Monthly Archives: June 2014

Divemaster to Make Giant Stride Entry From Space

Divemaster Marina DeLow will splash down on Blacktip Island's Jawfish Reef Sunday after making a giant stride entry from a capsule at the edge of space. (photo courtesy of Stefan97)

Divemaster Marina DeLow will splash down on Blacktip Island’s Jawfish Reef Sunday after making a giant stride entry from a capsule at the edge of space. (photo courtesy of Stefan97)

Inspired by 2012’s record-setting space jump, Blacktip Island dive leader Marina DeLow will perform a giant stride scuba entry from the edge of space, splash down on an island dive site, then complete a recreational scuba dive this weekend.

“I grew up wanting to be an astronaut, and I love diving,” said DeLow, a divemaster at Eagle Ray Cove resort. “What better way to combine both passions? It’ll be the first time anyone’s gone from above the troposphere to below the troposphere with one step.

“We do giant strides from elevated piers all the time. This is really the same thing, just with more hang time.”

DeLow will splash down at Halyard Wall on Blacktip Island’s west coast, then do a 45-minute open-circuit dive before surfacing.

“The angle has to be just right,” said Dr. Azul Tang, head of DeLow’s jump support team. “She hits vertical, she’ll bottom out 260 feet down the wall; too oblique, she’ll skip across the water like a stone. She bounced four times and did a double-gainer in last week’s practice drop.

“Seventy-one point two degrees off vertical should put her at 53 feet of depth. That’s our goal.”

The European Space Agency (Agence spatiale européenne) has donated the balloon to lift DeLow 120,000 feet into the stratosphere. Eagle Ray Divers has donated a specially-modified dive boat for use as a gondola.

“The Guinness World Record folks said it won’t count as a giant stride unless it’s from a boat,” Eagle Ray Divers ops manager Ger Latner said, “so the Skipjack’ll be the first dive boat in space. We’ve about used up the island’s supply of 10-mil Visqueen and duct tape. And explosive bolts.”

Kevlar scuba fins will give DeLow additional maneuverability while airborne. The Kevlar will also resist burning up on entry.

Island dive operators plan to avoid the island’s west coast for the duration of DeLow’s jump window.

“We trust her aim and all,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens said. “But if she hits our boat, well, we don’t have the staff for that kind of repair. Or clean up.”

DeLow isn’t worried.

“I’ve already written up lesson plans for a new specialty course,” she said. “NAUI, PADI and SSI instructors will also be able to incorporate it into their existing Altitude Diving courses.”

Eagle Ray Divers’ Latner is optimistic as well.

“If she survives, and the insurance company gives us the OK, we’ll make space diving one of our regular dive offerings,” he said.

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Explorers Discover Coral Henge in Island’s Interior

Blacktip Island’s recently-discovered coral henge has been dated to 500 BCE.

Blacktip Island’s recently-discovered coral henge has been dated to 500 BCE.

Researchers from Tiperon University-Blacktip have discovered a primitive coral circle in the heart of the Caribbean island’s near-impenetrable interior.

“These standing stones are thousands of years old,” expedition leader Ernesto Mojarra said. “The idea of ancient peoples carving them from coral, then moving them hundreds of meters inland over this sort of terrain, it’s a technological marvel.”

The henge’s construction is similar to that of Neolithic stone circles in Western Europe, Mojarra said. Radio carbon dating indicates the structure is approximately 2,500 years old.

The discovery has sent shockwaves through academic communities.

“This is either a case of convergent cultural evolution, or evidence of early Brittonic peoples settling in the Caribbean,” TU-B history professor Edwin Chub said. “If the latter, it would predate the first documented European arrival in North America by more than 1,000 years.”

“Caesar’s diaries mention druids ‘sailing to the Summer Lands’ to escape Roman persecution,” said comparative literature professor Christain Troye. “But historians attributed that to a night of overindulgence in Aminean wine with Pliny the Elder.

“There’s also a reference to ‘nigris extremum insulae’ in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘Historia Regum Britanniae.’” Troye said. “It’s a phrase that’s confounded generations of Arthurian scholars. Now we may finally have our answer.”

“There’s indications of smaller buildings surrounding the henge,” expedition leader Mojarra said. “Whether workshops or residences, we’re not sure.”

The team also found remnants of Bronze Age helmets and tubing that could have been used for breathing underwater, as well as numerous small amphorae of a type used for beer and wine storage at European Bronze Age sites.

“Sea levels were higher back then,” Mojarra said. “The bluff we know today would have been a smaller island, barely 20 feet above the waves, putting this site on the coast. We have to do more research, obviously, but it’s possible we’re looking at the Caribbean’s first scuba diving center.”

The expedition has drawn fire from local neopagan groups.

“We’ve filed a formal protest to stop further desecration of the site,” said Aubrey Hole, local divemaster and chieftain of The Ancient Order of Druids’ Blacktip Lodge. “Magnetic lines of force crisscross over that site like you’ve never seen. It may be our most sacred site in the central Caribbean.

“And with the summer solstice on top of us, well, how’d they like us ripping all the stained glass out of their church right before Easter?”

Mojarra said the exploration will be curtailed by the impending rainy season, but the team plans to return next spring with ground-penetrating radar to check for underground anomalies.

“We can’t process all the artifacts we’ve found so far,” Mojarra said. “Bronze air cylinders, Neolithic beer urns, what could be the remains of a circular table. It’s overwhelming.”

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Scientists Search Island’s Interior For Mystery Structures

The expedition will navigate Blacktip Island’s infamous booby pond in traditional catboats.

Explorers will navigate Blacktip Island’s treacherous booby pond in traditional catboats to reach the ruins.

Researchers from the Tiperon University-Blacktip will brave Blacktip Island’s near-impassible interior to investigate reports of unusual structures on the Caribbean island’s central bluff.

The expedition was organized after aerial photos posted online showed possible man-made elements in the island’s uninhabited interior.

“The light was just right,” said local pilot and photographer Reg Gurnard. “I could see straight lines and regular curves in the underbrush, shapes that simply don’t occur naturally.”

Tiperon University-Blacktip professor Ernesto Mojarra has assembled a team of the island’s leading geologists, anthropologists, spelunkers, cave divers and psychics. Gurnard will provide aerial support.

“No one’s ever fully explored the bluff’s center,” Mojarra said. “First, you have to cross the booby pond, which is mostly fetid bird waste. Then the jungle on the other side is near-solid. And choked with mosquitoes. No one wants to get eaten alive for no good reason.

“When these photos surfaced, though, there was no way we couldn’t go. The only obstacle was funding.”

The researchers will sail across the shallow pond in traditional catboats, hack their way into the interior, then scale the bluff to reach the structures, Mojarra said.

The site is legend among Blacktip Island old timers.

“There’s all sorts of stories about a lost city in the mid-island jungle,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Built by the Mayans. Or space aliens. Or refugees from Atlantis. Or Atlanta. You hear both. Old wives tales. We thought.”

Not everyone on the island is happy with the expedition.

“Got no business in those ruins,” resident Dermott Bottoms said. “Just gonna stir up the duppies, make things worse for everyone.”

Others locals were more cynical.

“It’s an academic boondoggle to drum up grant money,” Rocky Shores said. “A lost city? Please. The island’s a mile wide. How much of a city could it be? And how lost could it get?”

Mojarra remained unfazed.

“We know Blacktip was a re-provisioning point for sailing ships in the 16th and 17th centuries,” Mojarra said. “But with the amount of overgrowth, these structures could be far older than that.

“This may be the remnants of the island’s earliest, unrecorded settlement. Our findings could rewrite the history of the central Caribbean.”

Funding for the expedition is provided by The History Channel, Archer Daniels Midland and The Blacktip Times.

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World Cup Fever Sweeps Blacktip Island

Blacktip officials hope to avoid rioting during the Caribbean island’s World Cup-inspired football tournament.

Blacktip officials hope to avoid rioting during the Caribbean island’s World Cup-inspired football tournament.

Teams of locals and expatriates representing their native countries will square off this weekend in the opening round of Blacktip Island’s Island Cup football tournament.

“It’s the World Cup in miniature,” Island Cup organizer Frank Maples said. “We’ve teams representing every nationality on the island at present.”

As ever, the Tiperon Islands squad is the prohibitive favorite, followed closely by England and Côte d’Ivoire. In the most intriguing first-round matchup, the Tiperons will face Montenegro in a repeat of last tourney’s semi-final match.

“Montenegrins play dirty, now” Tiperon captain Antonio Fletcher said. “Always have. There’ll be blood on the pitch after that one. But we’re ready for them.”

England, too, has drawn a tough first-round match against dark-horse Tonga.

“On paper, we should have an easy enough match,” England captain Lee Helm said. “We have 20 or so divemasters and barmen to draw from, and there’s only one Tongan on island.

“He’s a feisty git, though. And fast. He made it to the quarterfinals last year. And he doesn’t drink, so that gives him an edge. Sobriety’s a performance-enhancing drug on this island.”

As ever, the United States team is expected to make an early exit.

“They forfeited their first-round match last tournament when they failed to show,” Frank Maples said.

This year, the American side is still nonplussed.

“World Cup? Whatever.” Team USA midfielder Joey Pompano said. “What kind of game lets you end in a tie? Call us when the World Series starts. Or when you’re ready to play real football.”

All matches will be at Tiperon Airways Memorial Stadium.

“‘Stadium’ is strong,” Maples said. “It’s one end of the grass landing strip, really. We schedule matches between the airline’s landings and take offs.”

Organizers hope to avoid the violence of last tourney’s final between Tiperon and Honduras, when fans raged down the island’s street trampling shrubbery, scuffing storm shutters and burning three bicycles.

“Problem was the officiating,” Antonio Fletcher said. “Not to point fingers, you know, but a lot of conch changed hands before that match.”

“We’ve asked the island constabulary to officiate the matches this year,” Maples said. “We’ll also be serving complimentary beer at Diddley’s Landing, making sure the crowd’s there. There’s nothing for them to destroy on a cement pier. And if matters get out of hand, we can simply push the rowdies into the sea.”

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