Blacktip Ague Ravages Blacktip Island Populace


Larvae of the mosquitoes Blacktip Island health officials say carry the tropical fever sweeping the small Caribbean island. (photo courtesy of James Gathany, CDC)

An unseasonal outbreak of Blacktip ague this week has Blacktip Island public health officials concerned about the population’s collective health as flu season approaches.

“Blacktip ague pops up every few years, usually mid-July when mosquitoes are thickest,” Public Health Department spokesperson Dr. Alexandrine Poesy said. “We were ready with vaccines for it then, but those meds have a short shelf life. We don’t stock them year round. And some people just refuse to be vaccinated.

“While the ague’s not immediately life threatening, the big concern is this outbreak may weaken islanders’ immune systems and make them more susceptible to influenza,” Poesy said. “That, and its annoying symptoms. This could be a real double whammy for us.”

Blacktip ague’s symptoms include fever, flamboyant gestures and use of iambic hexameter, Poesy said. In extreme cases, victims speak in rhyming couplets.

The disease is believed to have been introduced to the island by European explorers in the mid-1600s.

“DNA research says about four centuries ago a Blacktip Island mosquito bit a Frenchman,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Ague victims have been talking in those damn six-beat sentences ever since.

“Any other fever, people stick to normal pentameter, like proper Brits and Americans,” Altschul said. “It’s aggravating. And that doesn’t even address the rhyming nonsense.”

Local dive operators say the outbreak has already affected their businesses.

“Our whole dive staff’s got it,” said Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner. “Guests laugh at first, hearing a villanelle for a dive briefing and seeing the divemasters in Speedos and red knit caps. But after the first morning, people just want to go diving.

“I mean, today when Lee spouted out, ‘Be gentle with the morays that lurk on this site / They’ll take a pound of flesh if your wetsuit’s too tight’ in that Jacques Cousteau accent, divers were knocking each other down and jumping overboard,” Latner said. ‘It’s creepy.”

Health professionals, meanwhile, are urging aggressive treatment.

“With this fever, the urge is to drink wine, but that just makes it worse,” said Poesy said. “The only effective treatment once the rhyming hits is tequila. Administered externally. Shower in it. Soak in it. Now’s not the time to skimp.”

Many locals, though, have put their trust in home remedies.

“Mama’s whelk-stew enema’s the best for what plagues you,” said island handyman Dermott Bottoms. “Stops all your rhyming and blows out your damn ague.”


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Blacktip Islanders Say ‘Whatever’ To Passive-Aggression Workshop


A pink railroad vine blossoms at Blacktip Island’s Blacktip Haven resort, site of the cancelled passive-aggression management workshop. (photo courtesy of Leigh Shore)

A Blacktip Association for Mental Health-sponsored passive aggression and sarcasm retreat this weekend at Blacktip Haven resort has been cancelled due to local indifference, organizers said.

“Passive aggression is the monster on Blacktip Island, gnawing away at the community’s well being,” psychologist and BAMH facilitator Leigh Shore said. “This retreat was supposed to be a lifeline for islanders identify to and properly deal with hostility regulation.

“Now, with everyone boycotting, we’re stuck in the same old snarky mess,” Shore said. “What can I say? You can’t help people who don’t want to be helped.”

Some locals said the lack of turnout was due to confusion about the workshop’s goals.

“”I don’t know why Leigh’s so upset,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Alison Diesel said. “The flyer read ‘Passive Aggressive Workshop.’ You couldn’t tell whether it was for or against passive aggression.

“I mean, if she was gonna teach how to get better at it, I was all in,” Diesel said. “But two days of being nice to a roomful of jerks? Whatever.”

Other locals voiced broader criticism.

“Some yahoo gonna tell us how to live better? Not happening, you know,” local handyman Dermott Bottoms said. “It attacks our culture, our way of life.”

Island mayor Jack Cobia agreed.

“We Blacktip Islanders don’t suffer from passive aggression. We quite enjoy it,” Cobia said. “It’s not a disorder. It’s a coping mechanism, the survival skill that allows us to get along.

“As for no one going to this seminar-thingy, I’m not losing any sleep over it,” Cobia said.

Workshop organizers, meanwhile, still hope to attract participants.

“I’m not mad,” Shore said. “All it takes is one attendee to make this a success. If the workshop doesn’t go this weekend, we’ll do it next weekend. And the next. We’ll run it every weekend until someone shows up.”

Locals were not swayed.

“No one’s got time for that damn class,” Bottoms said. “And if Leigh tries to make us go, well, she’ll see some active aggression.”

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Blacktip Island Marine Parks Launch Underwater Walking Trails


Blacktip Island’s new underwater walking trails offer buoyancy-challenged divers the chance to see some of the Caribbean island’s most iconic underwater sights, such as the grotto at Jawfish Reef. (Photo courtesy of Val Schrader/Marine Parks)

The Tiperon Islands Marine Parks Department has teamed with Blacktip Island’s Skerritt Construction to build a network of underwater trails, aimed at reef conservation, around some of the island’s most popular dive sites. The first trail was officially opened Thursday afternoon.

“The coral on these dive sites is being destroyed by all the divers,” Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “They grab coral. They kneel on coral. They stand on coral. They destroy hundreds of years of growth in an instant.

“We were told banning divers was off the table,” Schrader said. “Instead, these trails will give divers a place to stand and kneel and drag their gauges without killing anything. Think of them as pre-killed zones to protect the reef.”

The paths are laid out over sand and across stretches of dead and severely-damaged coral identified by Marine Parks personnel. Trail building was done by Skerritt Construction.

“We use coral-safe marine concrete, stuff that’s been in use since Roman times,” said Skerritt Construction owner Rich Skerritt. “The pointy-heads from Parks mark off where the path should go, and we go to town.

“It’s a Godsend for the island, really,” Skerritt said. “Topside’s about all paved over. We were having to lay people off.”

Local reaction was generally positive.

“I had a lovely dive just this morning,” Blacktip resident Edwin Chub said. “They put in benches so you can sit and ponder a single coral head.

“And when the current picked up, well, there’s also aluminum pegs to pull yourself along, or just hold yourself in place,” Chub said. “They really did think of everything.”

Others were not convinced.

“This sends entirely the wrong message – that it’s OK to touch the reef,” said Harry Picket, president of the Blacktip Island Pelagic Society. “Even on dead coral there’re still polyps trying to reestablish themselves. Most dive guests don’t know dead coral from live coral from their own butts.”

Local dive operators, though, hailed the trails’ potential.

“They’re perfect for Discover Scuba Diving students,” Eagle Ray Divers dive operations manager Ger Latner. “Our instructors can just drag the punters over the paved stretches and not worry so much about buoyancy. It’s good for the reef and divemaster blood pressure.

“We’re also offering hard-hat diving courses,” Latner said. “You can strap on a helmet and lead boots and walk the trails if you want. For an upcharge.”

Marine Parks officials say the trails also open more opportunities for visiting divers.

“We’re building shore entry sites near all the main underwater trails,” Schrader said. “We also have trail maps, and underwater rangers to make sure no one gets lost. Or strays off the trails and into the coral.”

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Blacktip Island To Get Traffic Signals

A motorcycle speeds past one of Blacktip Island’s intersections at rush hour Thursday.

The Blacktip Times offices are closed this week in honor of The Battle of Blacktip Remembrance Week. The editors are reposting an earlier story that addresses a still-unresovled safety issue on the small Caribbean island. – the editors

Citing growing safety concerns, the Department of Public Works will install traffic lights at both of Blacktip Island’s intersections this week.

“This has been a critical situation for a while,” Public Works director Dusty Rhodes said. “There’s the road around the island, and there’s the one across it. Where they come together, you’ve got disaster waiting to happen.”

Not all locals are happy with the decision.

“We hardly use the existing stop signs,” long-time resident Frank Maples said. “There’s what, 20 motor vehicles on island? I don’t recall any of them smashing into one another. If these lights go up, the next thing you know the government will be paving the roads, then painting stripes on them, then giving them names. It’s a slippery slope. People come to Blacktip to get away from that sort of rubbish.”

Rhodes disagreed.

“The stop signs aren’t working. Last year alone we had three near-misses . . . that we know of. We don’t want that to escalate, especially with the holiday season on us. These roads may not have names, but I assure you they’ll have traffic signals. We’re installing cameras, too, so we can keep an eye on things.

“Our job is to bring this island into the 21st Century, kicking and screaming if necessary. If we step on a few toes in the process, well, so be it.”

Police officials confirmed the Caribbean island has seen an uptick in the number of vehicle accidents in recent months.

“All have been one-car affairs, usually on Friday and Saturday nights, but you can’t argue with the statistics,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “The trees and power poles are taking a terrible beating.”

The most recent incident involved a lone scooter rider who ran a stop sign and sped into Eagle Ray Sound, IPC Marquette said.

“He blew through the intersection full tilt. Zoom! Splash! We had to call scuba rescue to pull him out. He nearly drowned.”

Rhodes would not comment on rumors his department would also be erecting nets beyond each intersection to contain other wayward motorists before they reached the water.

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Blacktip Community Players Unveil “The Whaling Ship Essex” Operetta


The Last Ballyhoo bar’s foyer will become the whaling town of Nantucket in the Blacktip Island Community Opera’s production of “The Whaling Ship Essex” Saturday night. (photo courtesy of Alison Diesel)

The Blacktip Island Community Opera launches its Fall Music Series Saturday night at the Last Ballyhoo bar with the original operetta “The Whaling Ship Essex,” written by director Doris Blenny and choreographed by her husband Jack.

The performance commemorates the 1820 sinking of a Nantucket whaling ship by a giant sperm whale. The 20-man crew spent the next 95 days in open whaleboats, eventually resorting to cannibalism before eight survivors were rescued.

“Everyone loves light opera,” Doris Blenny said. “The challenge here was to prove an operetta can make anything enjoyable. Gilbert and Sullivan would be pleased.

“Jack added modern dance flourishes, too, to draw in the younger crowd,” Blenny said. “Think ‘The Mikado’ meets ‘Stomp.’”

Much of the stomping is done by the whale, a papier-mâché behemoth with a plywood-reinforced head for ramming.

“With a costume so large, we really needed three people to make it move properly,” Jack Blenny said. “And the whale sings in a bass-baritone, so we were pulling our hair out to find someone with a singing voice so deep.

“Both problems were solved when Dermott Bottoms auditioned,” Blenny said. “He’s big enough to move the whale realistically by himself, and he’s the only person on Blacktip who sings in that range.”

“Dermott sings quite off key,” Doris Blenny added. “But when he’s searching for the right note it sounds eerily like real whalesong. It’s beautiful, really.”

Other cast members include Jerrod Ephesians as Captain George Pollard, Alison Diesel as first mate Owen Chase, Payne Hanover as Seaman Staines and Marina DeLow as Owen Coffin.

“No one wanted to play the Coffin boy,” Hanover said. “Except Lee Helm, but he’s always been a bit off. We banned him from rehearsals. He kept nibbling on the other actors.”

Musical highlights include:

  • A Whale of a Tale
  • Oh, Whatever Will Rhyme With Nantucket?
  • A Spout! A Spout, I Shout!
  • Stove by a Whale
  • Dry Bones
  • I Could Eat a Topgallant, Could You?
  • Why’s Roger, The Cabin Boy, Blue?

Cast members praised the production’s realistic special effects.

“We cut out the middle of the bar so the whale can burst up from below,” Alison Diesel said. “And there’s inflatable kiddie pools for him to crash into. Anyone in the first three rows is gonna get soaked.

“Plus, the Essex is made of sun-brittled polystyrene,” Diesel said. “When Dermot hits it, it blows all to hell and back!”

The operetta in sponsored by Starbucks and Slim Jim. All proceeds will go to the Blacktip Island Food Bank.

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Management, Labor Unite For Divemaster Rehab Center


The Blacktip Association for Re-envisioned Futures divemaster rehabilitation center will be built on landfill wetland on the Caribbean island’s east coast. The center will provide counseling and job training for injured dive staff. (Photo courtesy of Finn Kiick)

In a rare show of unity between business leaders and labor activists, Blacktip Island resort owners have partnered with Divemasters’ Local #138 to build a rehabilitation and job-training center for incapacitated divemasters.

Groundbreaking for the Blacktip Association for Re-envisioned Futures will begin Saturday morning with island mayor Jack Cobia and other dignitaries ceremoniously blasting out the first chunk of ironshore.

“Guests don’t realize the career-ending injuries dive staff can get,” union president Finn Kiick said. “Decompression sickness isn’t even in the top five. The real monsters are blown out backs, shredded elbows and anger-control meltdowns on the boat.

“It’s even gnarlier because a ton of DMs are in their 30s when they have to retire,” Kiick said. “Some don’t know how to do anything else. It’s a bumpy transition into the adult world. This center’ll help with that.”

BARF backers outlined its rigorous rehabilitation schedule.

“They’ll get daily physical therapy and occupational training,” said Eagle Ray Cove owner and center financier Rich Skerritt. “The first few weeks they’ll learn how to wear collared shirts. Then they’ll work up to going a full day in shoes.

“Psych counseling’s big, too,” Skerritt said. “Especially for the ones who teed-off on guests. We address head-on the main question lots of these scuba hippies have: ‘if I’m not a divemaster, what am I?’”

Not all locals are sympathetic.

“It means more employment for the island, certainly, but is the expense really necessary?” said longtime resident Frank Maples. “These young people don’t need training and counseling, they simply need to grow up and get a proper job. A divemaster’s much like a municipal bond – when it turns 30 it ought to mature and earn some money.”

Others, though, were enthusiastic about the center’s plan for long-term divemaster care.

“One wing will be housing for dive staff who are . . . well . . . a bit longer in the tooth than is ideal,” counselor Peachy Bottoms said. “Some have been divemasters so long, they’ll never be able to integrate back into in the real world. And there’s no way we can, in conscience, turn them loose on an unsuspecting population.

“Most divemasters take it quite hard when they realize it’s time to hang it up,” Bottoms said. “For some it’s when joints hurt too much. Or when the hangovers get unbearable. Or when the younger dive guests start treating them like a pervy uncle.”

BARF officials touted the center’s long-term residency program.

“It’s rare for a divemaster to save much money. Any money, really,” Skerritt said. “We can’t have a bunch of bums wandering the island. If they’re here, we can keep an eye on them. And we’ll keep them here with housing, meals and a generous bar tab at subsidized rates. The Divemasters’ Union’s picking up the tab.

“We’ll have the usual retiree activities,” Skerritt said. “Shuffleboard, movie nights, drinking contests, the whole shebang.”

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Blacktip Island Author Releases New Humor Novel

Blacktip Island cover

Tim W. Jackson’s humor novel, Blacktip Island, was released Saturday.

Local award-winning author Tim W. Jackson Saturday released his second novel, Blacktip Island, via all major book distributors and his personal website.

Blacktip Island follows a bumbling embezzler who runs off to the Caribbean, a step ahead of the Feds and desperate to start life over as an anonymous divemaster in a tropical 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 rollicking comedy for anyone who’s ever dreamed of trading the rat race for an exotic tropical locale,” Jackson said. “If Margaritaville and Northern Exposure had a love child, they’d call it Blacktip Island.

Early reviewers praised the novel.

The San Francisco Book Review said, “Five Stars. Blacktip Island’s storyline gets readers hooked, and the characters take this book to another level.” The Portland Book Review called Blacktip Island, “fun and funny, its characters vivid. Take your time and dive into this adventurous story.” IndieReader said, “Jackson has a strong voice that makes for an entertaining read from beginning to end.”

The novel’s first chapter is available as a free download below The Blacktip Times’ “World News” section and on the author’s website.

Blacktip Island is available for purchase at:




A portion of all proceeds from Blacktip Island go to the Nature Conservancy’s Coral Reef Preservation Fund.

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