BAY ISLANDS VOICE

bi-weekly news magazine for Roatan, Utila & Guanaja

REPORTING LIFE OF THE ISLAND COMMUNITY Feb.26-March 10, 2004 Vol.2 No. 4
CALENDAR STYLE ISLAND LIVING CLASSIFIEDS AD RATES WHO WE ARE
feature story / editorial / local news / business

The TREASURE
HUNTERS of the
Bay Islands

Treasure Stolen , Hidden , Taken and maybe still more to be found


written by Matthiew Harper

The 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 Doctor Ball.
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 of Belize.
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 civilization.
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.

Another 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 barrel straps.
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.

Anchored 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."
Just 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.

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TRUTH or CONSEQUENCES by Thomas Tomczyk

I would 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 try?
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.

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Roatan businessman deported from Honduras to US

Arnold 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 in Florida.
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.

TOP DOLLAR FOR TOP QUALITY

Sandy Bay Development to Match Scale and Quality of Caribbean’s Best

Almost 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 sporting activities.
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 Jon Cambell.

The Yeafr of the [Whale] Shark

by Jennifer R. Keck

Between 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 fish.
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.

Whale 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 history.
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.
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DISCOVERIES of the MIND by Michelle Sanders

 

French Harbour gets a place where youth and children can grow their intellectual potential

 

A 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 fun.
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 donating supplies.
Additional scheduled activities are available for supplemental fees, such as Spanish conversation sessions, kinder music and Tai-Kwon-Do classes.
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 islanddiscoveries@yahoo.com

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March 27 2003
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2004