Reality Television Show Focuses On Blacktip Island

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Gossiping, shown on a fresco at the Our Lady of Blacktip cathedral, has been a popular Blacktip Island pastime for centuries. A televised reality series will focus on the island’s gossip mongers this spring.

 

Blacktip Island residents will be the subjects of a new reality television show premiering Saturday on the Hallmark Channel.

The show’s producer said the idea for the show came to her during a recent holiday on the small Caribbean island.

“I’d be at the bar after a day of diving, and all the locals wanted to do was dish dirt behind each others’ backs,” executive producer Catalina Luxfer said. “You can’t make this stuff up. We tried. It was nowhere near as entertaining as real-life Blacktip Island. The show writes itself.”

Luxfer said the island’s unique population keeps production costs at a minimum.

“We don’t have to coach the actors or provide scripts,” Luxfer said. “Our only staff’s a couple of camera people. Well, and a stable of editors to censor all the obscenity and profanity. We’re definitely editor heavy on this one.”

The show is titled “Well, I Heard,” after the most-commonly used phrase during early filming.

The inaugural episode centers on the fallout from Eagle Ray Cove managers Mickey and Kitty Smarr’s marital dysfunction.

“They’re quite keen about showing Kitty sleeping around behind Mickey’s back. Again,” said Eagle Ray Cove divemaster Lee Helm. “That’s old news, but I reckon the viewers don’t know that.”

Other locals say later episodes will draw a larger audience.

“It’ll be way better when they zoom in on dive staff,” said Alison Diesel, also an Eagle Ray Cove divemaster. “You know how it is on this little rock. You sneeze down at the Ballyhoo, someone’ll say, ‘Bless you’ up at the Tailspinner before you can wipe your nose.”

Not all Blacktip residents are happy with the notoriety the show has brought.

“This makes us all seem mean spirited,” the former Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “Only some of us are that way. Some of the time. I mean, sure, people stir the fecal matter, but Blacktip’s a small island. That’s just how people here interact.”

Blacktip Island’s Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, praised the show’s effect on local businesses.

“They say overnight stays are up 23 percent from this time last year,” chamber president Sandy Bottoms said. “So are dive bookings, souvenir sales and bar tabs.

“That feeds on itself,” Bottoms said. “We give away free drinks when we hears they’ll be filming at our resort. The more booze people drink, the better the show is, the more tourists come down. Or so I’ve heard.”

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Divers Scared By Blacktip Island Scuba Mafia

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Scuba divers on Blacktip Island say they’ve been forced to pay extra to safely look at the Caribbean Island’s underwater creatures, such as these reef squid.

 

Blacktip Island authorities announced Thursday they are looking into allegations of an organized crime syndicate targeting scuba divers and the Caribbean island’s dive operations.

Local investigators say a loosely-organized group is extorting money from dive operators and independent divers in exchange for safety while scuba diving.

“Call them ‘wise guys’ or ‘gooddivers’ or whatever, a shakedown’s a shakedown,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Divers are being forced to buy bogus Marine Parks tags, and someone topside’s been chumming for sharks around divers who don’t pay.

Frightened scuba divers recounted a recent encounter.

“We didn’t buy that silly tag,” said Sheena Goode, a guest at Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort. “In the water, these big, bulky guys in all-black dive gear came out of nowhere. One shut off my air. Another one cut my husband’s octo hose.”

Locals say the problem has existed for months, but divers have been afraid to report it.

“Everybody knows it’s Cal Amari’s behind it all,” said a long-time resident, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “He works out of The Last Ballyhoo bar down on the south end. Cal’s got his tentacles in every scuba racket on the island, from cut-rate nitrox to fake dive certs, and he’s hell to cross.

“Last week a shore diver got beat something fierce,” the source said. “Cracked the guy’s kneecaps. He’ll never scull-kick again. And the Blacktip Haven dive boat burned one night after Elena Havens refused to pay for protection.”

Island entrepreneur and restaurateur Amari dismissed the stories.

“Scuba’s risky. People get hurt,” Amari said. “I’m a respectable businessman concerned with the island’s economy. Dive staffs are stretched thin. The worry’s a dive accident could kill Blacktip’s tourism product.

“Do I have people in the water following divers? Sure. For safety,” Amari said. “My guys make sure people stay healthy. These mooks should be thanking us.”

The island’s dive professionals, meanwhile, denied any wrongdoing.

“No, the dive tags aren’t required, but divers love to collect those geegaws,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort dive manager Whitey Bottoms said. “Nothing illegal there. Our guests come up smiling. That’s our bottom line.”

Amari shrugged off allegations both he and the island’s resorts have unfairly benefitted from his actions.

“We do business with people who do business with us,” Amari said. “If Sandy’s cash is flowing better lately, good for him. But it’s pure coincidence, not cause and effect.”

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Locals Protests Pay-For-Junk Plan At Blacktip Island Dump

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Blacktip Island residents may soon have to pay for items they remove from the island’s landfill if proposed legislation is passed.

 

A government proposal to charge for items taken from Blacktip Island’s garbage dump sparked a protest Friday in the small Caribbean community.

Known as ‘Home Depot’ to locals, the dump is often the first stop for local DIY projects.

Authorities say the new fees are necessary to fund the island’s public works. The proposal calls for repurposed garbage to be sold by weight or the assessed value of items, whichever is greater.

“Public services here are strapped,” landfill supervisor Harry Wrasse said. “We can’t afford to let people just walk away with junk anymore. We’ve got to squeeze all the juice we can from our oranges, whether folks like it or not.

“End of the day, if it’s in the government landfill, it belongs to the government,” Wrasse said. “Dumps are expensive, what with salary, benefits, fines and having to buy new garbage trucks every six months when our drivers get drunk and drive into the booby pond.”

Locals picketing the dump Friday afternoon disagreed.

“It’s the public landfill. It’s the people’s garbage,” resident Palometa Fischer said. “Assigning arbitrary values to stuff that’s been discarded is modern-day piracy.

“This is a case of one tin-plated government functionary abusing what little power they’ve given him,” Fischer said. “And you think it’s coincidence there’s no system in place to keep track of the fees? Harry and his cronies’re pocketing the money.”

Other locals were concerned about the fees’ effects on their lifestyle.

“Dump diving’s a Blacktip tradition,” resident Ginger Bass said. “Now there’ll be no more salvaged tin roofing, no more fire pits made from washer drums, no more expired fire extinguisher fights.

“We’re telling everybody to boycott the place, keep their junk,” Bass said. “Government honchos are talking out of both side of their mouths. First they say we have to reuse and recycle, then they make it harder for us to do that. There’s more here than meets the eye.”

Others in the community are taking further steps to undermine the planned fees.

“If a washing machine or junked car never makes it to the dump, well, the government can’t charge for it, can they?” Fischer said. “We’re making a list of who has what to throw away.”

“Worst case, we’ll start our own co-op dump where folks can swap stuff for free,” Fischer said.

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Blacktip Island Fisherman Militia Seizes Marine Park

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Blacktip Island fisherman militia members set out Thursday morning to reinforce their Blacktip Underwater Marine Park blockade.

 

An anti-government fisherman militia Wednesday seized Blacktip Island’s world-renowned Blacktip Underwater Marine Park, demanding scuba diving there be banned and the mooring sites returned to local fishermen.

Militia members armed with pole spears, hand lines and fishing poles tied skiffs to all mooring balls off the coast and blocked shore access to the park.

The action is the latest in a series of fisherman versus scuba diver confrontations on the small Caribbean island.

“The government had no right to set this stretch of coast aside for foreigners. No right to outlaw fishing,” local fisherman Dermott Bottoms said. “This is generations of resentment finally boiling over.

“We’re a democracy, you know, and no one voted on the park, or was even asked about it,” Bottoms said. “This is our vote to ban divers. It’s our water. We’re taking it back.”

The action has divided families in the small community.

“Scuba tourism’s our only industry,” said Sandy Bottoms, owner of Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort and Dermott Bottoms’ cousin. “With the park shut down, there’s no reason for divers to come here. This’s killing us. I got payroll to meet, mouths to feed, a swimming pool to pay for.

“Dermott and his buddies waving gaff hooks at people doesn’t help, either,” Sandy Bottoms said. “They can say those spears are for defense all they want, but our guests are intimidated.”

The protestors defended their right to carry fishing implements.

“These are legal pole spears,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Gaff hooks, too. Some divers get scared, that’s their doing, not ours. I’ll give up my fishing pole when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

Visiting scuba divers are angry at not being able to dive in the park.

“I don’t give a wrasse’s ass what these yahoos are protesting,” Eagle Ray Divers guest Leah Shore said. “I paid a ton on money to come here and look at fish, and by God, that’s what I mean to do.”

Violence was averted Thursday afternoon when island authorities stopped a group of divers wielding tank bangers from storming the militia’s lines.

“We nipped this one before things got ugly,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Bussed the divers over to the east side and told them that was a marine park, too.

“We’ve hesitated to confront militia members for fear of things escalating,” Marquette said. “If we try to force the fishermen out, a peaceful situation could turn violent. Also, there’s about 35 of them and only one of me.”

Militia members, meanwhile, vow they won’t leave anytime soon.

“Happiness is a warm hand line spool,” Bottoms said. “‘Specially when you whack it upside some bureaucrat’s pointy head.”

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Scuba Divers Find Lemming Crab Graveyard Off Blacktip Island

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Lemming crab shells litter the sand 200 feet beneath the surface on Blacktip Island’s south end. Local biologists say the shells, found by technical scuba divers, confirm rumors of the crabs committing mass suicide the first of every year.

 

Technical scuba divers on a training dive Wednesday discovered what is believed to be Blacktip Island’s legendary lemming crab graveyard off the island’s remote southeast coast.

“The crab population drops dramatically every January, and we suspected a site like this existed,” said local wildlife manager Crusty Station said. “The salt-cured, faux-ivory carapaces wash up on south end beaches all the time. They’re the Holy Grail for beachcombers, jewelers and oriental homeopaths.

“They found the shells down past 200 feet, just below the bluff,” Station said. “Every indication is thousands of crabs charged off the cliff en masse.”

Lemmings crabs are a subspecies of the common Caribbean land crab, found only on Blacktip Island. Their name is derived from their suspected mass suicides, akin to those of the Scandinavian rodents.

“Where they go has always been a mystery,” long-time resident Frank Males said. “One day the island is overrun with crabs, the next there are none to be found. There’ve always been tales of them running off the bluff behind The Last Ballyhoo, but there’s also tales of a talking platypus back there, too.

“This evidence of mass suicide smacks of a post-holiday depression sort of thing,” Maples said. “It’s a stressful time for everyone.”

Island researchers are eager to study the site.

“We’d speculated that once the crab population hits a tipping point, something snaps species-wide,” Tiperon University-Blacktip behavioral biologist Porgy Cottonwick said. “The population shift from maximum carrying capacity to near extinction was more than natural predation or hungry holiday revelers could account for.

“Our studies will focus on whether this is an attempted migration gone wrong, or possibly an instinctive suicide urge to preserve the species,” Cottonwick said

Locals say such behavior is to be expected on the small Caribbean island.

“Biological urges are hard to overcome,” local handyman Dermott Bottoms said. “See this kind of thing at the Last Ballyhoo and the Sand Spit bars every night.

“See the same thing in divemasters, too,” Bottoms said. “Now they’re here, now they’re gone. Of course, divemasters aren’t killing themselves, but there’s those who wish they would.”

Island officials, meanwhile, have cordoned off the area to stop treasure hunters from diving to the extreme depths to collect the valuable shells.

“Those shells bring a pretty penny on the black market,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Folks grind them up, use them for back pain. And as aphrodisiacs. But your chances of coming back alive from that deep are slim.

“We’re not going to have divers dying trying to get crab shells,” Marquette said. “They wash up dead on resort beaches, that’s bad for business.”

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Blacktip Island Entrepreneur Repurposes Selfie Sticks As Safety Aids

selfie sticks

A prototype of Blacktip Island entrepreneur “Doc” Plank’s A Grand Eyes bamboo gauge extender. The device takes its inspiration from the ubiquitous selfie sticks.

 

Blacktip Island scuba manufacturer Bamboo You kicked off the new year Friday by unveiling its new line of repurposed selfie sticks designed to help older scuba divers better see their gauges underwater.

“As divers get older, their close-up vision goes to hell,” said Bamboo You founder Piers “Doc” Plank. “Gauges with bigger numbers can only do so much, no matter how far away the divers hold them.

“People keep joking they need longer arms,” Plank said. “Seeing everybody running around with these telescoping sticks, using them as gauge extenders was a no brainer.”

Marketed as A Grand Eyes, the sticks are made from locally-sourced bamboo.

“A Grand Eyes do so much more than address our customers’ presbyopia,” Bamboo You marketing director Christina Mojarra said. “Like all Bamboo You products, they’re 100 percent natural and made from a renewable island resource. They’re good for Blacktip and good for the planet.”

The new devices have already won the praises of dive professionals.

“We banned those damned camera sticks on all our boats a while back,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “People kept jamming them into the reef, and there were several unfortunate incidents when sticks got stuck in uncomfortable places on a rolling dive boat.

“Now, though, Doc found a way to turn them to a useful purpose,” Latner said. “We got a lot less divers going into deco because they can’t see their depth or time or nitrogen loading.”

Scuba divers who tested the sticks were impressed as well.

“I was about to give up diving,” said dive guest Buddy Brunnez. “This gizmo’s a game changer, though. Now I just zip my computer out as far as I need. And if my eyes get worse, well, I can zip the stick out farther.”

Some of the Caribbean island’s dive staff, however are dubious of the new devices.

“Whether it’s a camera or a gauge console on the end of the stick, they’re still a hazard,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm said. “Divers are still bashing the reef, but this time under the guise of safety. It’s lipstick on a pig, really.”

Bamboo You officials remain unfazed by the criticism.

“With scuba diver demographics skewing older every year, A Grand Eyes are the wave of the future,” Mojarra said. “Divers can accessorize with extra long high pressure hoses to get gauge consoles as far away as they need to read the numbers.

“We’re marketing the sticks to island restaurants as menu extenders, too,” Mojarra said. “We expect this to be one of our best selling products, right up there with bamboo weights and nitrox snorkels.”

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Mersquatch Steals Blacktip Island Christmas

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A security camera image of Blacktip Island’s Christmas day thief making off with a bag of stolen holiday items. Residents believe the thief is the island’s legendary mersquatch, an aquatic relative of the more-famous sasquatch.

 

Blacktip Island residents were shocked Friday morning to find their homes had been robbed during the night. Security camera images show a creature matching the description of the Caribbean island’s legendary mersquatch making off with bags of stolen goods.

Hand-fishing lines, hooks and seaweed strands were left behind in place of the stolen items.

“It was a God-awful sight, and a God-awful smell,” said robbery victim Rocky Shore. “The whole house stinks like someone left a mess of fish in the sun too long.

“Whoever, whatever it was, he cleaned us out,” Shore said. “The kids’ presents, our Christmas dinner, the honk-hoozles, everything. He even stole our Festivus pole.”

Island police are unsure of a motive for the thefts, but were quick to discount reports of a non-human thief.

“Best guess, it’s a prank,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “No one would have any need for many of the stolen items, and the thief certainly couldn’t sell any of them.

“Our working theory is the individual captured on camera is someone dressed in a gorilla suit,” Marquette said. “There’s several people on island with the bulk to carry that off, and criminal records as well. Problem is, most of them were passed out across the Last Ballyhoo bar last night. But we’re leaving no drunk unturned.”

Authorities are also interviewing a young girl believed to be the only eyewitness to the crimes.

“Little Shelly Bottoms got up for a sneak peek at the tree and surprised the thing,” Blacktip Island mayor Jack Cobia said. “She said it patted her on the head and gave her a glob of seaweed. If that thing had been violent, though, I shudder to think what might have happened.”

Wildlife experts blame the thefts on increased development encroaching on mersquatch habitat.

“These creatures have roamed Blacktip for centuries,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip anthropology professor Nelson Pilchard. “With the island’s recent building boom, we’re getting more and more reports of human-mersquatch confrontation.

“All the commotion people make during the holidays would be incredibly stressful to a solitary creature like this,” Pilchard said. “Most likely, the items were stolen in an attempt to reduce stressors in its environment. Humans aren’t the only ones who find the holidays taxing.”

Some residents, however, found reason to be thankful for the thefts.

“He was mean to steal my toys, but Santa Squatch took bad stuff away, too,” eight-year-old Shelly Bottoms said. “This year I won’t have to eat nasty candied yams with the marshmallows on top. Or Brussels sprouts.”

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