Blue Iguana Recovery Program

Hurricane Updates from Grand Cayman

Sep 11th, 2004 | By | Category: Blues in the Local Press
10/08/04 – Tuesday, 8:30pm, Daily tasks are hindered by hurricane debris Prior Updates:

Indy Zoo donates a generator!

We would like to thank Indianapolis Zoo for their kind donation of a powerful generator for the Blue Iguana facility. Rick Hudson delivered the good news and stated that the unit would ship the week of October 11, 2004. Click here to read updates directly from Grand Cayman.

We are grateful for the donation for relief support beginning to come in. We urge each of you to share information with your friends and colleagues on how to provide assistance to the Blue Iguanas in this time of desperate need and for donations to help with logistical and critical facilities support.   Visit our donation page.

10/05/04 – Tuesday, 8:30pm, Daily tasks are hindered by hurricane debris

It took 3 1/2 days, but the stash of critical supplies sent by the IRCF finally reached Fred, John, Matt and Chris. Over the weekend, protected by heavy armor, they faced the daunting task of clearing downed trees and debris from the park entrance, the pathways to the Captive Breeding Facility, and Fred’s house. From the sound of the exhausted voices on the other end of the phone, I’m not sure who had the bigger workout- the saws (of which they now had 3) or the men! While they were busy cutting and clearing, a rumor was circulating that Fred would actually get running water later that day! Knowing that the men could come back to a “real” shower, they pressed on, working even harder than before. At the end of the day, feeling quite happy with all they had accomplished, they jumped in the truck and headed back to Fred’s, each eager to take a shower at last. Matt must have drawn the longest straw because he got to take the first shower. All was well until they heard Matt scream and walk out of the shower completely dry. Fred had gotten water all right, but no pressure; only a trickle flowed from each faucet. They were stuck with another night of “bucket showers”. By Tuesday, the pressure had increased a bit and they were finally able to take a “real shower”.

Iguana News: The team finished preparing the enclosures for the five older iguanas that had been patiently awaiting their new quarters since even before the hurricane. These five animals were transferred into the larger pens and seem to be enjoying their new homes immensely.

The team has now made two trips into the Salina Reserve to place iguana retreats for the rescheduled but still much-anticipated release. Fred will announce the date when he is ready. The reserve looks good; there is no standing water and ample foliage remains.

The team continues to collect and prepare food items to serve the iguanas their daily meals. All iguanas appear healthy and are eating well.

Matt has now returned home and John will be coming home on Thursday. Fred now has quite a bit of work to do on his own. At the moment, the most important task for those of us who support the Program is to work on fundraising so that Fred can hire some additional help and eventually pay the salary of a full-time warden.

9/30/04 – Thursday, 9:10pm, Pictures sent by John

The task of getting the iguanas fed each day continues despite the difficulty involved; electrical power and water are unavailable (and likely to remain so for some time) and traveled remains hampered by all the downed vegetation. John has sent 60 images from Grand Cayman that illustrate the devastation and give some idea of the current primitive conditions. Getting the island up and running again will likely take much longer than anticipated.  John has sent back 59 images on the following pages (Gallery-Grand Cayman, 1~6). They show the island in its’ current state.

9/29/04 – Wednesday 5:50pm, Getting the Saws to Grand Cayman

We would like to thank Stihl, Inc. for their donation of a 20″ chainsaw to the relief effort. Sarah Doty who has worked with IRCF/ for years, was instrumental in working with Dan Skinner and Randy West of Stihl to help make this donation happen. Also, Wendy Townsend has been extremely generous and is giving us her 20″ Stihl chain saw as well. When I told Fred and John that they were now getting two- they were just delighted!

9/28/04 – Tuesday 10:50pm, Working in the Heat

Fred, John, Mat, Chris and Sam Addinall continue with their daily gathering of food and feeding routine. The sun is out and it’s pretty hot- 95-100F daily. In fact, John says that the main thing he is beginning to miss is ice. “Nothing on this island is cold” he said. By mid day his water that he packs with him is about 100F and is almost un-drinkable and certainly not satisfying. They have finished building enclosures for all of the new hatchlings that had been kept safe at Fred’s house during the huricanne. They are now finishing doors on the new cement pens so that they can move the larger iguanas into these larger areas.

I told Fred about our success with finding chain saws, and when I told him that we were able to send him two instead of just one- he was delighted and again asked that I thank everyone for their effort. I explained to him that they were donations by Wendy Townsend and by Stihl, Inc. directly – and that they were both 20″ Stihl saws- These items along with some other sundry supplies (goggles, protective wear, buckets and spare chains) would all go out on Wednesday and arrive Thursday on the first flight into the island. If you haven’t see Joel’s latest set of cartoons – check them out on the front page.

9/25/04 – Saturday 11:00pm, Made contact with John

After a couple attempts to land on Grand Cayman, John finally made it; he is settled and in full swing helping Fred, Matt and Sam Addinall (she works with the cruise lines- but is on the island and is volunteering to help out). Communicating with him is trying at best as it took several calls (9 to be exact) to actually finish an entire conversation! – But he kept calling back; he wanted everyone to know what he is seeing and how things are going.

His first statement was that the destruction left by Ivan was even worse than he had imagined- and this was after a week of heavy clean up even before he arrived. Most of the island is very barren- it almost looks as though it had been attacked by swarms of locusts. The few trees that are still standing are just bare branches reaching up towards the sky. The rest have been toppled and are blocking most roads and driveways.

There is so much to do, it will be many months before the island is once again prepared to receive tourists (tourism is a primary industry!) John�s estimate is several months longer than the official estimate. There is no local news on the island, yet there is plenty of rumormongering going on, some positive, some negative. It is hard to believe anything at this point.

Although Fred’s house is still standing, it has sustained a fair amount of damage. He no longer has any yard, will probably need a new roof, new ceiling, new floor, a few walls, and other repairs still undetermined at this time. As for the Botanic Park and the Captive Breeding facility, they too had their share of damage. Thankfully Ivan spared all the work done by Team Blue when it was there in early August although plenty of other damage was sustained. For those of you who toured the park – there are no longer any trails. Now it is like climbing through a thick forest and the lattice gazebo by the lake is in pieces scattered around on the ground.

John and Fred are compiling a list of items that will be needed – but in the meantime, they are in desperate need of two items:

Top Priority, – a chain saw- preferably a Stihl 18″ or longer (w/extra chains, blades and spare parts) Second Priority – a generator of at least 3500 – 5500 watts.


Their work is so hindered by not being able to maneuver easily- they can only drive to the park gate and then have to climb their way into the park. Things are even worse when they go out collecting food for the animals. If they could clear the fallen trees, they would be able to drive in and around, and not have to spend all day performing this primary task.

John did say that the animals (captive and wild) seem to be settling down and back into place. The hen and rooster that used to come by Fred’s place each day are back. Also, the tiny anole that lived in a plant near Fred’s door returned yesterday, although his plant is no longer there. Fred will have to get a new plant so the little guy has his home back. John has seen a few of the iguanas roaming in the park, Slugger, Biter, Purple and Light Blue. They plan on trying to get into the rest of the park during the next few days and the above mentioned saw would come in handy as they try to make their way in.

Life has also been interesting he says. The water they drink is from Fred�s rain catcher- thankfully they have had some rain the last couple of days, because the supply was getting pretty low. The curfew is still on from 6pm- to 6am. John says his shower is one rationed bucket of water a day � good thing he brought lots of baby wipes with him. They cook their food over an open wood fire � and use his little camping stove to make coffee in the morning. He says this can definitely be categorized as roughing it even though they are staying in a house.

If you have any questions, you want to ask John, feel free to email him ( or me ( I will ask him your questions and forward responses. Again, we would be extremely grateful if any of you have luck in locating someone willing to donate the saw and generator. I can arrange shipping to Grand Cayman.

The photos below were taken with John’s cell phone as he made his way from San Francisco to Miami to San Francisco to Miami and then finally to Grand Cayman (no – the two SFO to MIA’s were not a typo).

John’s luggage filled with supplies for Fred The long check-in line for Cayman Airways
The plane going to Grand Cayman

9/21/04 – Tuesday 10:00pm, John leaves for Grand Cayman…again…

The good news is that John is on his way to Grand Cayman to take Fred a huge cache of much needed supplies. After over a week of waiting, it was still no small feat getting him on that plane out of Miami!

With confirmation from American Airlines that the restrictions allowing only residents into Grand Cayman would be lifted by Monday, Sept. 20, 2004, we packed John’s five fully loaded suitcases and footlockers, plus two carry-on bags into the car and drove to San Francisco airport on Monday night to catch a flight to Miami. Although traffic en route to the airport was light, we still had a premonition that the journey would not go entirely smoothly …

Upon checking in at the ticket counter, we were initially told that John could not get to Grand Cayman. Further checking revealed that the travel restriction was to be lifted that evening. “OK, you can fly but you can’t take ANY extra baggage.” Following much discussion, the airline decided to let John take all his baggage along to Miami and deal with the excess baggage issue from there.

We began to feel some optimism � but it didn�t last long. We made our way over to the security point where the staff was more than happy to inspect our luggage, although we had to assure them that the generator John was taking was brand new and that the box had not yet been opened. (Apparently generators are not allowed on planes for fear of fuel residue etc.). While our new equipment was approved, John slipped outside for a cigarette break. Reentering the airport and heading back towards the check-in point, the nice TSA agent called us over and we felt our stomachs drop. Matchbooks are not allowed on airplanes either. We didn�t remember packing any matchbooks and we informed him as much � that is when he held up one of the MREs (Meals Ready to Eat � that�s army jargon), of which we had packed seven cases, and pointed to the label of contents which included �a single book of matches.� �Oh,� was quickly followed by �oh no!� Would they take away all the MREs? Instead, the TSA agent said that he and his staff would remove the matchbooks from all of the MREs, reseal them and repack the luggage. We were truly impressed with their flexibility and their kindness and John finally boarded the plane to Miami.

At 3:30 AM (PST) I received a call from John informing me that the Government of Grand Cayman had extended the restriction timeline and that he was not going to be allowed to board the flight leaving in six hours for Grand Cayman. After making too many phone calls to count to a host of agencies, including the Red Cross, Cayman Airways, American Airlines, Grand Cayman and the Grand Cayman Consulate, it looked like there just wasn’t any way that John would be allowed onto that plane and that he should head back home on the next flight to San Francisco, which was seven hours later. Fortunately, he managed to connect with Joe Wasilewski who was kind enough to take most of the heavy bags filled with supplies to his Miami home and hold onto them until John could obtain access into Grand Cayman.

As John was flying back to San Francisco, Fred was working in Grand Cayman and was able to secure a “temporary work permit” which would allow John access to the island. So, upon his arrival at SFO, I met my weary husband and informed him that he had a reservation for a return flight to Miami, which was set to leave in four hours! We grabbed his remaining baggage and headed back to the check-in counter ….

9/19/04 – Sunday 4:11pm, Photographs by Nick Lewis.

After the scrubbed release and raido tracking effort, Nick Lewis safely back home, submitted the photographs below of the destruction caused by hurricane Ivan. Photographs taken before Ivan are by John Binns,

Photograph 1 (before) Photograph 2 (after)

Photograph 1:  Aerial photograph taken in
August showing the iguana facility in the upper
left and the Botanic Park Visitor Center in the
lower right. Red arrow identifies where
Photograph 2 was taken after Ivan.

Photograph 2:  The parks Visitor’s Center after
Ivan showing fallen trees and stripped
vegetation with the entryway fountain on the

Photograph 3.   The entryway fountain before

Photograph 3 (before)
Bodden Town Apt. (where Team Blue stayed). Wreckage at the Bodden Town Apartments.
Sara, on her basking rock before Ivan. Sara, retreated to the tree for safety after Ivan.
Parks Cayman Historic House before Ivan. Parks Cayman Historic House after Ivan.
Parks main driveway after Ivan. South Shore Road – Typical destruction.
South Shore Road is now covered with sand. South Road, background vegetation now gone.
“The Dog House” – Before Ivan, destroyed. Hurricane winds bent these steel “I” beams.
No TweetBacks yet. (Be the first to Tweet this post)