New Dinosaur Species Discovered On Blacktip Island

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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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Blacktip Island Divemasters Launch Underwater Jenga League

Jenga

One of the last parking chocks still above water on Blacktip Island, with an underwater giant Jenga team’s lift bag and mallet, in the Blacktip Haven resort parking lot.

Members of a newly-formed underwater giant Jenga league have illegally cleared Blacktip Island’s parking lots of cement parking chocks for use as game blocks, island authorities said Friday.

In conventional Jenga, players take turns removing one wooden block at a time from a tower of blocks, then balance that block on top of the stack to create a progressively taller but less stable structure.

“It started with bored divemasters and a load of sunken chocks that fell overboard out from the public dock,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Next thing you know, they’re dragging chocks from resort parking lots and chucking them into the sea.

“After a YouTube video, it really took off,” Marquette said “Now they’ve hauled off every parking bumper that’s not bolted down so they can make a regulation 54-block set. I’d arrest them all, but there’s no proof who committed the actual thefts.”

Players preferred to focus on the intricacies of the game.

“It’s giant Jenga, only with more adrenalin,” said divemaster Alison Diesel. “Each block weighs, like, 200 pounds. Two-person teams use lift bags to make a block neutrally buoyant, then tap it out of the pile with rubber mallets.

“Both people have to be in synch, or things get ugly,” Diesel said. “Personal buoyancy control’s a biggie, too. You’re down in the sand when a six-foot tower crashes down, you’re crab food.”

League organizers brushed aside talk of the game’s illegality.

“We’ve done nothing wrong and no one stole anything,” de facto league president Jerrod Ephesians said. “The blocks were underwater debris. We’re simply using them. And we never have matches when the barge is due. That’d create a navigational hazard.

“The only problem we’ve had is a couple of ugly incidents involving husband-and-wife teams,” Ephesians said. “Kitty Smarr swore she dumped her lift bag by accident, and that she was yelling for help, but Mickey damn-near got crushed, and it sure sounded like Kitty was laughing through her regulator.”

Police, meanwhile, are concerned the missing bumpers imperil public safety.

“There’s not a single chock in any of the island’s car parks,” Marquette said. “That creates a dangerous situation. I can seize the ones that’ve been sunk, but I have no way to get them out of the water. Meantime, motorists are damaging vehicles, buildings and themselves without chocks to stop the cars.”

One local business owner is using the Jenga matches to cover the cost of new parking bumpers at his resort.

“We put in underwater cameras at Diddley’s Landing,” said Rich Skerritt, owner of Eagle Ray Cove resort. “We’re charging folks to watch the live feed at the bar. That, and the alcohol sales, should recoup the cost of chocks. And when we get new ones, we’re gonna pound them in place with five, six feet of rebar so these scuba hippies can’t steal them.”

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Flare Gun Shootout Mars Blacktip Island Unity Day

flare guns

Some of the emergency signaling pyrotechnics seized by Blacktip Island police after Thursday night’s signal-flare shootout. (photo courtesy of Raphael Marquette)

A flare gun battle between two Blacktip Island Unity Day dock parties, celebrating the island’s varied cultures living peacefully together, resulted in three arrests, fourteen injuries and the confiscation of all flares and flare pistols Thursday night.

“It started as good holiday fun,” said Clete Horn, whose eyebrows were scorched off in the melee. “We had country music playing on our dock, the Sand Spit Bar had reggae blasting on theirs, and people were hollering back and forth at one another.

“Each party had its own fireworks show, and they started at the same time,” Horn said. ‘Next thing you know, folks were adding their own fireworks, trying to outdo the other dock.”

Police say the situation escalated quickly.

“First it was bottle rockets being fired dock-to-dock, then Roman candles,” said Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette. “Next thing we knew, people had broken out emergency signal pistols and were blazing away.

“At one point party-goers were swimming out to moored dive boats to rearm themselves with nautical flares,” Marquette said. “They were even firing those big parachute flares to see their targets better.”

The island’s medical clinic was overwhelmed by the injuries.

“I’m not set up for something on this scale,” island nurse Marissa Wrasse said. “There were so many burns, I ran out of unguent. I had to grab mayonnaise from the ‘fridge and slather that on burns.

“Ran out of that, too, by the end,” Wrasse said. “Dermott Bottoms took a direct hit right down the back of his shorts. You have no idea the size of Dermott Bottoms’ bottom.”

Authorities confiscated all incendiaries to prevent further violence, a move that angered some locals.

“It’s not safe, Rafe leaving us with nothing but survival mirrors,” boat captain Marina DeLow said. “What if we have an emergency and need to signal for help?”

The police, however, remained adamant.

“Damn right I seized all the flares,” Marquette said. “These yobbos were even throwing smoke canisters and orange dye markers at each other.

“This is why they can’t have nice things,” Marquette said. “Until they learn how to use pyrotechnics responsibly, they’ll just have to jump up and down and waive their arms if there’s an emergency.”

Unity Day organizers, meanwhile, have scheduled an alcohol-free follow-up celebration Friday evening they hope will bring the island community back together.

“We figured we’d get everyone in one place, then sit down and talk things out,” Unity Day committee chair Kay Valve said. “Of course, Dermott’ll have to stand, but that’ll be a reminder why this is so important.”

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Blacktip Island Votes Itself Independent

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A new day dawns on Blacktip Island after residents Wednesday voted to declare themselves an independent nation. (photo courtesy of Rocky Shore)

In a surprise referendum Wednesday, Blacktip Island residents chose overwhelmingly to leave the Tiperon Islands. The vote, if approved by the Blacktip Island Commission, would establish the small Caribbean island as an independent nation.

The vote, known locally as the Bleave, was called after an increase in import duty for alcohol from Tiperon, the capital island, resulted in several days of public protest on Blacktip.

“You better believe I voted to Bleave,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Our so-called representative on the big island wasn’t elected. Blacktip’s a small island, out on the edge of things. Last election, we just plain forgot to vote. That’s when politicos in the capitol appointed one of their cronies.

“Next thing you know, our man – a preacher, no less – votes to double the price of our booze,” Cobia said. “We scheduled a vote to stop the riots, and, boy, did folks turned out. Well, three folks, anyway. But we all voted ‘out.’”

Critics say independence could cripple the island’s economy.

“There’s no way this little sand spit can survive on its own,” said Rocky Shore, economics professor at Tiperon University-Blacktip. “Tourism’s all Blacktip has, and 100 drunks can’t provide the infrastructure to support that product.

“Democracy’s not always best,” Shore said. “Voters should have stayed home again instead of turning out to vote.”

The pro camp, though, expects the island’s economy to thrive.

“All the dive operations and bars are going like gangbusters,” said Rick Skerritt, owner of Eagle Ray Cove resort. “Us Blacktippers are used to looking out for ourselves, and each other.

“My ancestors came to this island with nothing but their dreams. And investment capital,” Skerritt said. “I’ll be damned if some pencil pusher from Tiperon’s gonna run my life.”

Others took a more low-key approach.

“Sure, people are up in arms, but nothing’ll change,” handyman Antonio Fletcher said. “It’s Blacktip Island. Nothing ever changes.

“It’s good being on our own,” Fletcher said. “Tiperon’s got too many foreigners, anyway. And teetotalers.”

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Craft Distillery Plumbs Rum To Blacktip Island Homes

rum plumbing

Barry Bottoms demonstrates a newly-installed Bottoms Up rum-delivery faucet in a Blacktip Island home. (photo courtesy of Bottoms Up Distillery)

A Blacktip Island distillery’s plan to pipe rum to every home on the island came under fire Thursday from an unlikely alliance of the island’s religious community and bar owners.

“Drinking’s already out of control on this little rock,” said the Rev. Pierre Grunt. “This plan will let people sit at their sink and drink until they pass out.

“Before, at least they had to get up and go to a bar,” Grunt said. “And what’s to keep little children away from the tap?”

Brewery owners defended their plan.

“Our market’s tiny. We’re fighting to survive financially,” Bottoms Up Distillery president Barry Bottoms said. “The idea’s to make our new Bottoms Up dark rum readily available to everyone.

“I don’t understand why Pierre’s got his shorts in such a wad,” Bottoms said. “The taps have child-proof locks. And with so many people drinking at home, this’ll cut down on drunk driving, too.”

Grunt found support from the island’s bar owners.

“Barry’s playing dirty pool, siphoning customers away from us,” said Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt. “Before, we’d buy booze from Barry, mark it up, sell it to our patrons. This plan cuts us out of the loop.

“Don’t know what kind of pipes Barry’s using, but they better be sturdy,” Skerritt said. “No telling what kind of damage a burrowing iguana or land crab might do to those lines, if you take my meaning.”

Many residents, however, are excited about the plan.

“It’ll be great, never being out of hootch,” divemaster Gage Hoase said. “Unless you don’t pay your bill and they cut you off. And the monthly billing’s like running a bar tab, really. Plus, they give volume discounts.

“The only hitch I can see is a pressure drop if too many people go for a drink at the same time,” Hoase said. “Like halftime during the Super Bowl or something.”

Bottoms, meanwhile, said Bottoms Up is sensitive to residents who oppose the plan.

“Getting your house rum plumbed is 100 percent optional,” Bottoms said. “It does increase the home’s resale value, though, so we’re suggesting church goers and A.A. types get the line installed and then just cap it off.

“We have plans to run separate lines for light and dark rums, eventually,” Bottoms said. “And if it works well on Blacktip, we’ll branch out to the other Tiperon islands.”

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Vintage Scuba Enthusiasts Face Opposition On Blacktip Island

antique diving

Blacktip Island Mossback Club president Jay Valve’s vintage 1961 double-hose regulator at Diddley’s Landing public peir after a recent club shore dive. (photo courtesy of Jay Valve)

A vintage scuba diving club on Blacktip Island came under fire Thursday from dive operators and medical professionals who claim the group’s activities undermine public safety.

“No one’ll let us use our older gear on the dive boats, so we got together to dive on our own,” said Jay Valve, president of the Blacktip Island Mossbacks. “ I’ve been using this reg for 55 years, and it still works great. Why should I ditch it just because some 20-something dive bum tells me it’s out of date?

“I service my kit like clockwork. It’s as safe as any modern rig,” Valve said. “Next thing you know they’ll tell me a have to use a dive computer.”

Dive professionals say the mid-century equipment is inherently dangerous.

“Jay’s regulator’s older than my dad,” said Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick. “Makes the same noises Dad does, too. There’s no way we’re letting Jay on our boat. That reg doesn’t even have a pressure gauge.

“Knuckleheads want to go out and drown themselves, they’re welcome to it,” Kiick said. “Just don’t make us fill out any paperwork or talk to lawyers. Blacktip has boats and beaches. Beaches are good for them.”

Public safety officials want the group’s activities banned altogether.

“These are antiquated divers, trudging in from shore with antiquated equipment,” Public Health Director Herring Frye said. “It’s multiple coronaries waiting to happen. We don’t have the staff or infrastructure to handle that kind of thing.

“And what happens when youngsters see them and want to dive like that, too?” Frye said. “The police need to shut this down before someone dies.”

Island police say their hands are tied.

“No law about what kind of scuba equipment you can use, so long as you have a dive flag,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Looks kind of cool, too, all those ‘Sea Hunt’ rigs getting used. Reminds me of my Daddy’s gear.”

Club members, meanwhile, vowed to dive on.

“We’re all in better shape than most of the guests on the dive boats,” Mossback Clete Horn said. “And there’s a simplicity to this older equipment, an authenticity, if you will, that modern gear lacks. We’re not hung up on technology. We just dive.”

One resort, meanwhile, has embraced the club and its philosophy.

“They want authentic, we’ll take ‘em out on that old P.O.S. boat we can’t sell,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “It’s older than some of those museum pieces they’re diving with.

“If it sinks with them on it, well, that ads to the realism, doesn’t it?” Skerritt said. “We charge an up fee for an adventure dive and write the boat off on insurance.”

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Divers Discover Fountain of Youth on Blacktip Island Reef

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A juvenile nurse shark swims through the shallows at Blacktip Island’s Ponce de Leon Reef Thursday, near the underwater vents believed to have restored youth to scuba diving visitors. (Photo courtesy of Marina DeLow)

Scuba divers on Blacktip Island’s Ponce de Leon Reef Wednesday discovered what local authorities say may be the famed Fountain of Youth.

“There’s always been a halocline up in the shallows where fresh water vents up through the hardpan,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Marina DeLow said. “No idea why divers wandered up in there. The vis is manky and the coral’s just polyps.

“All the juvenile fish on that site should’ve been a tip off,” Diesel said. “Then when all those kids wearing adult-sized scuba gear climbed back on the boat, well, we knew something was up.”

Experts say the spring leaching out underwater may have helped keep it secret.

“Legend says the Fountain of Youth is in the Caribbean,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Explorers searched for it for centuries, but no one expected it to be underwater.

“We’re not sure what the source is, or why no one has noticed it before,” Altschul said. “It may be booby pond water, since no one’s ever tried to drink that stuff. Or the rejuvenating properties could be from booby pond muck catalyzing with seawater. We don’t even know if the effects are permanent.”

The discovery caused problems at Blacktip Island resorts.

“We had a boat full of guests at the bar demanding post-dive drinks,” Eagle Ray Cove resort manager Mickey Smarr said. “They talked like adults and all, but they were little kids. We had to turn them away. We’re not about to serve minors.”

Resort dive staffs have not been impacted by the water.

“Near as we can tell, divemasters are immune to the stuff,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “Shouldn’t come as a surprise, I guess. It’d be hard to get any less mature than our dive staff.

“We’re selling kids masks and t-shirts and sun screen like crazy, too,” Latner said. “So there is a silver lining.”

Island resort owners, meanwhile, are promoting the dive site for its obvious benefits.

“We’re charging double to dive there, and folks are lining up to pay for it,” said Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt. “We’re working up a Fountain of Youth Diver specialty course to teach divers how to get close enough to take a few years off without zapping themselves back to pre-puberty.

“That first group all has to get recertified as Junior Divers,” Skerritt said. “Damn shame. We can’t let some of them dive past 40 feet. There was a bit of marital strife by the resort pool, too, when a little tyke came back from diving and tried to get frisky with his non-diving wife.”

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