Monthly Archives: July 2014

Scuba Hunt Club Primed for Lionfish Season

Red lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, have overrun Caribbean reefs in the past decade. Cullers hope rifles will prove more efficient than spears.

Red lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, have overrun Caribbean reefs in the past decade. Cullers hope rifles will prove more efficient than spears.

Blacktip Island’s Scuba Hunt Club will kick off lionfish season this weekend with an underwater safari along the Caribbean island’s west coast. Club members aim to cull as many of the non-native pests as possible with newly-developed underwater rifles.

The Tiperon Islands Department of Natural Resources instituted the hunting season as part of the effort to eradicate the invasive Indo-Pacific fish devastating the islands’ reefs.

“Seven years ago we put a firm quota system in place,” the DNR’s Noddy Bolin said. “Licensed hunters are allowed to cull as many lionfish as they can, with whatever device they can find.”

“We’ve used nets, clubs and spears,” hunt club president B.C. Flote said. “It’s been pretty piecemeal, though, with folks getting what fish they could, but having to leave a lot behind.”

The recent invention of an underwater lionfish rifle – a specially-adapted .308 caliber sealed for underwater use and chambered for an ultra-high velocity round to compensate for water’s density – has made this year’s safari possible. The rifles are fitted with underwater scopes that correct for light refraction at depth.

“Spearing’s fun, sure,” said divemaster Gage Hoase. “But with the spears, you can only get a dozen or so before your air runs out. And the fish duck back in the coral where you can’t get them.

“With these rifles, we can pop hundreds in one dive. It’s not elegant, but it’s effective. And still fun. We can take down a stripey from 40, 50 feet away, no matter how they hide.”

The club hopes the safari concept will allow it to cleanse entire sections of the reef.

“We’re using beaters and baggers to streamline the process,” B.C. Flote said. “Beaters’ll fan out over the reef, whacking their tank bangers to flush the lionfish from the tall sea grass, drive them into killing zones where the hunters can shoot them. The fish, not the beaters.

“Then once a fish is shot, baggers’ll scoot in and grab the carcasses so the hunters can concentrate on shot count and quality. That’s the dicey part. Wounded lionfish can be ferocious. Lots of good hunters’ve been spined that way. They got special gloves this season. And orange wetsuits.”

“We tried using grouper as underwater retrievers instead,” Gage Hoase said. “But the grouper just kept eating the fish.”

Blacktip Island’s PETA chapter has filed a formal protest against the hunt.

“This is piscine genocide, pure and simple,” said PETA head Harry Pickett. “‘Cull’ is just another word for ‘murder.’ The ecosystem has changed. Lionfish are the dominant species on the reef now, with no natural predators. We have to embrace that. Embrace them.”

“Those suckers’ll have plenty of predators come Saturday morning,” the hunt club’s Flote said. “And us hunt club folks are as natural as it gets.”

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Ruptured Windows Doom Island’s Underwater Home Show

The sole surviving entry in Blacktip Island’s Underwater Home Show. Designers in the destroyed homes were rescued by passing scuba divers.

The sole surviving entry in Blacktip Island’s Underwater Home Show. Designers in the destroyed homes were rescued by passing scuba divers.

Catastrophic window failures Thursday afternoon destroyed all but one entry in Blacktip Island’s Underwater Home Show. The Caribbean island homes were to be featured on HGTV’s “Pimp My Beach Shack” reality series highlighting alternative destination housing, with the winning designer to host a network DIY show.

“They said it was some kind of high-tensile, space-age polycarbonate,” show organizer Sheena Goode said. “Everyone bought it. Everyone used it. Now we see why we got such good prices.”

“We were putting the final touches on the armoire and, KABLAM! Water and snappers and chubs were everywhere,” designer Payne Hanover said. “Luckily there were scuba divers outside to breathe us to the surface.”

The windows’ manufacturer, Fenêtres de la Mer, denied culpability.

“Do our brochures specifically state not to use our plastic windows underwater? No.” spokesman B.P. Glass said. “But who in their right mind would expect an eighth-inch thick sheet of plastic to hold up to that kind of pressure? Not to cast stones, but this is an end-user issue.”

The sole surviving home, built without windows, was declared the show’s winner by default.

“I’m sickened by the damage, and I hate to win this way,” said Suzanne Souccup, the house’s designer. “But I’m keeping the prize money. And the reality show gig.”

“It was the modern, open-concept design of most of the homes that did us in,” organizer Goode said. “We laughed at Suzanne’s manky grotto, but that saved her from disaster.”

“Everyone was going with lots of light and rattan,” Souccup said, “So I opted for post-modern gloom. It’s not so much feng shui as it is funky shui.

“It’s done in 100% organic materials, locally-sourced and dyed with seaweed-based tinctures harvested from the island’s reefs. We finished it off with coral-rubble walls and black coral posts for the master bedroom.”

Local environmentalists decried Souccup’s choice of materials.

“Rattan is renewable,” said Harry Pickett of Earth First!. “Those black coral logs took centuries to grow. This isn’t locally sourcing. This is devastating the locale. This home should have been destroyed along with all the others.”

Picketts denied allegations Earth First! targeted any of the homes for sabotage, or that Souccup had any connection to his organization.

The Tiperon Island Department of Tourism has embraced the flooded homes.

“This is a lemons-to-lemonade situation for us,” the D.o.T.’s Val Schrader said. “We’ve plans to turn the mess into a self-guided snorkeling trail. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come along every day.”

Local scuba divers have been recruited to help with making the homes safe for snorkelers.

“We can’t pay you,” Schrader said, “but you can keep anything you haul up.”

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Blacktip Braces For Burr-Hamilton Duel Reenactment

Combatants will fling coconuts at each other in this year’s Blacktip Island Aaron Burr Society-sponsored recreation of the Burr-Hamilton duel.

Combatants will fling coconuts at each other in this year’s Blacktip Island Aaron Burr Society-sponsored recreation of the Burr-Hamilton duel.

American history partisans will face off today in the Caribbean island’s reenactment of the 1802 Burr-Hamilton duel between then-Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.

Both men had summer homes on Blacktip Island, and a number of island residents claim descent from one or the other of the men.

“After the original duel, feuding between the factions got so bad, it nearly depopulated the island,” Blacktip’s historian Smithson Altschul said. “To keep the peace, they started choosing one person from each to side fight it out.”

The duel’s loser and his supporters must lead the post-duel parade past the island’s scuba diving resorts wearing only Union Jack Speedos and fuzzy pink bunny ears, singing ‘I’m a Little Teapot.’

Island native Rocky Shore will represent the Burrists. Dermott Bottoms will represent the Hamiltonians.

“Guns are illegal, and last summer’s lionfish spear exchange got messy, so we’re using coconuts this year,” Rocky Shore said.

“Used rubber band pistols once, but that wasn’t dignified,” said Dermott Bottoms. “This’s a serious business, you know.”

“The duel’ll be up on The Bluff, on the Heights of Blacktip,” Bottoms’ second Polly Parrett said. “It’s also Blacktip Haven’s parking lot. They’ve set up grandstands and beer stalls so people can make an afternoon of it.”

Island police have doubled their numbers for the event.

“We’re flying in an extra officer to make sure the duel is confined to the two designated combatants,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We won’t have another all-night, island-wide broom melee of a couple of years back.”

Both sides are confident of victory.

“Dermott’s a big guy, with a hell of an arm,” Burr supporter Gage Hoase said. “But he popped his collarbone last month. He can’t make a full follow-through. He’ll float everything high and right.”

The Hamiltonians aren’t worried.

“Rocky takes that first coconut upside the head, he won’t have a choice about wearing those ears,” Polly Parrett said. “He goes down, I’ll sit on him and put ‘em on him myself.”

“I don’t understand a bit of this,” island visitor Kitty Mitchell said. “But it sounds fun drinking beer and watching people throw coconuts at each other.”

“It’s roots are American, but at its heart it’s all Blacktip,” said island resident Sgt. Major (ret.) Beaugregory Damsil, “Drinking beer and fighting is what Blacktip folks do best.

“It breaks the monotony, as well. And I’ve several US $10 wagers on Hamilton.”

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Island Scofflaws Face Running of the Iguanas

Blacktip Island rock iguanas will chase petty criminals to honor St. Dervil, the island’s patron saint of scuba diving and iguana husbandry.

Blacktip Island rock iguanas will chase petty criminals to honor St. Dervil, the island’s patron saint of scuba diving and iguana husbandry.

Saturday marks Blacktip Island’s 433nd Running of the Iguanas, recreating St. Dervil’s original herding of rock iguanas to his Caribbean island monastery and converting them to Christianity in 1544.

“Dervil shared a one-room shack with dozens of those suckers,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Called them ‘monks.’ Taught them Gregorian chants. Records say they sang like the dickens.”

“To get the iguanas inside, Dervil’d run in front of the them with handfuls of fruit,” Altschul said. “Got people into church that way, too.

“After he died, islanders kept up the run, with folks racing in front of the iguanas, trying to make it to the kraal without getting mauled.”

The modern-day Running serves a more practical purpose.

“The runners are all residents convicted of minor crimes,” said Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette. “It’s the only way we can get through to some of these people. If they finish the run, their debt to society’s paid.

“We smear all the shoplifters, deadbeats and drink-drivers with fresh fruit, then turn the lizards loose,” I.P.C. Marquette said. “Bystanders are encouraged to throw fruit and vegetables as they pass.”

Runners are dressed in traditional white shirt and trousers, with a red waistband and neckerchief for easy identification.

“We set up barricades to keep the runners on course,” event organizer Jay Valve said, “but with just the one road, it’s more to keep the iguanas from running off into the bushes. The crowd sings a quick benediction, we shoot a skyrocket, and off they go.

“We had a couple of nasty clawings last year,” Valve said. “You have to expect that, though. You trip and fall, you’re gonna pay the price. But these are adjudicated criminals we’re dealing with here.”

“The Running also lets transgressors atone for their sins,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians, head of the island’s Interfaith Committee. “Last year’s Running was cathartic. The slashing I got was way more rehabilitative than any week in jail.

“We’ve also revived the traditional baptism of the iguanas afterward,” Ephesian said. “We try to get the iguanas to sing along with the benediction, too, but so far’ve only gotten a couple to hum.”

Island animal rights activists decry the Running.

“It’s barbaric penning wild animals, then forcing them to harm people,” said island PETA representative Harry Pickett. “This isn’t natural behavior. And iguanas are being baptized willy-nilly, regardless of any stated religious affiliation.”

Event organizers downplayed those concerns.

“No iguanas are harmed in the Running,” Jay Valve said. “It’s not like we’re staging iguana fights later. The iguanas get fed. Then saved.

“Do people get hurt? Sure. But they have it coming.”

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