Tensions High For Blacktip Island’s Coral Bonsai Show

coral bonsai

Blacktip Island Coraliculture Society president Rupert Basslet’s staghorn coral bonsai is one of the favorites to win this year’s Coral Bonsai Show Saturday at Blacktip Island’s Pinnacle Reef. (photo courtesy of Nick Hobgood)

Security is tight above and below the water at Pinnacle Reef this week for Saturday’s Blacktip Island Coraliculture Society’s quinquennial Coral Bonsai Show.

“Last time around there was all sorts of skullduggery to make competitors’ bonsais look bad for the judging,” society president Rupert Basslet said. “Rascals silted the coral, toppled sculptures, and there was one instance of an underwater heater being placed next to a bonsai to make it bleach the day before the show.

“The coral bonsai world can be incredibly vicious,” Basslet said. “We put our collective foot down this year. We have divers with spears patrolling underwater, and spotters on shore to make sure no one slips in unnoticed.”

The show is staged every five years to allow the coral sculptures to regrow after pruning.

“Coral grows so slow you have to wait ages post-prune to see the full effect,” said show chair Chuck DelKorn. “We tried to have the show annually, but the results were not esthetically pleasing. Lots of bare limestone where the coral polyps hadn’t grown back over.

“It takes decades to get one looking right,” DelKorn said. “Most of these bonsais have been passed down from generation to generation.”

Each bonsai master has their own idiosyncratic mix of preferred tools for coral sculpting.

“Coral’s fragile. Keeping a bonsai small and trim, one tiny slip can be irreparable,” Basslet said. “I use a child’s tack hammer and set of jeweler’s screwdrivers. All it takes is a tap here, a chip there. And sometimes years go by without my doing anything to my bonsai.

“Any hard coral is eligible, but the branching species seem to catch the judges’ eyes,” Basslet said. “Though Alison Diesel won the last show with her miniature pillar coral. I think it was the extended polyps waving in the current that put her over the top.”

On shore, local businesses are bracing for the influx of coral bonsai enthusiasts the event brings to Blacktip Island.

“These fans are hard core, and the reef’s cordoned off during the judging,” said Christina Mojarra, manger of the Tail Spinner Lounge, overlooking Pinnacle Reef. “We installed underwater video cameras and doubled our number of TVs so fans can watch at the bar. Parking’s tight, so we’ll have valet parking, and a shuttle van for guests at the island’s resorts.

“They award the Golden Polyp trophy here in the dining room,” Mojarra said. “So we’re letting Dermott Bottoms and James Conlee drink free in exchange for to maintaining order. Last bonsai show the runners-up caused such a ruckus, it was a week before we could reopen.”

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Blacktip Island Physicists Discover Blacktip Boson

Blacktip boson

Particle physicists Ginny Wrasse, left, and Leah Shore inspect the sensor housing at the Blacktip Island Gravitational Laser Interferometer Detection array outside the CrabbiLab laboratory Thursday. Laboratory physicists claim to have discovered a subatomic particle capable of generating short-lived, localized gravitational fields. (Photo courtesy of Tila Monto)

In a paper published Thursday in the international science journal Creation, Blacktip Island scientists claim to have discovered a subatomic particle dubbed, ‘the Blacktip boson,’ that can create an extremely localized gravity well for a split second.

“People’ve noticed the phenomena for years,” lead author and particle physicist Barry Bottoms said. “Locals call them ‘gravity storms,’ where a person or object will fall for no apparent reason, with nearby objects not affected.

“You’d see it late Friday and Saturday nights, usually in bars, though, so it got passed off as alcohol induced,” Bottoms said. “Then we noticed it happening to tourists on bikes in the middle of the day, and that got us wondering.”

Bottoms and his colleagues at the Caribbean island’s Crabbilab Accelerator Laboratory built a device to isolate the phenomenon.

“We spring-boarded off Caltech’s gravity wave research to make an array to detect gravitational anomalies,” said article co-author Leah Shore. “It’s a small island with limited resources, but we were able to find some cement conduit, and we scrounged an old laser interferometer fom the dump.

“We’d barely activated the sensors when we got confirmation,” Shore said. “There was a massive gamma radiation spike, then – BAM! – Barry toppled over. With no alcohol involved – we tested his blood.”

The scientists were cautious in assessing the discovery’s importance.

“All we can say for certain is we detected a boson that, under the right conditions, can exert a massless spin-2 field – the Blacktip Field – to create micro-instants of increased gravity,” Bottoms said. “Could that blow the doors open on string theory? Sure. But we have more pressing concerns.

“What triggers the field and why is it so prevalent here?” Bottoms said. “Our theory is Blacktip Fields are the result of interplay between Blacktip’s unique combination solar radiation, booby pond fumes and the numerous ley lines crossing the island.”

Local reaction the discovery was less reserved.

“This tells the world Blacktip’s not such a backwater,” mayor Jack Cobia said. “Visitors joke about Blacktip being the island of sloppy drunks. Now, to find out it’s a sub-atomic whaddyacallit, well, Barry and his gang deserve a medal.”

Others echoed Cobia’s sentiment.

“Science-wise, it’s great to finally smack down St. Kitts and Nevis,” resident Antonio Fletcher said. “Those punks’ve been rubbing our noses in it ever since they found that wobble in Uranus’ orbit. Plus, my Daddy was a bosun’s mate, so I’m doubly proud.”

Other locals were eager to put the Blacktip Field to use.

“They keep saying there’s no practical application for this thing,” the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “But how great would it be to harness it, to give extra mass to stuff that needs it? Like the mixed drinks at the Last Ballyhoo.”


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Volunteers Salvage Blacktip Island Continuing Education Program

cont ed

The Blacktip Island Theosophy Hall, where most of the island’s adult continuing education classes are being conducted after a local businessman withdrew his financial support for the program. (photo courtesy of Peachy Bottoms)

Community groups teamed up with Tiperon University-Blacktip Wednesday to save the Blacktip Island’s adult continuing education program after a local financier withdrew his backing.

“Damn straight I pulled the plug on that nonsense,” said Rich Skerritt, owner of Eagle Ray Cove resort. “Waste of time and money, people learning basket weaving and water-color painting. The idea was to offer courses that’d let folks to better their lives, get better jobs, be more productive.

“But no one wanted to learn about computer reservation systems or housekeeping or carpentry or landscaping,” Skerritt said. “They were all hot for the hippy-dippy, me-me-me crap. Well, there’s no profit in personal enrichment. No return on investment, for them or for me.”

The decision didn’t surprise program organizers.

“Rich bankrolled the con-ed program to churn out worker bees for his resort,” continuing education coordinator Peachy Bottoms said. “He got hacked off when he realized people were taking courses aimed at personal development. It was just a matter of time.

“We talked to the TU-B administration and the Rotary Club about underwriting the courses,” Bottoms said. “Our instructors agreed to teach pro gratis, and for classrooms we use the Theosophy Hall behind Harry Master’s Bait Shoppe and Newsstand.”

Many island residents applauded the 11th-hour deal.

“The adult classes are a boost for the island,” longtime resident Edwin Chub said. “It keeps people engaged and learning. My wife’s taking a scrapbooking course. And I myself am learning Turkish. That’s been a lifelong dream of mine.”

Other residents took a broader view.

“Blacktip’s a tiny island. There’s nothing to do,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “Most people get off work and head to the bars. These con ed classes lift us above that.

“They tell the world there’s more to Blacktip than diving,” Diesel said. “It says we’re an island of thought and intellectual growth. The Athens of the Caribbean. The Greek Athens, not the one in Georgia.”

The classes have also led several residents to unexpected personal discoveries.

“I don’t say it often, but Rich was wrong on this one,” Public Works chief Stoney MacAdam said. “The fly-tying class was full up, so I ended up in an ice sculpture course. Turns out, it’s fun and practical.

“It’s hot as blazes this summer, so I got to carve in the freezer. That means the sculptures’re pretty small,” MacAdam said. “But it’s about the experience, not the product. And I got these racks of little ice-cube hummingbirds I can plop in folk’s rum when they come over. Way I see it, I got me a retirement job.”

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Blacktip Island Author Unveils Cover For Forthcoming Novel

Blacktip Island cover

Local author Tim W. Jackson gave readers an early glimpse of his forthcoming novel Saturday when he unveiled the book’s cover on his website.

Titled, appropriately, Blacktip Island, the novel follows an inadvertent embezzler who high-tails it to the Caribbean, a step ahead of the Feds and desperate to start life over as an anonymous divemaster in paradise. On Blacktip Island, though, he quickly discovers ‘tropics’ doesn’t mean ‘paradise,’ and rookie boat hands stick out like a reef at low tide.

“It’s a whackadoodle adventure,” Jackson said. “If Don’t Stop the Carnival and Northern Exposure had a love child, they’d call it Blacktip Island.”

Early reviewers praised the novel.

The San Francisco Book Review says, “Blacktip Island will make you laugh and keep you guessing. The story gets readers hooked, and the characters add laughter, suspense, romance and everything in between to take this book to another level.”

Blacktip Island will be published in early September.

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Blacktip Island Reef Preservation Rally Turns Violent


The Our Lady of Blacktip non-denominational cathedral was the site of a street brawl between scuba divers and music lovers Thursday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Dorris Blenny)

A coral reef conservation rally at a Blacktip Island resort left 11 people injured Thursday evening after two groups of activists attacked each other over a misunderstanding about the event’s purpose.

“We were out front of Sandy Bottoms’, drumming up support for the island’s reefs,” Coral Reef Activists for Preservation president Harry Pickett said. “We had our placards, and were handing out leaflets. It was a great turnout of locals and tourists. Everything was going fine.

“Next thing you know, though, there’s yahoos across the road, by the church, yelling at us about singing or something,” Pickett said. “Somebody yelled back and it just exploded from there.”

The rival protestors were music aficionados who had gathered at the Our Lady of Blacktip interdenominational cathedral to support what they believed to be an attack on the island’s community chorus.

“The radio announcement clearly said ‘choral preservation,’” choirmaster Doris Blenny said. “We got there and found an angry mob picketing outside the church. We weren’t about to lose our choir or gospel singers to those Philistines. Not without a fight.”

Island officials say the conflict escalated quickly.

“Near as I can tell, the church folks thought the scuba divers were anti-music agitators,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “A random word set someone off, and all hell broke loose.

“The churchgoers waded in swinging their protests signs. Those things were made with good, solid maple, too,” Marquette said. “After a moment of shock, the divers roared right back at them, screaming and whomping. It’s amazing more people weren’t hurt.”

Police credit local lay clergy with restoring the peace.

“Jerrod went all Kwai Chang Caine on the whole lot of them,” Marquette said. “I know now why they defrocked him. He kept casualties to a minimum, though.”

“Neither side responded to reason,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians. “Blood was flying and the situation needed to be defused, physically, without injuring anyone. Unnecessarily.

“Years of online Shaolin meditation training just kicked in,” Ephesians said. “I don’t really remember what happened, but once the leaders were subdued, the rest of the mob fell in line.”

Ephesians declined I.P.C. Marquette’s offer to become a Special Constable.

“We need to focus on healing the community, not on punishment,” Ephesians said. “We’re planning a reef-themed musical event for this weekend. We’ll come together to show reefs and music aren’t mutually exclusive.

“Blacktip Island’s famous for its singing coral heads, after all,” Ephesians said. “To simulate that sound on stage, the church choir will sing ‘Octopus’ Garden’ with their heads in fish bowls.”

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Blacktip Island Gets Travel Ban From U.S., U.K.


Blacktip Island officials hope the sun won’t set on the small Caribbean island’s tourism industry after multiple nations issued a travel warning advising their citizens not to visit the secluded vacation mecca.

Blacktip Island officials hope the sun won’t set on the small Caribbean island’s tourism industry after multiple nations issued a travel warning advising their citizens not to travel to the secluded vacation mecca.

At the urging of the International Psychiatric Association, the United States, United Kingdom and European Union Friday issued a travel warning for citizens visiting Blacktip Island.

“We’ve had a travel alert in place for a while, but after the I.P.A.’s report we kicked it up to a warning,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Roosevelt Franklin said. “People on that island are just not right. They’ve been isolated too long.

“The report says the mental instability can be passed person-to-person, and we’re studying other possible vectors,” Washington said. “The concern is a mental-health pandemic – tourists traveling there, contracting bat-shit, then transporting it back home.”

Island residents downplayed the warning.

“The hullaballoo got started with that You Tube video of the naked conga line at Eagle Ray Cove – spontaneous, mind you, and started by a U.S. State Department retiree,” Blacktip Island Chamber of Commerce president Reg Gurnard said. “Then James Conlee planted himself at the airstrip in that home-made flower pot of his and tried to use ESP to get tourists to water him. Mostly, he just scared people with the faces he made.

“The capper was Dermott Bottoms literally howling at the moon from the Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort roof at three in the morning,” Gurnard said. “It would’ve been laughed off if he hadn’t peed on all the departing guests’ luggage the next morning. No quicker way to piss off a visiting shrink than that.”

The governments also issued a travel ban on Blacktip residents wanting to visit their countries.

“Blacktippers are bonkers,” Franklin said. “The study says anyone who’s lived on that island for more than 3.57 years could pose a real threat to our citizens. We’re not about to import that.”

Blacktip residents refuted the report.

“That’s just their opinion, you know,” said Blacktip Island native James Conlee. “From a bunch of black thumbs who can’t be trusted to water their flowers properly. You ask me, I think we should ban them.”

The official response was more muted.

“Obviously, we can’t ban tourists from an island devoted to tourism,” Blacktip Island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Not even the New Yorkers. But we’re being unfairly singled out. Folks on Grand Turk are completely deranged, but no one says ‘boo’ about them.

“We’ve lodged official protest with the U.S. and U.K. ambassadors,” Cobia said. “Or we will as soon as they answer our calls and emails and thought waves. I can assure you of that.”

Other residents were not bothered by the warning.

“It’s Blacktip. This’ll pass,” said Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort manager Kay Valve. “Meantime, it draws more attention to us and attracts adventure-seeking guests.

“Every resort on the island is chock-a-block full because of that report,” Valve said. “Just spell ‘Blacktip Island’ right, you know?”

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New Dinosaur Species Discovered On Blacktip Island


The partial skeleton of the recently discovered Blacktiposaurus lies exposed in geologic sediment scientists have identified as from the early Flirtaceous period. The creature may be the missing link between extinct reptiles and modern birds. (photo courtesy of Ernesto Mojarra)

Two Blacktip Island hikers exploring the island’s rugged interior Wednesday discovered the fossilized remains of what experts believe is a new species of dinosaur linking the ancient reptiles to modern aquatic birds.

“We were fell-walking up on the bluff, and the nesting kingbirds kept dive bombing us, pecking at our heads,” divemaster Lee Helm said. “It was miserable. We were picking up stones to throw at them when Alison noticed an odd-looking pattern in the limestone.”

“You could totally tell it was something, or a couple of things all mooshed up together,” boat captain Alison Diesel said. “It took a few seconds to register. The thing’s about the size of a medium-sized goat.”

Specialists rushed to confirm the pair’s find.

“It’s pretty unbelievable, frankly,” said Ernesto Mojarra, head of Tiperon University-Blacktip’s paleontology department. “The skeleton shows a unique mix of reptilian scales and claws as well as avian feathers and beak structure. We’re calling it Blacktiposaurus.

“Preliminary guess, the creature was flightless, though a strong swimmer, and looked something like our modern booby birds, but with spines down its back,” Mojarra said. “With so many boobies and iguanas on Blacktip Island, this could be a common ancestor.”

Some locals were skeptical.

“The only dinosaurs anyone’s likely to find on Blacktip are at the bottom of a rum bottle,” the Reverend Pierre Grunt said. “Iguanas and boobies have always been here. In Earth’s 6,000-year history, nothing’s ever evolved on this island. Except drug-resistant social diseases.”

Others were eager to preserve the fossil for future study.

Blacktiposaurus rests in the sedimentary strata just above the K-T layer that marks the end of the Cretaceous period,” TU-B geologist Christina Grasby said. “With the bones smack on top of all that iridium-enriched dust and tektite spheres, this is the first evidence of saurian life surviving into the early Flirtaceous period following the Chicxulub asteroid impact in the Yucatan.”

Island entrepreneurs are backing the preservation efforts as well.

“That thing-gummy’s a gold mine,” said local businessman Rich Skerritt. “People’ll pay to see it, and they’ll pay more to watch Ernesto and his buddies fiddle with it. Excavate it. Whatever.

“An outdoor interactive museum is a natural, where folks can watch the dig,” Skerritt said. “Something tasteful. Then throw in food and beverage concessions, a gift shop, a couple of roller coasters, Blacktip’ll be a must-visit Caribbean destination in no time.”

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