Monthly Archives: December 2013

St. Dervil’s Fever Sweeps Blacktip Island

A likeness of St. Dervil from the present-day Our Lady of Blacktip cathedral.

A likeness of St. Dervil from the present-day Our Lady of Blacktip cathedral.

Blacktip Island is bracing for today’s 441st St. Dervil’s Day festivities, honoring St. Dervil of the Iguanas, patron Saint of scuba diving and iguana husbandry.

A Rosicrucian monk fleeing colonial authorities, Dervil landed on Blacktip Island in 1542.

“He built the island’s first monastery from conch shells, coral rock and marl mortar,” island historian and museum curator Smithson Altschul said. “Dervil tried to remove himself from the secular world, but good luck with that on this island, even back then.

“His first documented miracle was driving all the Caribbean saltwater crocodiles from the island,” Altschul said. “He did it in a drunken haze, but it saved the islanders, who were on the verge of being eaten out of house and home.”

A study in contrast, Dervil also raised iguanas in his one-room monastery.

“He was barking mad,” Altschul said. “He lived with dozens of rock iguanas. Called them his monks. Tried to teach them Gregorian chants. But he had banished the man-eating crocs, so he was golden with the locals.

“The coconut mead he brewed helped gild that lily as well. Dervil first served it at Communion when he ran out of wine. That proved so popular he started offering Communion four, five times a day. Then he cut out the services altogether and just served mead. He eventually converted the monastery’s storehouse into a tavern.”

Dervil’s ministry was cut short December 27, 1557 when Norse raiders, blown off course on their way to Greenland, sacked the monastery. The church bestowed sainthood in 1572, making St. Dervil the Tiperon Islands’ first, and only, martyr.

“Several of the iguanas that died with him were up for sainthood, too,” Altschul added. “Church politics got in the way of that, though.”

Modern observances focus on Dervil’s life rather than his death.

“He was a raging drunk, so the celebration centers on everyone wearing paper mitre caps, getting absolutely potted and trying to catch iguanas,” event organizer Jay Valve said. “The last one standing gets to wear the iguana-skin mitre in the coming year.”

The highlight of the day, as ever, will be the mead brew-off, with residents trying to reproduce Dervil’s original mead recipe, lost when the Norsemen torched the island. Some are more successful than others.

“We’ve had some brews that tasted quite heavenly,” Valve said. “Most just smell of old socks. Or worse. The good news is Led Waite, our master of ceremonies, has his sight back after judging last year’s entries, so he’s good to go.”

The winner of the brew-off will receive an iguana.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving, Writing

Underwater Assaults Mar Holiday Diving

A security camera photo of the man believed to be responsible for the attacks.

A security camera photo of the man believed to be responsible for the attacks.

Island police are investigating a series of assaults on scuba enthusiasts diving off Blacktip Island during the past two days.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “All I can say is in the past day and a half, 12 divers have reported being accosted while diving on area reefs.”

“It’s shocking,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “We pride ourselves on being one of the most crime-free places in the Caribbean, then something like this happens.”

One victim, who asked to remain anonymous, said the attack happened without warning.

“One minute I’m looking at a green moray, the next someone snatches my mask off my face and jams a brand new mask on in its place,” she said. “He was gone before I could react.”

Another victim described a more harrowing experience.

“It was horrible. This old dude just popped out of a barrel sponge as I swam past,” the man said. “I saw him out of the corner of my eye, split-second, and Wham! He pinned me against the coral, jammed a new dive light down my wet suit, then disappeared up one of those coral chimneys. It’s great light, LED and all, but . . . it’s not right.”

Island police are still unsure of the assailant’s motive.

“He’s not physically harming divers, or taking anything of value,” IPC Marquette said. “On the contrary, all the victims report ending up with better scuba gear than they started out with.

“A do-gooder gone rogue, maybe. Or a thief with a guilty conscience, giving away his ill-gotten booty.”

“We won’t stand for it,” Skerritt said. “We’ve issued spears to all our divemasters, and they’ll do whatever’s necessary to protect our guests.”

Island authorities are asking for the public’s help in apprehending the man. The assailant is described as a heavy-set, elderly, with a white beard and wearing a red wetsuit. Several witnesses noted the man using a DPV or underwater sled of some sort to make his escapes. There are also unconfirmed reports of him being accompanied by eight or nine large Nassau grouper, one of which had inflamed, red nostrils.

2 Comments

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Gets Artificial Reef

A model aircraft carrier used in the film “Tomcats of Fury” is one of the ships slated to be sunk as an artificial reef.

A model aircraft carrier used in the film “Tomcats of Fury” is one of the ships slated to be sunk as an artificial reef.

In keeping with the trend of sinking retired ships to create artificial reefs, model warships used in numerous Hollywood films will be sunk off Blacktip Island’s west coast this week to create the island’s first artificial reef.

“They’re small, sure, but there’s a lot of them,” Director of Tourism Val Schrader said. “It may not be as dramatic as the artificial reefs in, say, Florida or the Cayman Islands, where they used full-sized ships, but we’re tickled pink nonetheless. Some islands larger than us don’t have an artificial reef at all.”

The plan has drawn protests from veterans groups, environmental organizations and cinematic professionals.

“If these craft aren’t properly cleaned, they could wreak havoc on incredibly fragile reef systems,” Harry Pickett of the Pelagic Society said. “One drop of airplane glue can wipe out a 1,000-year-old coral head. And they’re talking about dropping dozens of these things out there.”

Minnie Bilder, head of the Screen Propmakers Guild, voiced concern as well.

“These vessels have had long, dignified careers,” Bilder said. “They’re stars. They deserve better than to be chucked off a dive boat by a bunch of Jacques Cousteau wannabes building an amusement park.”

Schrader countered both objections.

“These models have been cleaned according to the highest international standards,” she said. “And we’re not going to just toss them overboard to settle willy-nilly on the coral. They’ll be taken down individually, with full honors, and placed on the sand in a dignified manner.

“This is win-win-win. The wrecks will attract divers to the island’s resorts, and the underwater structures will provide homes for fish and other marine creatures. It’s a boon for the economy and the ecosystem, and also allows the movie studios to free up warehouse storage space.

“We’re especially excited at the prospect of these ships providing homes for juvenile Goliath grouper,” Schrader said.”

Dives done on the miniature wrecks will count toward NAUI and PADI Miniature Wreck Diving specialty certifications.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving, Writing

Blacktip Island To Get Traffic Signals

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

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

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving