Vehicle Ban Aims To Save Blacktip Island’s Tranquility

vehicle ban

Automobiles on Blacktip Island will be harder to come by after the island’s council voted to limit the number of motor vehicles on the small Caribbean island. (photo by Samson Post/Blacktip Times staff)

In a 2-1 vote Wednesday, the Blacktip Island Council opted to limit the number of motor vehicles on the Caribbean island in what backers called an attempt to keep the 100-resident island true to its rustic roots.

“We’re saving Blacktip’s charm,” council member Maxie Fondé said. “Visitors come here for quiet, unspoiled nature. Cars and trucks and scooters take away from that.”

Other ban supporters cited population concerns.

“The island’s getting too crowded,” council member Clete Horn said. “Last week I had to stop at the stop sign. Today I had to use my turn signal. Twice. If I wanted to deal with that kind of hassle, I’d live in Miami.

“You used to be able to tell who was coming down the road just by the sound of the car,” Horn said. “Now, I don’t recognize half of them by sight. Any more cars, we’ll be putting up traffic lights. And crosswalks”

The ban limits households and businesses to one vehicle, provided a compelling reason to have a vehicle can be shown.

“Construction companies or Public Works, they need their trucks,” Fondé said. “Divemasters or bar staff that live a mile from the resort? They can ride bikes. Or walk.”

Many businesses owners oppose the ban.

“We’re supposed to get all our guests to and from the airfield in one van?” dissenting council member and Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “They’re hamstringing my livelihood. If Maxie and Clete don’t like cars, let them walk. I’m not giving up my vehicles.”

Many residents, though, expect the ban to be good for the island.

“Fewer cars means less pollution, less used motor oil and auto batteries in the dump,” resident Goby Graysby said. “They should make the law stricter and only allow Smart cars. Embarrassment would keep people from wanting to drive.”

Others residents concurred.

“We’re going to use a donkey cart to takes guests to and from the air strip,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens said. “The guests’ll love it and it’s eco-friendly. Plus, we can also rent it out for kiddie rides when business gets slow.”

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Underwater Rock Climbing Comes To Blacktip Island

underwater rock climbing

Underwater rock climbers scout Slubberdudgeon Wall on Blacktip Island’s southeast coast prior to a climb Thursday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Derek Keats)

Scuba divers on Blacktip Island can now do more than look at fish after Club Scuba Doo resort launched an underwater rock climbing program this week.

“We’ve got to attract a younger, hipper crowd,” Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “We’re revitalizing the sport. Underwater climbing’ll make scuba an adventure again.

“With that wall that dropping thousands of feet straight down, Blacktip’s a natural for deep-water climbing,” Kiick said. “It’s the best of both worlds. You’re on scuba, but you get the adrenalin rush of free-climbing. And with the zero-gravity feel, it’s like rock climbing on the moon.”

Other dive operators were critical of the plan.

“We spend all day telling guests not to touch coral, explaining how the slightest touch can kill a thousand-year-old coral head,” Eagle Ray Divers manager Ger Latner said. “Now we’ve got these knuckleheads encouraging divers to crawl all over it.

“They’re also gonna get divers hurt, too,” Latner said. “People looking for their next hand hold instead of their gauges? That’s a recipe for disaster.”

Club Scuba Doo management defended the program.

“We do the climbing on the southeast wall where all the coral’s dead anyway,” resort owner Ham Pilchard said. “And we don’t allow anchors or hooks of any kind. This is about as eco-friendly as you can get.

“Long-term, this is good for the reefs,” Pilchard said. “It gets young people on the reef and excited about the underwater world. We’re creating the next generation of marine ecologists here.”

Kiick stressed the sport’s safety.

“There’s been zero cases of climbers blowing no-deco limits or breathing their tank dry,” he said. “The injuries so far have been from fire coral. And scorpion fish.

“They’re hard to see, ‘til you grab them,” Kiick said. “We give our climbers Kevlar gloves and booties now, for their own protection.”

Underwater climbers had high praise for the sport.

“It’s great to be able to climb without anyone belaying,” Club Scuba Doo repeat guest Leah Shore said. “Plus, it’s fun for the whole family. We can dive with the kids one day and climb with them the next.

“For longer climbs, or deeper climbs, you can use doubles if you want,” Shore said. “There’s some phenomenal 5.12 overhangs down around 180, if you’re into techie climbing. We don’t let the kiddos do that, though.”

Resort scuba instructors will offer a range of underwater climbing specialty courses.

“You do four climbs rated 5.4 – 5.6, you get your basic Underwater Rock Climber card,” Kiick said. “For the more hardcore, we’ll be offering Trimix Climbing, Heliox Climbing and Extended Range Technical Climbing courses.”

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Resort Tells Blacktip Guests To “Fling Your Phones”

phone throwing

Mobile phones of all shapes and sizes will go flying Sunday afternoon in Eagle Ray Cove’s ‘Fling Your Phone’ contest, aimed at getting resort guests to disconnect from work while on vacation. (photo courtesy of Marina DeLow)

In an effort to help newly-arrived guests embrace their vacations, a Blacktip Island resort will launch a new, weekly ‘Fling Your Phone’ cellular telephone throwing contest Sunday afternoon at Diddley’s Landing public pier.

“People fly in here Saturdays so uptight they can’t even enjoy their free drink at the bar,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “Every one swears they’ll turn their phone off, and none of them ever do.

“Then last week a woman on the dock snatched the phone out of her husband’s hand and threw it as far as she could,” Skerritt said. “It was beautiful. With that arm, if she didn’t play third base, she should’ve.”

Resort staff hit on the idea of getting as many guests as possible to get rid of their phones.

“We got a lot of lukewarm smiles until we pitched it as a competition,” said divemaster and contest organizer Marina DeLow. “Then guests were fighting to see who would throw first. The ‘I Had A Fling on Blacktip Island’ t-shirt prizes help, too.

“We have separate categories for phones, tablets and laptops, and we’re thinking of adding a flip-phone category, too, for our older guests,” DeLow said. “Throwing styles are different for each. Phones you can throw overhand, but tablets fly better with a Frisbee toss. For laptops, a spinning, discus-style throw seems to work best.”

Many resort guests are grateful for Sunday’s Fling.

“I’ve been practicing with phone-sized rocks all day,” Eagle Ray Cove guest Theresa Troute said. “I know I can’t trust myself to not call work. My husband’s just as bad.

“We popped out our SIMs as soon as we got here, so we won’t lose our data,” Troute said. “Come Sunday, our phones are going flying. Thanks to the Fling, we’ll finally have a proper vacation”

Local scuba instructors will act as judges and supervise reef cleanup after the event.

“We put down ski rope transect lines across the reef so we can accurately measure where each device lands,” Eagle Ray Divers ops manager Ger Latner said. “The official distance is where the phone settles on the bottom, not where it hits the water.

“More importantly, we’ll use the grid to collect all the phones afterwards so no toxic chemicals or heavy metals will leach out onto the reef,” Latner said. “We’ve combined the cleanup with a search and recovery specialty course for our guests. As soon as the Fling’s finished, we’ll put the students in the water and have them swim search patterns until they find all the devices. For a reduced fee, of course.”

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DNA Tests Link Blacktip Natives To Ancient Egyptians

Egyptian links

A bas-relief of New Kingdom pharaoh Amenhotep I in Luxor Temple, Egypt. New DNA evidence suggests modern Blacktip Islanders are, genetically, closely related to ancient New Kingdom Egyptians. (photo courtesy of Rémih)

Genetics researchers on Blacktip Island announced Wednesday that DNA samples from 32 present-day Blacktip natives, sent to the Max Planck Institute in Germany, showed modern Blacktippers are closely related to ancient Egyptians.

“Our collective jaw hit the floor,” lead researcher Goby Graysby said. “We knew there was something unique about us, but the hypothesis going in was excessive inbreeding. We in no way expected this.”

The Blacktip DNA samples were compared to samples from 137 New Kingdom mummies from Abusir-el Meleq in central Egypt.

“It does explain a lot, Graysby said. “Antonio Fletcher in profile is a dead ringer for Amenhotep I, but we always thought that was from too much rum. And most locals’ handwriting could pass for hieroglyphics. Heck, Blacktippers even walk like Egyptians.”

The discovery sparked debate about how Egyptians might have arrived on Blacktip a thousand years before the Caribbean island was thought to be populated.

“Thor Heyerdahl proved, back in the 70s, Egyptian papyrus rafts could cross the Atlantic,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “That’s the obvious route. Anything else – space aliens, wormholes – is pure speculation.

“It also speaks to why there’s so many cats running loose on the island,” Altschul said. “And our climate, combined with rum, is perfect for mummification. I wouldn’t be surprised if we found mummies in some inland caves, now that we know to look for them.”

The news has increased interest in archeology among locals.

“There’s some odd rock carvings inland that people’ve ignored for years,” divemaster Marina DeLow said. “And coral heads that look like stepped pyramids – we just assumed they were Mayan. This Egyptian heritage, it makes me even more proud to be from Blacktip.”

Others noted striking Egyptian parallels in the island’s infrastructure.

“Most people don’t realize Blacktip’s resorts are laid out in a grid that aligns with the sunrise at solstice and sunset at equinox, just like the Great Pyramid,” said the former Rev. Jerrod Ephesians, head of the island’s Rosicrucian Order. “You have to hold the map just right, and squint, but the pattern is unmistakable. That couldn’t happen without sophisticated outside influence.”

Local businesses are already promoting the discovery.

“We’re renovating our lobby as a scale replica of ancient Karnak,” said Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt. “And all the rooms will have early New Kingdom-themed bas-relief carvings on tan plaster walls.”

Genetics researchers, meanwhile, say their work is just beginning.

“We still have to trace 3,500-year-old bloodlines, check for possible royal connections, you name it,” Goby said. “We have years of study ahead of us.”

“The original inbreeding hypothesis is still very much on the table,” Goby added. “Ancient Egyptian royalty was notorious for that. It may turn out to be less a small, isolated populations thing than it is a genetic predisposition thing.”

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Does Photo Show Elvis, Jim Morrison Alive On Blacktip Island?

Elvis on Blacktip

A photo from the Blacktip Island Historical Society archives that society officials say shows Elvis Presley (at right, with back to camera) and Doors singer Jim Morrison (at left, in background) alive on Blacktip Island in the late 1970s, well after both musicians’ alleged deaths. (photo courtesy of the Blacktip Island Historical Society)

Historians at the Blacktip Island Historical Society Thursday announced the discovery of a photograph that indicates Elvis Presley and Doors front man Jim Morrison were alive on Blacktip Island well after their reported deaths.

The photo, which shows the back of a man’s head officials say is Presley’s and part of the forehead of a man they say is Morrison, supports local legends that the two rock and roll icons lived out their later lives in seclusion on the small Caribbean island.

“You could have knocked me down with a feather when I found it,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “I called in a couple of associates, and they were both gobsmacked.

“There’s not enough detail to use facial recognition, but we do have top-of-the-line head recognition software,” Altschul said. “And boy did it ping on those two figures.”

Many residents feel vindicated by the find.

“There’s been talk for years about Elvis and Jim Morrison coming to Blacktip to escape all the media ruckus,” amateur historian Doris Blenny said. “But there was only circumstantial evidence: lots of Skerritts with major sideburns, and all those shaggy-headed Bottomses running around.

“So many of us have wanted to believe for so long,” Blenny said. “It’s nice to finally find solid evidence. Or something close to it.”

Others agree the photo adds credence to the theory the two men spent their final days on Blacktip.

“Elvis dying on the toilet? Brother Jim dying of heart failure at 27? I don’t think so,” said resident Rusty Goby. “Daddy used to tell of a local scuba-ska band in the 80s called ‘El Viz and the Hatches.’ That can’t be coincidence.

“There’s no photos or footage of them playing, but them hiding out here makes way more sense than dying on the crapper,” Goby said. “And Morrison spent a ton of time on Blacktip before he formed the Doors. He called himself the ‘Lizard King’ after the island iguanas.”

Others, though, say too much is being read into the photo.

“The people in that picture could be anyone,” local Christina Mojarra said. “The back of someone’s head? Seriously? Smithson needs to lay off the white rum. He’s just looking for attention. And funding.”

Society officials denied claims the photo is a marketing ploy for an upcoming fundraiser.

“Sure, there’s a music festival next week to raise money for our archives,” Altschul said. “But it’s pure chance that we’re featuring Elvis impersonators and Doors cover bands.

“This photo has helped get the word out, though,” Altshul added. “We’re looking for a bigger venue. People can’t get flights to Blacktip, the planes are so full.”

Some residents can’t wait for the festival to start.

“I doubt either is still alive, but what if they are?” Blenny said. “How incredible would it be if Elvis and Jim Morrison showed up, maybe even sang together on stage?”

Tickets can be purchased at the Blacktip Island Historical Society.

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Power Outages Spawn Lottery Among Blacktip Islanders

power outage lotto

Blacktip Island’s aging electric generator is the heart of the island’s power grid. Frequent power outages have prompted residents to organize a lottery in which participants guess the time of the next outage, with the closest guess winning a cash prize. (photo courtesy of Dual Freq)

After numerous power outages on Blacktip Island in recent weeks, residents have organized a cash lottery that allows people to guess the day and time of the next power outage, with a portion of the winnings going to the Caribbean island’s aging power plant.

“Electricity’s been going out daily, sometimes multiple times,” lottery organizer Kay Valve said. “Public Works has blamed everything from a faulty generator to broken insulators to iguanas chewing on the power lines. The surges are killing our computers and other electronics, no matter how many surge protectors we use.

“We’re making lemonade out of lemons, and hopefully helping solve the problem in the process,” Valve said. “For a dollar, you pick the date, time and duration of the next outage. Half of the pot goes to the winner and half goes to the power plant for facility upgrades.”

The island’s Public Works Department has embraced the plan.

“The phone was ringing off the hook this past month with people howling mad about losing power,” public works chief Stoney MacAdam said. “It got to where we were scared to go out in public, folks were so hacked off.”

“Now it’s a game. People want the power to go out,” MacAdam said. “They cheer when it does. Of course, the down side is folks gaming the system. Yesterday we caught Dermott Bottoms trying to chop a power line with his machete so he could win the big jackpot. We’re alert for that kind of thing.”

The lottery is popular among Blacktip Island residents as well.

“If throwing in a few dollars’ll keep my A/C running, I’m all for it,” said resident Paloma Fairlead. “Plus, any money I win goes toward new internet modems. With all the outages and surges, I’m going through two a week these days.”

However, not all residents support the gaming.

“This is gambling, plain and simple,” said the Rev. Pierre Grunt. “It’s immoral and illegal. The next thing you know there’ll be casinos and who knows what else ruining Blacktip. I keep badgering Rafe Marquette to shut it down, but he wont do it.”

The island’s police constable downplayed the legal issues.

“It’s not strictly legal, but it is for the public good, so it’s really somewhat of a gray area,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “And Pierre seems to be the only one upset about it. I’m sure what the complaint is.

“The lottery people have been quite positive,” Marquette said. “They’ve even been kind enough to buy me a ticket for each round, and even when I don’t win, I usually get some sort of consolation prize.”

Blacktip Island public works officials would not comment on potential timelines to resolve the outages.

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Mount Sargassumore Rises Over Blacktip Island

mount sargassumore

In a two-pronged effort to clean sargassum from the beaches and to create the highest point in the Tiperon Islands, Blacktip Island residents are urged to bring beached seaweed to a central collection point, dubbed ‘Mount Sargassumore’ atop the island’s southern bluff. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/Blacktip Times staff)

Blacktip Island civic leaders this week began building the highest point in the Tiperon Islands by collecting washed up sargassum and turtle grass into one mound, ‘Mount Sargassumore,’ on top of the Caribbean island’s southern bluff..

“A couple of years ago Tiperon started billing itself as the highest point in the Tiperons to attract tourists worried about being on a low-lying island during hurricane season,” Blacktip Island Chamber of Commerce president Whitey Bottoms said. “Turned out, that was great marketing. Their hotels are full all through the summer.

“Problem is, their gain’s been Blacktip’s loss,” Bottoms said. “Here it is mid-July and our resorts are half empty. We’re barely scraping by. Most places are closing for August and September.”

Island Council members suggested a seaweed mountain to solve multiple problems.

“That southwest wind’s been piling sargassum knee-deep on the beaches,” mayor Jack Cobia said. “Resort guests can’t get to the water, the smell could choke a goat, and the sand flies eat you alive.

“We have to haul the stuff somewhere, so we’re killing two birds with one stone,” Cobia said. “The beaches get cleared, and all the seaweed goes to one central spot to form our new mountain.”

Residents say the growing hillock has become a source of island pride.

“Mount Sargassumore will put Blacktip Island on the map,” said long-time resident Ginger Bass. “The piled seaweed dries and rots, so it’s a bit of two feet upward, one foot back, but we’re committed to making this a reality.

“Everyone’s bringing whatever seaweed they can, be it by the truckload or the bucketful,” Bass said. “The slightest handful may be the very bit that keeps our bars in business.

The project is not without its detractors.

“We live directly downwind of that monstrosity and you can’t imagine the stench,” resident Frank Maples said. “Even inside with the air conditioning on, it makes your eyes water. Everything we eat or drink tastes like rotted fish, and as soon as we step outside the midges nearly carry us away.

“A mountain is fine, but why not down south where no one lives?” Maples said. It’s island politics, plain and simple. Booger Bottoms didn’t want the reek chasing customers away from his Last Ballyhoo bar. On Blacktip, it pays to be a Bottoms.”

Despite the criticism, officials are optimistic about the project’s success.

“The goal is 200 feet of elevation by the end of July, and we may reach that with days to spare,” Whitey Bottoms said. “Then we’ll put a flashing light on top as a navigational beacon. And for the safety of low-flying aircraft.”

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