metal chest. Both he
and Robin then began to work away at the crack and broke away the
rock that covered the hole where the chest lay. The metal chest was
loaded with doubloons and eight-reale coins.
Not wanting to attract attention on their return to the inn, they
transferred the coins to their rucksacks and were about to throw away
the chest when Howard noticed it was still heavy and upon closer examination
discovered a secret compartment in the bottom. The hidden compartment
contained several silver bars. Back at the inn at Oakridge, Merlee
informed Howard that the police had been asking for him and he, like
Mitchell-Hedges 40 years before, had to make a hasty getaway.
Howard came back a few years later with his wife, Anne, built a house
in the Tudor style and settled at the site of Fort Frederick which
later became known as Jennings Point. Howard, an avid pilot, built
the airstrip on Fort Key. Howard died later in a plane crash. As local
legend has it, he had discovered a less-documented stash of treasure
that had a curse on it such that whosoever removed the treasure from
the island would perish with it.
Since Jennings, and before him Mitchell-Hedges, no one has pursued
the Roatan hunt for treasure, Indian or pirate, with any success.
Some did try and fail however.
A boat called the Rambler, the wreck of which can be found submerged
off Cay Comfort in Port Royal, came to the island in the 70's, perhaps
inspired by Robin Moore's book, "The Treasure Hunter", with
a group of American and European recreational and salvage divers searching
for adventure. Their most significant find was a mound of ballast
rocks also of pre-Columbian yet unknown origin that belonged to some
form of vessel. This too was found in Port Royal. Local Helenians,
as they prefer to be called, discovered in the late 80's a large cave
complex that extended 100 ft under the sea level where it leads on
to a series of freshwater vents. In this cave were found some beautiful
artifacts, called yaba ding dings, among which were some large clay
pots containing ornate jade pieces.
There are numerous caves on Helene and more are still being discovered.
In the last couple of years the wreck of a sunken Spanish galleon
was discovered by local lobster divers close to the island of Barbaretta.
The discoverers are currently awaiting government permission to excavate.
Although at present there are no treasure hunters actively searching,
with so much earthmoving and construction in island development it
is only a matter of time before other riches or artifacts are found
in some remote Bay Island location. Let us hope that when that day
comes, the people involved will see it in their hearts to let the
riches stay here, either physically in a museum, or if sold, that
some of the proceeds will benefit the social advancement of the island.
150 miles offshore Hedges and his crew dumped the old chests overboard,
re-loaded the precious cargo into newly made crates, labeled them
'Mayan Artifacts' and booked passage on a steamer to New York where
he sold everything for $6,000,000. With his part of the fortune,
he retired to Dorset, England where he bought a stately home and
worked on his memoirs, " Danger My Ally."
as the origins of the Indian artifacts in the caves was equivocal,
so too was the cargo that steamed its way to New York in 1928. According
to the dates on the coins and the type of some of the jewelry, cross-referenced
with ships' manifests, it would seem to have been treasure buried
by the particularly bloodthirsty pirate, Edward 'Ned' Lowe. Lowe
had boarded a clumsy Spanish galleon on its way to Spain from Trujillo
on the Spanish Mainland in the late 17 century. As for Helene, its
caves, and having been part of the lost continent of Atlantis, that
would make for a separate article in itself.
story / editorial
/ local news
______________back to top
TRUTH or CONSEQUENCES by Thomas Tomczyk
like to apologize to Mrs. Connie Silvestri and Hyde Shipping for
a number of grammatical mistakes that found their way into an article
about the company's newest ship in the Voice's [print] issue three.
The final and corrected version of the article was not plugged into
our final layout. In the last check, none of us realized that we
were still using an old version of the article.
I take full responsibility for the mistake. I'm proud to see the
Voice be accountable to a high standard of quality and professionalism.
With that, we sometime have to take the blame for our failures.
We are accountable for what we print and carry our responsibility
with chins held high.
Too many Bay Islands businesses rely only on a virtual monopoly
of what they do and provide service that is poor and irresponsible.
In a place where cell tel towers don't carry adequate signal, electric
surges destroy thousands of dollars of computer equipment and customers
are not reimbursed and roads are build to last till the next rain,
accountability, or even the concept of it, exists only among few.
I hear and read disclosures everywhere: "not responsible for
injuries," "not responsible for items lost," "mistakes
in print," etc. Can a "don't-hold-me-accountable"
attitude produce things that strive toward a higher standard? With
laws that make little sense, governments from abroad exerting their
power in front of our eyes, it is hard, but not impossible to live
with dignity and responsibility.
Part of the problem is that many people escaped to Roatan not to
start something new, but to flee the consequences of their actions
somewhere else. Escaping to another country is not too difficult,
dealing with the consequences of life left behind is. Can we escape,
or detach ourselves from the actions of our pasts? Should we even
Roatan used to be a destination for lots of weird, eccentric and
dark characters. That is changing. The island is coming out of the
gray zone and attracting more main stream investors. And that is
a positive change.
Can you retire from your past? Can you start anew after leaving
legal conundrums and hurting people wherever you came from? We don't
live in a vacuum and your actions have consequences in the future.
We all live with the consequences of our past.
story / editorial
/ local news
businessman deported from Honduras to US
Frederick Morris, a Roatan businessman, was arrested in Roatan on
emigration violations, handed over to the FBI and flown to Florida
where he faces indictment on 24 counts of fraud, conspiracy and
large-scale money laundering.
On February 18, Morris's car was stopped at a police check point
in French Harbour. Morris was escorted to the Roatan jail where
he contacted his lawyer and family. Morris was not handcuffed and
was not placed in a cell with other detainees. Two US government
officials were present during the capture.
Morris's lawyer, Saul Montes Amaya, protested the arrest and accused
the government of violating his client's rights. According to AP,
Amaya stated that a habeas corpus document was presented to a Florida
judge in a timely fashion.
On February 19, at 2am, Morris complained of shortness of breath
and pain and was transferred to the Roatan Hospital ER, where he
was examined. "He was stable, but without tests we cannot say
if he had or didn't have a heart attack," said director of
the hospital, Jose Roberto Gonzales, who was present during the
incident. According to Dir. Gonzales, at 7am electro-analysis and
blood tests were requested, but could not be performed as police
refused to allow the time to perform them. A scuffle ensued, but
according Dir. Gonzales no punches were thrown at hospital staff.
At 7:20am Morris was flown to La Ceiba and continued his journey
to Tegucigalpa by land.
The police acted on a ministry of justice issued order of expulsion
from Honduras on immigration violations. The order was based on
Morris falsely filling out his Honduran naturalization papers by
omitting to provide information about his indictment in the US.
At the same time, US law doesn't consider Morris a Honduran citizen,
as he naturalized himself without answering indictment charges pending
Morris has been operating a real estate business since 1990. He
took on Honduran citizenship in 1992, though the government later
cancelled it. US officials have been seeking his extradition since
1997. Since then Morris evaded several attempts by the FBI to apprehend
him on the island.
"Many Americans complained that Morris had sold them properties
that he alleged were his, but his compatriots could not move onto
those lands because they turned out to have been defrauded by him,"
Security Minister Oscar Alvarez said according to AP.
DOLLAR FOR TOP QUALITY
Bay Development to Match Scale and Quality of Caribbeans Best
all of Roatan's realtors gathered at AKR on February 20 to hear
David Sellon, Jon Campbell and Scott Campbell, owners of Lawson
Rock, announce a construction of 22 high-end condos in Sandy Bay.
The 13 acre development is planed on the east side of the Lawson
Rock development and will eventually include 150 units.
Prizewinning resort planner and architect Lane Pettigrew from LPA
in St. Lucia presented the luxury project. To the site's 1,000 feet
of waterfront, sand will be brought in to create an abundant 200'
wide beach. This design feature will help in creating additional
waterfront units and provide numerous opportunities for practicing
The low lying area on the east side of the site will be dredged
to create an assisted tidal flashing, two acre salt water lagoon.
Environmental engineer Philip Warner, based in Jamaica, and civil
engineer Ralph Adams, based in Barbados, designed the 5-7 foot deep
lagoon that will support a limited number of fish species and will
increase water frontage of the development.
The two and three story condos will be constructed with 8 inch reinforced
concrete walls and will feature rooftop terraces with swimming pools.
The first phase, constructing the 22 condos, will break ground on
May 1, but no completion date was set. By the end of the year over
200 people are expected be employed on the construction project.
The price for the condos will range from $287,000 for a 1,700 sq ft
one bedroom condo to $831,000 for a 4,500 sq ft three bedroom unit.
A 5% preconstruction discount is offered and the Roatan Mortgage S.A.
company was set up to provide loans to buyers interested in purchasing
lots or condos at Lawson Rock. The company will offer 9% yearly interest
loans with 50% down and 9.5% interest with 40% down. "We're going
to build the best set of condos this island has ever seen," said
Yeafr of the [Whale] Shark
Jennifer R. Keck
Feb. 8 and Feb. 13, at least a dozen whale sharks and one baby whale
shark were spotted outside the reef from West Bay to Palmetto Bay
Beach. Even though whale sharks are solitary creatures, the abundance
of food causes them to appear in groups, usually in areas where
coral spawning events occur and nutrients pulse in the water. The
water temperature around Roatan had remained constant at 79 F, but
some evidence exists that the giant fish follow deep nutrient rich
up-swelling events. This is most likely what happened near Roatan.
Whale sharks are sharks of whale-like proportions. They are the
largest fish in the ocean, reaching close to 50 feet in length.
Despite their intimidating size they are non-aggressive. Whale sharks
filter-feed using their massive mouths, which can span over two
meters, to collect microscopic plants, plankton, krill and small
The plankton also provides food for small fish, and in February
the surface waters around Roatan have been full of them. These fish
attract larger open ocean predators - the schools of tuna, jack
and other pelagic fish. When these predators round up the fish into
tight "bait-balls" near the surface, a feeding frenzy
of epic proportions begins, often times ending with the appearance
of whale sharks. All of this surface activity also attracts sea
birds which dive into the water to feast. Often the birds can be
seen miles off shore and the sight attracts fishermen and dive boats
to a rich fishing ground or a possible whale shark.
sharks are found in almost all subtropical and tropical waters around
the world. Most of the whale shark sightings around Roatan occur during
February, March and April. Dive shop owners and fisherman agree that
the number of whale sharks observed this year tops the charts in recent
The Shark Research Institute (SRI), a non-profit scientific organization
dedicated to the study of whale sharks, has initiated a satellite-based
tagging program on Utila which allows scientists to track the movements
of these creatures. Their efforts will help us to better understand
their migrational patterns and determine whether the Bay Islands are
used as a feeding ground, a breeding ground or both. Despite their
large size and global distribution, these creatures are extremely
elusive and rarely encountered; there is still much about their behavior
and biology that remains a mystery.
The National Congress of Honduras has also taken measures to protect
whale sharks by approving legislation that gives these species an
endangered status and prohibits fishing them in Honduran waters.
story / editorial
/ local news
of the MIND by
French Harbour gets a place where youth and children can grow their
new center for hands-on learning for children has opened at Jackson
Plaza in French Harbour. The Discoveries Center is a place where
children can supplement skills learned in school and still have
At the center, children can read, do their homework, participate
in the science experiment of the week, join a reading club or a
chess club, or even build a robot. Discoveries is not a place for
purposeless play. After all, building robots is serious business.
The center is filled with groups of kids working together on projects
aided by adults offering assistance and guidance. The center provides
a quiet, thoughtful rest from the world outside, bar the occasional
outbreak of cheers and hurrahs when a twelve year old gets his first
electric gizmo to go.
It has been the dream of Patti Beaumont O'Brien, the organizer of
Discoveries, to open such a center for several years. Finally she
has realized her dream. The center reflects O'Brien's philosophy
as an educator: it is bilingual, multi-cultural, geared toward multiple
age groups and provides hands-on learning. O'Brien hopes the center
will instill in children a life-long love of learning.
"We are here to support the instruction offered by local schools
by providing a place with tools and opportunities for hands-on enrichment,"
O'Brien says. "If a child is studying simple machines, we will
set up an experiment, either using the examples in their textbooks
or from one of our activity books, to demonstrate how levers, inclined
planes, pulleys and wheels work."
Tutors are available to work with the kids on math, reading, logic,
science and art projects. For younger children, there are story
times, puzzles, games and craft activities. Children under seven
must be accompanied by an adult or a sibling aged ten years or older.
That doesn't mean the grown-ups are there to just sit in a corner
and watch. There are plenty of educational games, building sets
and art projects geared to adult level.
The cost per child to use the center is $3.50 for a single visit,
or $30 per month for two visits per week. Another way is to pay
$40 for three visits per week, or $60 for five visits per week.
A reduced enrollment fee is available for those families interested
in volunteering, providing transportation for other children or
Additional scheduled activities are available for supplemental fees,
such as Spanish conversation sessions, kinder music and Tai-Kwon-Do
The center, which opened in January 2004, is primarily sponsored
by the Bay Islands Beach Resort in Sandy Bay which provided the
start up materials, transportation and pays staff salaries. Long-term
plans are to build a dedicated community center building in Sandy
Bay on land donated by the Bay Islands Beach Resort.
The center is open Tuesday through Friday, noon till 6pm, and on
Saturdays from 10am till 6pm. For more information, you can stop
by or contact the center by e-mail at email@example.com