Coral Mummy Found on Blacktip Island Wall Dive

A preliminary scan of Wally the Coral Man, discovered by recreational divers on a Blacktip Island wall dive. (Photo courtesy of Utilisateur : 120)

A preliminary scan of Wally the Coral Man, discovered by recreational divers on a Blacktip Island wall dive. (Photo courtesy of Utilisateur : 120)

A group of Blacktip Island recreational scuba divers on the Caribbean island’s Alpine Wall Wednesday discovered the coral-encrusted remains of a diver who died there years ago in unusual circumstances.

Nicknamed “Wally,” after where he was found, the body was protected from decay by a fast-growing fire coral, leaving the remains in a mummified state, experts said.

Divers found the body face down, with a prominent spear wound in the back of his left shoulder. Other wounds on the body indicate he was involved in a physical altercation shortly before his death.

Island police were called, but quickly turned the remains over to the island’s scientific community.

“What we have is a diver who died suddenly, violently,” Tiperon University-Blacktip archeology professor Kraft Leakey said. “Initial radiocarbon tests date the remains to between 3,760 and 3940 BCE. If that date is correct, this could rewrite the history of scuba diving.

“Last year we discovered what appeared to be a Neocorallic Age scuba resort, but that theory was poo-pooed by archaeologists and scuba training agencies alike,” Leakey said. “This find, dating to the same period, gives that theory new legs, though.”

Other testing has provided clues to Wally’s final hours.

“Our scans show significant levels of nicotine and hot pepper residue on Wally’s skin, suggesting he visited a public house before his fatal dive,” TU-B pathologist Christina Mojarra said. “His stomach contents include charred meat, a fried starch and ethyl alcohol, all consumed an hour before his death.

“We surmise he was in an altercation at the pub and fled underwater in an unsuccessful attempt to escape his pursuers,” Mojarra said.

Island police agreed.

“This was definitely foul play,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “You don’t just stab yourself in the back. That’s what friends are for. Especially on this island.

“He probably lost a bar bet and didn’t pay up,” Marquette said. “Or stole someone’s girlfriend. Some things on Blacktip never change.”

Island business entrepreneurs, meanwhile, are hoping the find will attract more tourists to the island.

“We’ve got blueprints for a Wally visitors center and museum,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Once the pointy-headed geeks get through with him, we’ll put him and all his gear where everyone can see. For a fee.

“It’ll be a tasteful affair in keeping with Blacktip Island’s natural beauty,” Skerritt said. “We’re calling it the Wallyplex.”

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Blacktip Island Players to Stage Underwater “Winter’s Tale”

Cast members hit their marks while rehearsing for the Blacktip Island Community Players’ underwater production of “The Winter’s Tale.”

Cast members hit their marks while rehearsing for the Blacktip Island Community Players underwater production of “The Winter’s Tale.”

The Blacktip Island Community Players will stage an underwater version of Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale’ for their spring production, with all dialogue performed with scuba hand signals.

“This play’s a spring classic,” said director Doris Blenny, “Plus, with so much of the play set on the Bohemian coast, and with scuba diving being so central to our island life, it seemed natural to cast it in an underwater milieu.”

The underwater production was inspired by the success of last fall’s semi-submerged ‘The Somonyng of Everyman.’

“This is the first Shakespearean production performed solely with scuba signs,” Blenny said. “‘As You like It’ was done in American Sign Language several years ago, and there was a mimed version of ‘Titus Andronicus,’ but we’re doing something quite different here.”

“We had to invent all kinds of new hand signals for Elizabethan words and phrases,” retired linguistics professor and cast member Frank Maples said. “‘Fardel,’ ‘bawcock,’ and ‘the verier wit’ were especially challenging.”

The cast includes

  • Frank Maples as Leontes
  • Kitty Smarr as Hermione
  • Jay Valve as Polixenes
  • Finn Kiick as Florizel
  • Polly Parrett as Perdita
  • Payne Hanover as Autolycus

Lee Helm is temporarily standing in as Antigonus after the company lost several actors in rehearsal mishaps.

“That ‘Exeunt, pursued by a shark,’ stage direction’s been phenomenal in walk throughs,” Payne Hanover said. “But it’s played hell with our Antigonuses. We’ve had to replace him three times. And counting.”

The play opens on Earth Day, April 22, with all proceeds from the first day’s show going to the Coral Reef Awareness and Preservation fund.

“Our staging emphasizes reef conservation,” Blenny said. “Two coral heads will serve as the backdrops for the Kingdoms of Sicily and Bohemia.

“We also have schools of French grunts and schoolmaster snappers trained to play the respective courts,” Blenny said. “Of course, the occasional snapper will nip an actor’s fingers, but a bit of blood’s necessary for any art.”

Limited kneeling space will be available in the sand around the underwater stage. Seating and a live video feed will be available at the Sand Spit bar. The bar will feature Sicilian wines and Bohemia-brand beer.

A ban on hand heckling from the underwater audience will be strictly enforced.

“Japes and cat-calling were a tradition at the original Globe Theatre,” Blenny said, “but we’ll have none of that here. Anyone gesticulating or making rude gestures will be escorted to the surface.”

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Mutant Mosquitoes Overwhelm Blacktip Island

Genetically-modified mosquitoes have created a public safety emergency on Blacktip Island. (photo courtesy of siamaksabet)

Genetically-modified mosquitoes have created a public safety emergency on Blacktip Island. (photo courtesy of siamaksabet)

In a case of pest control gone wrong, genetically-altered mosquitoes released on Blacktip Island to combat the native mosquito population have instead mutated into giant insects now threatening the island’s wellbeing.

“All the experts said this’d work,” Blacktip Island Public Safety chief Rocky Shore said. “All the run-throughs tested to specs. We sterilized the mosquitoes with radiation, then turned them loose to mate with the locals. Our mosquito numbers should’ve dropped 75-80 percent.

“Instead, they’re breeding like rabbits, and getting bigger each generation,” Shore said. “Gamma rays were the fly in the ointment. The lab folks saved money using gammas instead of the standard beta rays. We’re still tracking who signed off on that.”

The resulting mosquito swarms have island residents on edge.

“Some of these suckers are the size of peregrine falcons,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “And bright green. We’re telling our guests to not piss them off and to stay inside after dark.”

The plan’s critics were more vocal.

“We warned this could happen,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip entomology professor Belinda Graysby. “It’s classical biological pest control gone wonky. Like cane toads in Australia and mongooses in Hawaii, the solution’s worse than the original problem. This could make Blacktip uninhabitable. And yes, it’s ‘mongooses.’”

Others worry about the mosquitoes’ impact on island wildlife.

“These mossies’ve wiped out the island’s birds,” Blacktip Island Audubon Society president Sula Beakins said. “And the iguanas. They’ve moved on to feral cats, but what will they prey on once the cats are gone?”

Sports enthusiasts, meanwhile, have embraced the growing mosquito threat.

“We hang fresh steaks outside to draw ‘em in,” Blacktip Skeet Club president B.C. Flote said. “Then we break out the shotguns, and when the skeeters come over the tree line, we all open fire.

“We give the kids tennis rackets to swat any little ones that get through, too,” Flote said. “It’s good family fun, and it helps the community.”

Concerns remain, however, about how large the mosquitoes will grow and their impact on island businesses.

“Used to be, a light breeze’d keep the bugs down,” Eagle Ray Cove’s Skerritt said. “These things, though, they’ll fly in anything up to 20, 25 knots. They just about dragged off two guests yesterday. Small children, you understand, but the threat’s real. And growing.”

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Blacktip Island Hosts Annual Stupid Question Contest

The 2015 Stupid Guest Question Invitational winner will receive the coveted My Teeth Hurt Necklace of Shame as well as free drinks and diving.

The 2015 Stupid Guest Question Invitational winner will receive the coveted My Teeth Hurt Necklace of Shame as well as free drinks and diving.

Eagle Ray Cove resort will host Blacktip Island’s 13th annual Stupid Guest Question Invitational Saturday.

Contestants are nominated by Blacktip Island’s dive staffs based on the most cringe-worthy inquiries from scuba diving guests during the past year.

“People who say, ‘there’s no such thing as a stupid question’ have never worked a dive boat,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “Some of these people, I swear, they leave their brains at home when they come down here.”

“We get some doozies,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “We jot them down in a notebook, then when it’s nomination time, out comes the book and, voila, we have a field day.”

Contestants will dress in suitable scuba attire, stand on the stern of a dive boat tied to the Eagle Ray Divers dock, and repeat their question for a dockside audience. The winner will be chosen by audience reaction.

“It’s frightening, really,” Sandy Bottoms divemaster Lee Helm said. “I mean, these are doctors, attorneys, captains of industry. And these words actually come out their mouths.”

Last year’s top questions included:

  • “Does the island go all the way to the bottom?”
  • “Why’s the ocean taste salty?”
  • “How long does an hour massage last?”
  • “Do the small tanks hold less air than the big ones?”
  • “What does coconut rum taste like?”
  • “What island is this?”
  • “So, you’re saying it’s bad to go into decompression?”

The winner will be awarded the My Teeth Hurt Necklace of Shame and have his or her mouth duct taped shut for the remainder of the evening.

“We usually throw in drinks and some free diving for the winner, too,” Eagle Ray Divers’ Latner said. “But they’re not allowed to ask any more questions.”

The prizes have made the contest a guest favorite, with most competitors excited to be chosen.

“You have to realize all these questions, in context, seem quite reasonable at the time,” said 2014 Invitational champion Georgie Passaic, who won with, ‘Was that an eel or a lobster?’

“Hell, I ask my wife stupider questions than that every day,” Passaic said.

“You could’ve knocked me over with a feather when I got nominated,” 2015 contestant Suzy Souccup said. “Sure, it’s a little embarrassing, but maybe now I’ll finally get an answer to what you call those fish that fly.”

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Blacktip Island Nutritionist Touts New ‘Pirate Diet’

Rum and chicken wings are health foods with the new Pirate Diet.

Rum and chicken wings are health foods with the new Pirate Diet.

A Blacktip Island nutritionist is promoting a new eating regimen, dubbed the Pirate Diet, that promotes healthy weight loss by replicating the eating habits of 16th– and 17th-Century buccaneers.

“This is no fad. The diet’s rooted in science and historical fact,” said nutritionist Leah Shore, the diet’s creator. “It incorporates everyday, modern foods that mimic the foods our pre-industrialized forebears thrived on.

“Our ancestors were raised on this stuff,” Shore said. “It’s in our DNA. We’re simply not hardwired for salad and soy and light beer.”

Shore maintains the diet causes the body to catalyze stored fat into lean muscle due to meals high in protein, fat and rum.

“Rum’s the key,” Shore said. “It gives a net alkaline load that balances dietary acid. High rum intake also ensures you burn through any carbohydrate-induced statins and free radicals.”

Local pirate dieters rave about the results.

“I’ve been eating pirate style for months now, and I feel fantastic,” divemaster Marina DeLow said. “Plus, there’s no calorie counting. I eat what I want, drink as much as I want and pass out before I can overeat.”

A strict exercise regimen accompanies the diet.

“Piraters engage in alternating days of cutlass fighting, ship boarding and planking,” Shore said. “Walking on planks, that is. Long rest periods are essential, too, preferably in a hammock.”

Local health professionals, however, are critical of the diet’s historical basis.

“It is impossible to know what 17th-Century buccaneers ate,” said Dr. Azul Tang of Tiperon University-Blacktip. “We do know they had notoriously-short lifespans, though, and there is zero evidence of anyone in the 1650s living on hot wings and Flor de Caña.”

Tang also questioned the diet’s safety.

“This sort of fad diet can wreak havoc on the human body,” Tang said. “Take a look at any of this island’s divemasters.

“And none of the diet’s proponents have addressed its associated memory loss and verbal aphasia,” Tang added.

Shore was quick to defend the diet.

“After a few months you might catch yourself slipping into odd speech patterns,” Shore said. “And you may notice a heightened fondness for parrots. But the health benefits far outweigh a few minor side effects.”

Pirate dieters echoed that sentiment.

“When first I heard of this diet I thought to meself, ‘Ar, that be a pile o’ guano,’” DeLow said. “But here I be, fit as any two seafaring men with wooden legs.”

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Protestors Disrupt Blacktip Island’s Spring Lionfish Hunt

One of the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish run to ground in last spring’s Hunting of the Lionfish.

One of the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish run to ground in last spring’s Hunting of the Lionfish.

Animal rights activists converged on Blacktip Island Friday to protest the Caribbean island’s traditional spring Hunting of the Lionfish.

“These yahoos have turned population control into a blood sport,” Blacktip Island People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president Harry Pickett said. “Lionfish are part of the ecosystem now, like it or not, and these barbarians are inflicting unnecessary suffering for the sake of entertainment.”

Hunt organizers rushed to defend the Hunt as a means to combat the invasive red lionfish that have overwhelmed Blacktip Island’s reefs.

“It’s not barbaric, it’s pest control,” Hunt Master Jay Valve said. “Lionfish are vermin. If they eat all our reef fish, what happens to our tourism product?”

“The Hunt maximizes limited resources,” said Red Reynard, the Hunt’s Master of the Grouper. “There were too many lionfish and not enough divers, or bottom time, to keep them in check.

“We turned the tables by importing specially-trained English scent-groupers to chase them down,” Reynard said. “We loose the grouper, have our whippers-in shoo them in the right direction, and the hunters follow on underwater scooters, gigging any stripeys that go to ground.”

The use of grouper draws the most criticism.

“Proper wildlife management procedure is to simply spear the lionfish, one by one, not chase them across the reef and let big fish tear them to shreds,” PETA’s Pickett said.

Other opponents leveled harsher criticism.

“The Hunt is morally wrong,” Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Piscines member Edwin Chub said. “Lionfish have a right to life, just as any other fish. And these allegedly-trained grouper are indiscriminate. They kill parrotfish, squirrelfish, anything that doesn’t get out of their way fast enough.”

Island authorities are urging caution from protestors and hunters after an attempt to disrupt last year’s hunt went awry.

“The SPCP people dressed as lionfish, rubbed fish guts all over themselves, then scuba dived through the middle of the chase,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “It was mayhem, with chunks of flesh and lionfish costume flying everywhere.

“The hunters made it worse, goading on the grouper with those underwater horns hooked up to power inflators.”

“We were lawfully monitoring the Hunt for animal cruelty,” Chub said. “Our attorneys are still pursuing aggravated assault charges.”

“Those fish hippies had it coming,” Reynard said, “but it was frightening to see what a pack of hunting grouper can do to an unsuspecting diver. The same will happen this year, too, if they vex us again.”

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Blacktip Times Special Edition: Local Author Nominated For Literary Award

“Two and a Half Weeks” is a 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards finalist.

“Two and a Half Weeks” is a 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards finalist.

“Two and a Half Weeks,” a humorous short story by local author Tim W. Jackson, has been nominated in the Big Al’s Books and Pals 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards short story category.

Big Al’s Books and Pals is an independent online review site focusing on work produced by small and independent presses. Contest winners in 14 categories are determined by reader votes and will each receive a digital slap on the back and a PDF sticker to Photoshop onto their book’s cover.

“It feels slimy as hell, but, I’m asking you, the Blacktip Times readers, to go to Big Al’s website and vote for my story before March 28,” Jackson said. “And if it doesn’t make you feel slimy, it’d be great if you got your friends to vote, too. And your families. And any unusually-dexterous pets you might have. Or know about.”

If the story wins, Jackson has promised to dance the quadrille in a giant banana costume and post video on the Blacktip Times Online.

“No one wants to see it, but if that’s what it takes, I’m not above extortion,” Jackson said.

Contest voting runs March 14 – 28 at: Big Al’s Books and Pals Readers’ Choice Awards.

Originally published in The MacGuffin literary journal, “Two and a Half Weeks” is part of Jackson’s Tales From Blacktip Island short story collection.

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