Thursday, May 22, 2014
Lake Erie oddities: Rattlesnake Island
On my last flight back from Michigan, I had the opportunity to overfly Rattlesnake Island, just a few miles out into Lake Erie off of Port Clinton, Ohio. This place is kind of a local enigma in that the entire island is privately owned by a "club" of wealthy businessmen and known for it's secrecy. Accessible only by aircraft or boat, public access is prohibited and any strange boats that draw near will allegedly be run off by armed private guards in one of the island's two security boats. Membership in the club is limited to sixty-five people and the buy-in is expensive and comes only after a prospect is recommended by an existing member and undergoes a background check, with emphasis on their financials and business connections. There are only 15 lots on the island, twelve of which have residences on them. Property ownership and membership is reportedly done through a trust to keep the members' names private.
The residents travel around the 85-acre island on golf carts and the only apparent common facilities there are the clubhouse that occupies the airport/golf course building. Come summertime, the island's staff is bolstered by numerous Eastern European women, but most of the year, it appears to merely have a small caretaker staff. There's not a whole lot of information out there about the place aside from a Wikipedia article, their own web page, and a few articles and discussion forums which basically just cite from one, the other or both.
There is an exception however, and that's a rather extensive article/expose done by the Cleveland Scene in 2008 that claims that the island is really a seedy little pace where the Eastern European women are basically kept as slaves for the season and the rest of the staff is treated pretty shabbily as well.
Take it all for what it's worth, but since this island was a discussion topic among a few of us at one of the after-parties at the NRA convention, I decided to take a closer look on the way home since my flight path took me right over the place.
Approach from the west. (Middle Bass Island on the left and South Bass Island on the right behind it.)
Nice digs. The houses are all good-sized. No aircraft visible on it's 1,500ft. grass runway that doubles as a fairway for it's 3-hole golf course. (Airport info: 58OH). Their North/South runway is allegedy 988 feet long, but I see what looks like a sand trap at the north end of it; not somewhere that I'd want to try to land. Only a couple of boats observed in the slips and one small boat apparently circling the island on the NW corner. (Security boat?) No one visible around the homes, and the area behind the airport clubhouse looks like a freaking landfill. I suppose that hoping to catch a glimpse of the Eastern European women out sunbathing was asking a bit much considering as these were taken at the end of April. Maybe next flight.
Sorry Rattlesnakians...You can hide your names but the Eye in the Sky still sees you!
I think that this place just got added to my "Overfly and photograph" list...just because.