The first wave of pygmy sharks has returned to Blacktip Island, signaling the unofficial end of hurricane season and the beginning of Shark Days pranks.
“It may be an old wives tale, but it holds true,” Sandy Bottoms, owner of Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort said. “We’ve had nasty blows after the official December 1 end-of-hurricane-season date, but never after the sharks show up.
“They’re a month late, but we’re happy to see them. Everyone can let our hair down and have some fun now that storm season’s past.”
The diminutive sharks (Carcharhinus pygmius) migrate past the Tiperon Island chain on their way to winter breeding grounds off coast of Central America.
Scientists speculate the end of storm season coinciding with the pygmy sharks’ return is due to seasonal weather patterns bringing cooler water to Blacktip Island, and the sharks along with it.
The sharks’ arrival is greeted with parties along island beaches.
“We bring the kids and make a day of it,” resident Edwin Chub said. “It truly brings the community together. No better way to welcome the New Year than with these little fellows . . . and some good-natured jokes.”
The sharks, trickster figures in island lore, also bring a time of island-wide practical joking.
“It’s a way to blow off steam without any long-term repercussions,” Chub said. “An island this small, neighbors have to get along. You can’t go having a confrontation every time there’s a disagreement – you do that you lose a friend, and quite possibly the help you need in the next storm. These pranks let us vent our frustrations in healthy, productive ways so we can all live happily together.”
“A couple years back, someone filled Payne Hanover’s place with live land crabs,” resident Nelson Pilchard said. “Big ones. Took Payne forever to get them all out. They tore up two oven mitts and a baseball glove before he was through. And he was days cleaning up the crab poop.”
“Last year someone left a pair of lacey red panties in Mickey Smarr’s glove box, with a note saying, ‘thanks for the good time,’” Bottoms said. “When Mickey’s wife found them, she beat him near-senseless. Only thing saved him was it was Shark Days. They’re still married, and Mickey’s scars are healing nicely. No one knows who did it. Could have been anyone – Mickey has a way of pissing people off. ‘The sharks got him,’ as we say.”
Island authorities could not confirm whether last night’s fire at the Customs house was related to a Shark Days prank.
“We’re lucky Shark Days only last a few weeks,” Chub said, “otherwise the celebrations might get out of hand.”