Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Ball's Pyramid

August 1, 2016

It’s an understatement to say the world is a fascinating place. I’ve traveled to many exotic locations and the diversity of lands and peoples is truly amazing. Recently, I was surfing the Web and my attention was drawn to an island I’d never heard of, not that I profess to be an expert on islands, but they’ve always held a fascination for me ever since reading Robinson Crusoe as a kid.

 

The article capturing my attention asked: “What’s been hiding on this island that hasn’t been seen since the 1920s?”

 

I’d never heard of Ball’s Pyramid and had no idea what was hidden on it. Yet I was intrigued by a photograph of the island rising from the sea, the erosional remnant of a volcano that formed approximately 6.4 million years ago. Located twelve miles southeast of Lord Howe Island in the Pacific Ocean and claimed by Australia, it measures only 3,600 feet in length and 980 feet across, but it’s 1,844 ft high, making it the tallest volcanic stack in the world. Gazing at a picture of this mysterious island, I felt like I was looking at a scene from a Lord of the Rings type fantasy.

 

The pyramid was discovered in 1788 by Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball, who is also credited with discovering Lord Howe Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 A geologist didn’t venture onto Ball’s pyramid until 1882, when something remarkable was discovered on the island and named—Dryococelus Australis, a large stick insect.

 

 

 

 

These walking sticks were spotted on both islands, but rats, unintentionally introduced to the islands, wiped out these insect populations. Last seen on the islands in 1920, dead specimens were discovered and photographed during a climb of the peak in the early 1960s. No live

specimens were spotted at that time.

 

In 1964 an attempt to climb to the summit of the pyramid ended in failure when climbers ran short of food and water. The first successful climb to the summit was made in 1965. In 1979 the summit was finally reached and the island formally declared an Australia territory.

 

In 2001, a team of entomologists and conservationists landed on Ball’s Pyramid and discovered a population of walking sticks living 300 ft above sea level on the peak. The population was small, only twenty-four individuals, and two pairs were brought to Australia with the ultimate goal of reintroducing them to Lord Howe Island, where I presume locals didn’t mind living among these big insects.

 

Although I’m not fond of big insects, I believe everything here on earth evolved for a reason. I find it reassuring that these harmless insects have managed to survive and can be removed from the list of man-related extinctions.

 

While I’d love to visit this island, access is restricted except under strict conditions. The best thing for this fragile ecosystem is for humans to leave it alone.

 

Have you ever heard of Ball’s Pyramid? Would you want to pay a visit? Would these walking sticks keep you away?

 

 

Thanks to Wikipedia for helping me research this post.

 

 

 

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Comments

26 Comments
Amazing island. It doesn't look like anything could live on it, but it does have vegetation. I wouldn't want to wake up to one of those walking sticks on me though.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on August 1, 2016
I've never heard of it, and it does indeed look like something from fantasy land. Amazing piece of geography.
By: Botanist on August 1, 2016
I have not heard of this island but when I saw the photo you showed here, my first thought was King Kong! I hope these insects thrive later and am glad they were not totally wiped out. I would love to visit this island but I hope there are such restrictions that no tourist can set foot on it because with tourists comes garbage
By: Birgit on August 1, 2016
amazing what one can find on the internet and on this fascinating island- I would not want to climb on it- not because of these insects, but because I am terrified of heights. And also I think these little creatures need some peace and quiet. Thanks Stephen for all your interesting , funny, sad and quirky stories- one of my all time fav blogs!
By: Kathe W. on August 1, 2016
Fascinating--I had never heard of it!!
By: fishducky on August 1, 2016
A few years ago, i read an article about the most remote islands in the world, and these were on the list, but i hadn't thought about them since. It's wonderful that these insects have survived.
By: messymimi on August 1, 2016
wouldn't mind seeing it but would have no interest in climbing it. and I happen to like insects.
By: Ellen Abbott on August 1, 2016
That island looks other worldly. Amazing. I am so happy that the insects have not perished. Twenty four is such a fragile number,hopefully they will thrive one day. Wonder what happened to their enemy the rat and hopefully Lord Howe Island doesn't have any. .
By: Arkansas Patti on August 1, 2016
What an unusual looking island. It is otherworldy (as one of your commenters suggested). However, I'm not that adventurous. Your summary here is all I need to be satisfied of its existence (with pictures).
By: Michael Offutt on August 1, 2016
they deserve to make it. :)
By: TexWisGirl on August 1, 2016
A fascinating spot. It is a striking visual and in my book that is its best feature. Seeing the walking sticks in the photo you posted satisfies my curiosity. Another volcano top island you may wish to visit is Dominica, called the nature island. It is still largely unspoiled by mass tourism. It is between Guadalope and Martinique and is essentially the top of a volcano mount. Diving or snorkeling gives you a chance to dive along sea mount.
By: Tom Cochrun on August 1, 2016
I've never heard of this island before. It has an interesting shape and history. You're right. Humans should stay away.
By: red Kline on August 1, 2016
It is interesting, but unless there is a all-inclusive resort, not sure I want to visit.
By: cranky on August 1, 2016
I've never heard of Ball's Pyramid. Palmetto bugs don't make me flee my house, so a walking stick won't keep me away. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on August 1, 2016
Not much of a beach.
By: Catalyst on August 1, 2016
Nope, never heard of it. Doesn't look very inviting; let's leave it to the walking sticks.
By: Tom Sightings on August 2, 2016
I didn't think I'd heard of that island until I got to the walking sticks. I'm pretty sure we read about them in my class, in Scholastic Science World magazine.
By: Val on August 2, 2016
Magnificent Zealandia!
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 2, 2016
Egads that's a large bug! I'm with you on the first impression of the island..I immediately thought of Lord of the Rings. I'm glad that access is restricted, but not sure I agree with moving an insect to a new environment. Why is it that man cannot leave things alone?
By: on August 2, 2016
Well, that was weird...my comment above!
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on August 2, 2016
I had read this article a while back and am always fascinated that there are still discoveries to be made on this great blue marble!
By: Tabor on August 2, 2016
When I first saw the picture, I thought it wasn't real. I'd never heard of or seen Ball's Pyramid. Thank you for showing us. The stick insects wouldn't scare me, but rats would.
By: Robyn Engel on August 2, 2016
The walking sticks and the rats would keep me away.
By: LL Cool Joe on August 2, 2016
It does look like a beautiful place on earth, But as you said, there are many beautiful places.
By: Rick Watson on August 2, 2016
It looks like a cool place. Heck yes I'd want to visit, but I'd be happy to cruise by and get pictures from afar. I would not want to disturb the delicate ecology.
By: Pixel Peeper on August 2, 2016
Just heard ABC radio program about the rat erridication. I would love to fly low over it one day.
By: Mary McCabe on June 2, 2017

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