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The St. John NASA Connection

Preparing to submerge the Tektite habitat in Lameshur Bay in 1969. Photo credit: NOAA

A little-known experiment happened here on St. John in the late 1960s and again in 1970. The project was fascinating and a first of its kind. The Navy, NASA, and the Department of Interior joined forces to create an underwater habitat that allowed scientists to stay submerged in the ocean for an extended period of time. The experiments, dubbed Tektite I and II, were conducted deep in the waters of Great Lameshur Bay on St. John’s south shore. Tektite not only allowed scientists to study marine life in its natural habitat for an extended period of time, but it also allowed them to test how people would react to long missions in an isolated setting. This information would be used to help NASA with regard to its upcoming space flights.

Tektite was an underwater laboratory that consisted of two metal silos, which were connected by a flexible tunnel. The silos were 12-and-a-half feet wide by 18 feet high. The habitat contained bunks, a galley, a shower, and an experiment area among other elements. The habitat, which General Electric built, was placed in 49 feet of water on the ocean floor.

Barging in the Tektite habitat – Photo credit: NOAA

The mission of Tektite I was threefold. The Navy was interested in the study of diving physiology and small-crew psychology for future submersible and saturated diving missions and advances that could be made in ocean technology. The Navy was the lead agency for Tektite I.

NASA’s primary interest in Tektite I was the study of the performance of highly qualified scientists under conditions of stress for use in understanding and predicting man’s behavior on long-duration space flights.

The Department of the Interior wanted to learn about the use of saturated diving to broaden man’s capability to conduct scientific work in the sea.

On February 15th, 1969, four scientists – a fishery biologist, a geologist, and two oceanographers – descended to the ocean floor. They returned to the surface on April 15th, 1969. The experiment set a world record for the longest time a person remained underwater.

The scientists – Ed Clifton, Conrad Mahnken, Richard Waller, and John VanDerwalker – were not limited to the habitat for the 60-day period. During the mission, they spent 432 hours outside their habitat. They swam out on a daily basis to study a variety of sea life, although there was a particular focus on the spiny lobster. They were studying how it moves, eats, and survives in our waters.

Now you may be wondering why the Navy, NASA, and the Department of Interior conducted this experiment on St. John, specifically the Lameshur Bay area. Great Lameshur was chosen because the water is relatively shallow, there are low subsurface water currents in the area, and it is sheltered from potential storms. It was chosen due to the vast diversity of marine plant and animal species, which is enhanced by the extensive coral reefs in the area. Finally, it was chosen due to the logistics supportability.

Illustration credit: St. John Historical Society

Tektite I was deemed a success, however, the experiment didn’t end when the four men surfaced in April 1969. A second experiment was conducted the following year, and it, too, set world records. Stay tuned for part two of this story, which will include details on Tetkite II, plus other interesting facts about these experiments and its nearby base camp.

But in the meantime, for those of you who are curious whether any of the structure remains, the answer, sadly, is no. It was removed after the completion of the Tektite II experiment. More on that to come…


Looking to take a St. John island tour?

Learn more here –> www.explorestj.com/tour Full & half days available. Rated “Excellent” on TripAdvisor.

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8 Tuff Miles is Back! Registration Opens One Month from Today!

Here is a pretty Cruz Bay pic, because it’s been years since I’ve gotten a pic of the 8 Tuff Miles race! 🙂

I have great news to share with you all today! The popular 8 Tuff Miles road race is finally returning in its official capacity for 2024, and registration opens one month from today! The race is scheduled for Saturday, February 24th, so start making plans friends!

The 8 Tuff Miles event is a fun event for both runners and non-runners like myself. 🙂 The course starts behind the National Park Visitor’s Center in Cruz Bay, and goes along Centerline Road (Route 10 on the map) all the way out to the ballfield in Coral Bay. The course is 8.3 miles long. It starts at sea level and gains 1,000 feet of elevation and ends back down at sea level. But anyone who has driven Centerline Road before knows it’s not a simple up-and-down course. It’s up and down, and up and down, and up and down, and so forth. 🙂

There are water stations positioned along the way, which is a fun way for us non-runners to get in on the action. My friends and I are always at the last water station, which is just up the hill from the ballfield. We hand out water and Gatorade to the real runners, and then we hand out shots to the fun runners and walkers – beer shots, Painkiller shots, you name it!

This is the first official 8 Tuff Miles race since February 2020, so we are long overdue!

So as I mentioned, registration opens on July 1st. You can learn more at www.8tuffmiles.com. I hope to see you all there!


Looking to take a St. John island tour?

Learn more here –> www.explorestj.com/tour Full & half days available. Rated “Excellent” on TripAdvisor.

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Popular Restaurants Expand Hours!

You can now sit here an hour earlier during the week!

Hello everyone, and happy Wednesday! Today’s post will be short and sweet. A couple of the island’s most popular restaurants recently expanded their hours!

Let’s start in Cruz Bay. The Beach Bar now opens at 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. This means you can get a Bushwacker or a bite to eat an hour earlier these days. Should you have a Bushwacker every day at 10? Probably not. But is it ok when you’re on vacation? Of course it is!

They’re open even earlier on the weekends, too. The Beach Bar serves breakfast on the weekends only, beginning at 9 a.m.

Can’t get to The Beach Bar in person? No problem! They have a live webcam and radio station, which is the next best thing! You can check out The Beach Bar’s bar cam, beach cam, and live music cam over on Explore STJ’s webcam page at www.explorestj.com/webcams.

Lovango Rum Bar has also expanded their hours to include daytime online ordering for its delicious pizzas. You can now place an online order starting at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. They accept online orders on the weekends beginning at 3 p.m. Click here to check out lovangorumtogo.com.

Miss Lucy’s is trying to expand their hours to include Thursday lunch, but they need kitchen staff to make this happen. Who wants to come down and work in paradise??

That’s it for today, folks! Have a great day!


Looking to take a St. John island tour?

Learn more here –> www.explorestj.com/tour Full & half days available. Rated “Excellent” on TripAdvisor.

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Cell Service on St. John: What Works & Where

Today we’re talking cell phones. One of the most common questions I am asked is which providers work best in St. John and how the service is. I am going to do my best to break it all down today. This is going to be a very long-winded post, so please bear with me. 🙂

The Cell Providers

The best cell provider when visiting St. John, in my opinion, is AT&T. I have had AT&T for more than 10 years, and my service is very good. My friend, Dan the pool guy, uses T-Mobile, and he says it works better now than it ever has. Verizon still comes in last for providers that work well here, although it’s not entirely terrible. I know there are more carriers out there, but these are the main three that people visiting St. John tend to use.

Where Do Cell Phones Work 

Cell service works great for all providers in Cruz Bay. Need to get in touch with someone while you’re waiting for the ferry in St. Thomas? No need to worry. Cell service works great in Red Hook too.

For those of you who have AT&T, your cell will work fine in and around Cruz Bay. My cell works great in Contant, Great Cruz Bay, and Chocolate Hole. When I get closer to Rendezvous Bay, my service gets spotty. When I visit friends on Boatman Point, it’s a complete dead zone for me. My AT&T service is spotty as I drive out to Fish Bay, especially when I am passing Rendezvous Bay. It’s a dead zone in Klein Bay completely. It works in parts of Fish Bay, especially the higher neighborhoods like Skytop. It works well at the end of the road near Reef Bay.

“Fish Bay and Rendezvous are spotty,” Dan the pool guy tells me about his T-Mobile service. I am fairly certain these are dead zones for our Verizon friends.

AT&T is spotty in the lower portion of Route 104, but then it works just fine as you get to the middle of Gifft Hill if you are driving up toward Centerline Road (Route 10). AT&T works perfectly along Route 10 from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay. It works well at the Catherineberg ruins, which is just off of Route 10 around mile 3. Once you pass the windmill, you will lose service as you drive toward North Shore Road (Route 20).

T-Mobile works the same in those areas listed above too, with the exception of right near Gifft Hill School. For some reason, T-Mobile does not work around that area.

Speaking of the North Shore, I have pretty good service from Cruz Bay to the Peace Hill parking lot. It gets spotty from there. My cell works great at Salomon, Honeymoon, Hawksnest and Oppenheimer. It also works great at Peace Hill. Service is spotty at most of Trunk Bay, although I do get a little service on the right side of the beach. I do not have service when I am visiting friends in Peter Bay.

The road and parking area at Cinnamon are dead zones. I get service when I stand near the old Danish building in the center of the beach. There is no service at the Cinnamon Bay sugar factory.

If you are standing on Maho and looking at the water, AT&T gets perfect service on the far right side of the beach. The area near the concessions is a dead zone, although there is free wifi at Maho Crossroads.

I get perfect service at Francis Bay. It’s just so-so over near Annaberg. I usually connect to an international tower over there. (More on that below). The drive from Annaberg up to Colombo’s on Centerline Road is like 95 percent a dead zone, but then service is fine at Colombo’s.

Now on to Coral Bay and beyond…

I get good service at Skinny Legs. It’s spotty as I drive out East, but I get perfect service at Saltwell Bottom, which is almost at the end of Centerline Road. The tower is across the water on top of Bordeaux, so you can actually stream on the beach if you wanted to. But you really shouldn’t because you’re on vacation! 🙂 I do not get service when I drive up to Privateer.

My service is ok over near Salty Mongoose and that restaurant/shopping area. I then lose it as I drive out toward Salt Pond and to the end of the road.

For those of you who make the trek to Lameshur, I do get a tiny bit of service at the very end. My phone works a little when I am at the plantation and also when I am at the far right side of Little Lameshur beach. The same goes for T-Mobile in these areas.

If you plan to hike Ram Head, my service is perfect at the top of the hill. I have actually posted live Facebook videos up there.

Everyone gets good service on the top of Bordeaux Mountain when you’re near the cell tower. This is typically when my island tour guests who have Verizon get all of their text messages for the day. 🙂

Connecting to an International Tower 

There are numerous places around St. John when you will connect to an international tower over in the British Virgin Islands. This usually happens around Trunk Bay and could happen all the way out to the Annaberg area on the north shore. It may also connect to these towers all over Coral Bay. If you can see Tortola, you can connect to their towers. If this happens, you will get a message from your provider telling you that you have International Day Pass. When this happens, your provider will charge you $10 per day, per line, and you can use your phone as normal. If you do not want to connect to their towers, you can simply put your phone on airplane mode.

In the past, providers would credit you back the $10 a day if you called to explain that you never left the US Virgin Islands. I read a social media post earlier this month that stated this is no longer the case. I haven’t confirmed that myself, but it is something to think about.

Free Wifi

The good news is that there is a lot of free wifi around the island. Several spots in Cruz Bay offer free wifi like The Beach Bar, North Shore Deli and 1864, for example.

There is free wifi near the concessions area at Cinnamon Bay. And as I mentioned earlier, there is free wifi at Maho Crossroads at Maho Bay.

Skinny Legs, Salty Mongoose and Miss Lucy’s all have free wifi in Coral Bay. The Windmill Bar has free wifi too.

In a Nutshell

AT&T works best. I’d say a solid third of the island has very good service. There are numerous dead zones, but isn’t it nice to be offline every then and again?

If you have any information you’d like to add to this post, simply add it in the comments or email me at jenn@explorestj.com. Thanks all!


Looking to take a St. John island tour?

Learn more here –> www.explorestj.com/tour Full & half days available. Rated “Excellent” on TripAdvisor.

Follow Explore STJ on Social Media

–> www.facebook.com/explorestj

–> www.instagram.com/explorestj


The 2023 Carnival Schedule is Here!

It’s almost that time of year! The 2023 carnival festival is just weeks away! The schedule was released yesterday, and it looks great!

The 2023 St. John Celebration begins on Saturday, June 10th with Pan-o-Rama, which will take place at 4 p.m. in the park across from the ferry dock.

There is something new and exciting happening this year too… REAL CARNIVAL RIDES! As the mother of an almost five-year-old, I am ridiculously excited about this! We have not had real carnival rides on St. John in well over a decade, so a HUGE thank you to the organizers for this. They are currently being stored in the gravel lot, and have I mentioned how excited I am about this??!! lol

The Children’s Carnival, dubbed Coney Island, is scheduled to open on Sunday, June 18th at 1 p.m. The schedule says the location is TBD. I’ll keep you posted on this.

Food Fair is scheduled for Sunday, June 15th at 1 p.m., and the Village opens on Thursday, June 29th.

J’ouvert is scheduled for sunrise on July 1st. The parade starts around 11 a.m. on July 4th and the fireworks are scheduled for 9 p.m. that night.

Here is the complete schedule. How beautiful does my friend Siobhan look in this pic??!!

Buy those tickets, folks! This is going to be a great event!


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New Business Opportunity Available at Trunk Bay

Hello everyone, and welcome to the middle of the week! Who wants to live and work in paradise? I know many of you do! A new business opportunity recently popped up at Trunk Bay, and you may be just the person for it!

The National Park Service recently announced that the Trunk Bay rental concessions are up for bid. They are looking for someone to oversee the snorkel and chair rentals, as well as the locker area. The opportunity is for a 10-year contract. You would be required to provide services 365 days a year. Hours vary based on season.

The rental hut at Trunk Bay.

Here are the details straight from the NPS:

Under the Draft Contract, the Concessioner will provide snorkel and beach equipment rentals and instruction to individuals. The approved items for snorkel rental include snorkel masks, fins, swim belts, and inflatable vests to be made available in a variety of adult and children sizes. The beach equipment rental items are limited to beach and lounge chairs (appropriate sizes should be used to accommodate various visitor sizes and weights), freestanding sunshades, beach mats, waterproof phone pouches, aqua safes, and underwater cameras. Beach umbrellas that require penetration into the sand are not authorized for rental at Trunk Bay as they could pose a threat to sea turtle nesting sites on the beach. Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, floats, windsurf boards, paddleboats, sunfish, and motorized water sports equipment may not be rented under this contract. The concessioner is responsible for issuing, setting-up, collecting, and storing rented equipment.

The concessioner must provide snorkel and resource protection (i.e. coral reefs) instruction to its customers. All employees of the concessioner who provide services at and on the beach must be able to respond professionally and appropriately if an emergency occurs.

The contrast requires that the concessionaire have a minimum of 220 sets of masks, fins, inflatable vests, snorkels, and swim belts in a variety of adult and child sizes. The concessionaire is also required to have at least 60 beach chairs and 60 shade tents/umbrellas. You would also be required to provide tour group instruction on the use of snorkel equipment, as well as educational information about the reefs.

Think this may be a good opportunity for you? You must notify the National Park Service of your intent to propose by July 6th. All proposals must be received by August 16th.

If this is something you are interested in, please click this link to learn more on the National Park Service’s website. Good luck!


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