Amateur photo of what is believed to be the undead barracuda terrorizing Blacktip Island divers. (photo by John Martin Davies)
A rash of underwater attacks on recreational scuba divers Thursday is being attributed to the legendary chupagroupa, or ‘grouper sucker.’
“This manky gray thing buzzed by my head, teeth flashing,” said one victim. “One minute I’m taking pictures of a fairy basslet, the next, whoosh, my hand’s bleeding and my camera’s gone.”
“It looked like an eel, but with a crocodile head,” said another victim. “And whirly red eyes. And chunks falling off it. It wasn’t natural.”
Tiperon Island marine park officials are skeptical.
“We know something unusual’s out there, but a zombie barracuda? Seriously?” Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “We’ve been finding dead, blood-drained grouper on the reef, sure, but a rogue octopus or a boating accident are far more realistic culprits.”
“This was no rogue octopus,” government watchdog Wade Soote said. “This was worst case scenario. The Marine Parks folks just don’t want to spook the tourists.
“We’ve had our eye on this situation. Our worry’s been whether chupagroupa’s attacks would shift to humans as the grouper population thinned. What happened yesterday confirmed our worst fears. Now he’s got a taste for human blood.”
Scientists at Tiperon University-Blacktip say the creature is most likely a barracuda hobbled by sickness or age, able to gnaw at grouper but not kill them.
“In a weakened state, such a fish might see recreational scuba divers as viable prey,” said TU-B marine biology professor Ernesto Mojarra. “As for the rotting flesh people are reporting, well, it could just be an old fish. Or the divers were so deep they had nitrogen narcosis. Or were diving drunk.”
Island old timers swear otherwise.
“It’s old chupa. Guarantee you that,” Dermott Bottoms said. “He’s hungry, and pissed off all those divers are on his reef scaring the grouper. If that chupa’s pissed at you, he’ll get you.”
“Hooked chupa, fishing a while back,” James Conlee said. “Hauled him in, chopped him up, chucked the bits over the reef. Fish wouldn’t eat him. Next day, he’s whole and eyeballing my skiff. Now he’s found fresher meat, thank God.”
Blacktip Island’s business owners worry about the negative impact the incidents have had on the island’s dive industry.
“This damned chupa-whatsit nonsense’s gutting us,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “No one’ll get on our dive boats. They’re all howling for their money back.”
“No way we’re getting in the water with who-knows-what out there,” said one Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort guest. “We’re not even letting the kids near the pool.”
The bitten scuba divers voiced larger concerns.
“That thing drew blood,” one victim said. “I mean, I read the news. I know how this stuff works. Next step, I’m an underwater zombie, too.”