Premiere issue, Volume I
Fig Tree

"It's hard to keep a good island down - two of the fiercest hurricanes in U.S. history have failed!"
Jamie Pratt, Blue Dolphin

Fig Tree Gives Life 
to Spare Harbour Lounge
-- Blue Dolphin Homeowner Jamie Pratt

Hurricane Floyd hit Briland hard on September 12, 1999. Apparently, the first half of the storm -- 11 hours -- battered the beach, leaving most of the islanders alone and falsely confident. Ninety minutes of calm followed, and then all "hell" broke loose for another 11 hours on the harbor side. Incredible winds from the southwest battered poor Front street. That's when the ill-fated fig tree gave its life to save the Harbour Island Lounge.  A mini-tornado pulled up the Island trademark tree, broke off a giant limb, threw it into the Landing, and dumped most of the remainder a foot from the porch of the Harbour Island Lounge.

Yes, the signature fig tree is gone forever. There will be no more gatherings "under the fig tree," but -- on the other hand -- it's about time they took the Christmas lights down.

Locals held a celebration in honor of the dearly-departed giant September 18 at Gusty's. Gus was in full form. The tree was cut up and divided among the locals. A burial at sea was considered, but the Brilanders decided instead to keep limbs, branches, roots, and whatever as life-long remembrances of the many activities witnessed and protected by this landmark. Life goes on - with a little less shade - but nonetheless it still goes on. ¨

Local heroes 
bring back water supply
-- Local Architect, Glenroy Aranha

Water was cut off following Floyd because there was no electricity for the pumps on Eleuthera. Local heroes Dashel Roberts, Terry Roberts, and Mark Saunders came up with a plan. They borrowed Valentine's Yacht Club's generator and put it on Rudy Higgs' deck barge on Sep. 19 and floated it accross to Eleuthera. There they set it up in the well field to supply electricity to the water pumps. Two days later, water was back on. Big thanks for their creativity and initiative.

Other utilities were largely back up and running less than two weeks after the storm.

One ship sails east and another west
While the self-same breezes blow.
Tis the set of the sail and not the gale
That bids them where they go.
-- Anonymous

Churches & Public Buildings  Survive Floyd
A posting by local architect and civic leader Glenroy Aranha on September 26 put many minds at ease by noting that churches, the library, and the new medical clinic came through the hurricane well, considering what all went through. The Catholic church had some glass windows broken and some shingles blown off, as did the other buildings, but nothing major at all, thankfully. ¨

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Beach Destruction 
Similar to Andrew
-- Posted online Sept. 21 by Blue Dolphin Homeowner Jamie Pratt

A gigantic "back hoe" viciously attacked the east side, taking a colossal bite out of the island. Perhaps 20-30 yards of sand, flora, and fauna have been reclaimed by the sea. Fortunately, the "back hoe" stopped short of pulling any homes into the depths, but it grabbed plenty of walls and stairways, leaving a sheer cliff from island to beach -- and big chunks of concrete, fallen trees, and whatever. Dive master Jef Fox can now spit from his living room into the surf (25 feet below), something that would have taken a sling shot only a short time ago. 

 A similar bite was taken from the island seven years ago when Andrew visited, and it was encouraging to see how quickly the ocean returned what it had taken (mostly sand). Sea lettuce and beach vegetation returned quickly. 

 The "back hoe's" trail is much more prominent on the south beach, but the ominous tracks are obvious all the way to the far north -- Funny Pine's house, and her beach is mostly coral now. Most of the beach owners are of the mind to push the debris up against the cliff, and let the sand accumulate over time, the strategy most used after Andrew. Some, however, worry that their homes are just too close to the edge, and with a sense of urgency may opt to build sea walls immediately. 

By the way, the beach resorts fared reasonably well. Millennium celebrations will be held at Pink Sands, Coral Sands, Runaway Hill, and probably Ocean View. In fact, it was immediately suspected that most would make the November 1 season opening. 

Bay Street: 
Battered but Passable
-- Dunmore Cottage homeowner Richard Haskell and Blue Dolphin homeowner Jamie Pratt .

Water was knee-high -- for one standing on Bay Street -- for the entire eleven hours of Floyd, and each wave, one after another, battered against the walls and homes along the road. 

Bay Street itself was reported as looking "as if it ¯

Recovery Continues
Although the hurricane was generally kind to the island, a few individuals and businesses are still wrapping up their repairs. Hardest hit of the resorts was Valentine's Yacht Club, which completed its repairs just in time for Christmas. The Landing was able to re-open its restaurant almost immediately, but room repairs are expected to take until June.

The home of Harbour Island Marina divemaster Jef Fox, which was perched precariously over the beach, has been shored up with an array of sandbags best described as looking like a WWII bunker. And water taxi captain and world-renowned gospel singer "Uncle" Sam Higgs -- once featured in the Washington Post -- has been able to re-establish his popular harbour sightseeing and waterskiiing offerings in short order despite having had his boat washed away to Man Island.

Locals and Friends 
Cooperate in Cleanup
About 200 people got together September 21st, and by the end of the day, Bay Street was completely cleared of debris. Mid-December saw the bulldozers arrive just in time to make Bay Street almost good as new for the start of the holiday season.

Briland Mourns 
Noted Musician
Local musician Paddy Lewis died September 27 in a hospital in Nassau. Paddy was well-known for his work as a singer and guitarist, and for having founded the Briland Youth Club Association in the early 1970s.  Paddy was a long-time employee of the Batelco Corporation.  Paddy leaves behind wife Renee and several children.

Remember your divinity 
and forget the rest.
-- Sign at Ralph's Aura Corner before Floyd

Briland Modem =

Fig Tree


took direct hits from World War II bombs all along an area from the end of the straw stands to just past Crown Street. These areas include not only the loss of road surface, but worse, the loss of the entire seawall, so the road has caved in to the Harbour. It is passable (slowly), but will require a major effort to repair." 

The homes stood up remarkably well, for the most part. Lots of plants were damaged and wind burnt, but almost all homes along the bay reported no significant water damage to structures or contents. Notable exceptions included "The Grape Vine" and the "Martin House," but their damage is reparable. 

The Landing was damaged and lost a splendid old tree from its tropical garden. It seems that in the area of Bay Street south of the Government Dock, the buildings took it the worst, while north of the Dock, the road surface is most damaged.

Most of the docks also were damaged, and now are badly in need of repair - pilings are generally OK, but the planks have been strewn like match sticks in the wind. The fishermen's dock needs to be rebuilt.

Batelco Strike
Snarls Communication

Just as homecoming students, locals, and visitors were beginning to really depend on their laptops to keep in touch with the outside world, a 'go slow' by Batelco has brought communications to a near standstill.

The strike, which began mid-November, has effectively shut down the most reliable communications provider for all of the Bahamas. Service has been completely off for many phones and sporadic for others. E-mail works from time to time, but people have to find a working phone to use it.

For those off-island, the best way to get information about the island has been the Briland Modem message board at, described in the article that follows. For getting messages to and from the island, many travelers to the island use Briland Modem to volunteer to hand-carry messages. When they depart the island, they can fax replies to the Board's toll-free U.S. fax number 1 800 861 4606. These replies are posted to the board or otherwise distributed as appropriate.¨


Briland Modem Leads Communication, Relief Efforts for Local Area 
When Floyd hit, longtime islander Kimberly King-Burns knew people off-island would be desperate for news of loved ones and property. So she put to work her skills as founder of a Los Angeles-based new media communications firm and set up an electronic bulletin board for residents and visitors, now known as the Briland Modem at  She rallied the news-gathering and resource efforts of her mother, long-time resident Sharon King, and sisters Karol King-Black of Atlanta, Georgia, and Kristi King-Lahache of Paris, France; art director brother-in-law Gene Black (who designed the logo); and attorney hubby Elkanah, who created the Briland Modem Relief Fund as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.

Hundreds of people left messages those first few frantic days, and quickly grew into more than just a lifeline: it disseminated practical information for the relief effort and established a fund for contributions to rebuild damaged islanders' roofs. Over $10,000 was contributed by generous individuals from around the world. One generous couple in particular donated 5,000 diapers and baby formula to the Island Nursery.  The site has archived its past, so visitors can browse all the exchanges dating back to its birth September 16. By the end of October, had accumulated 200,000 "hits" by visitors from more than thirty countries around the world.

The success of the site inspired Kimberly to explore expanding its scope and making it a permanent part of the community, a virtual Fig Tree of sorts.  Teri Murphy enthusiastically signed up as the site's first ambassador, and put her HTML design skills to work.  And thus was born the new with two message boards, information about local businesses, FAQs for first-time visitors, and this journal we've named "The Fig Tree" in honor of our dearly departed friend.

The most important service Briland Modem provided that first month was creating a safe place for the range of human emotion after such a storm -- from people letting off steam to others offering prayers and encouragement -- all of it a celebration of the spirit of the island. This newly sprouted "Fig Tree" intends to carry on that spirit.¨

Fig Tree


Silver Lining?
Harried real estate manager Geraldine Albury was reported looking unusually relaxed during the period after Floyd. It seems her phone had finally stopped ringing for a while.

Local Resort Updates
For information on reservations, rates, and availability at your favorite club, please e-mail directly to the addresses below. If they don't offer e-mail or a general website just yet, get your message to Geraldine Albury at Island Real Estate via fax at 242 333 2354.

Bahama House B&B -, e-mail
Coral Sands Hotel -, e-mail Judy at
Dunmore Beach Club -
Ocean View Club
Pink Sands -
Landing -, e-mail at
Romora Bay Club -, email Lionel at
Royal Palms
Runaway Hill - e-mail Carol and Roger at
Sunset Inn
Tingum Village -

Valentine's Yacht Club -, e-mail Michael at

Coming Next Month:
Look for these stories in our next issue to be released the first week of January:

  • Coverage of Junkanoo, Boxing Day and News Year’s Eve Fireworks at the Fig Tree
  • Is Harbour Island Y2K compliant?
  • Ask Miss Ling -- Advice from the island's foremost authority on manners, morals, and punctuation.
And much more!

How Can You Get
The Fig Tree?
We plan to release a fresh issue of the Fig Tree in the first week of each month. Here's how to get yours. Back issues are available free of charge online from our archives at here. The current issue is posted on-island and is also available via e-mail by subscription. In other words, if you send us a check, you will receive a fresh copy of Fig Tree each month without having to wait for it to be posted to our free archives online at the end of the month. You can subscribe by using our online subscription form or by picking up a form at Island Real Estate or at Island Services in Dunmore Town. Cost -- $120 per year . Special discount for permanent residents of Harbour Island, $12 per yearProceeds will help us pay local writers, including students from the All Age School, to encourage their talents.  We'd also like to donate computers -- and Internet access -- to the island library, All-Age school, and a few community posts up and down yonder.

The Fig Tree is published by the Briland Modem, located online at
Publisher: Kimberly King-Burns
Editorial Review Board: Glenroy Aranha, Harvey Roberts, Kimberly King-Burns, Sharon King
Editor: Teri Murphy
Editorial staff: Karol King-Black, Richard Haskell
Reporters: Glenroy Aranha, Elodie Ling, Martin Grant, Harvey Roberts, Julie Ullrich
Proofreader: Andy Murphy

Fig Tree


Your Byline Here:
Writers Wanted
Hey, Hemingway used to fish the waters of the Bahamas ... which obviously inspired his phenomenal works.  Let us know about an island topic you've been yearning to write about.  Our "coconut notes" editorial team needs both articles for this monthly journal Fig Tree as well as pieces to help us fill out the remainder of the web site.

So don't worry if you've never written before or if your spelling is a bit rusty. Our editors will help you out. And one day soon, we may even be able to offer pay. Just pick one of the topics below or a similar one of your own.  E-mail to get started, or send a fax toll free to 1 800 861 4606.

*Colorful Characters - Profiles of Big Red, Harvey Roberts, Brother Gundy, et al.

*Music of Briland and the Bahamas - Ronnie & The Ramblers, Peanuts Taylor, Funk Gang, Baha Men, Sweet Emily, Percentie Brothers etc.

*The Briland Experience - Stories about "What Briland means to me."

*Historical Tid-Bits - Perhaps including a "Did You Know?" section edited by the students at the All-Age school.

*An Artist's Perspective - Regular reviews and interviews with artists, with links to their sites so people can purchase pieces.

Dive In! - Review of the hottest dive spots, interviews with local dive masters.

*Briland Recipes - Includes a recipe of the month like conch salad or peas and rice. Sales of the Briland Modem Cookbook on and offline will support activities of the Briland Modem Relief Fund, e.g. Internet access costs for the school, library, and various community centers.



*Libations - Interviews with island bartenders and recipes for their special concoctions: Goombay Smash, Gusty's Bahamian Relaxer, Bahama Mama, Brennie's B-52 Bombers, etc.

*Eco-Briland - Knowing and caring for Briland's flowers and fauna.

*Coverage of Special Events: Bahamian Independence Day, Regatta Review, Junkanoo, Goombay Festivals.

*Soon Come: Travel Tips – How to get to Harbour Island, what to bring, taxes, currency, links to travel agents, special deals, etc. Various languages as correspondents are available.

*Shopping - A list of all places to shop on Briland. Each month features a different spot.

*Food/Where To Eat - A comprehensive list of restaurants and cafes on the island, and a review of a different place each month.

*Hotels/Rentals - Where To Stay - A comprehensive list and review of a different place each month.

*The Briland Eye/Picture This! - Photo gallery section, updated monthly.

*Bahamian Calendar – Available for sale in November, December, January.

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