Scuba diving on Blacktip Island’s Reactor Reef was banned Thursday after researchers discovered one of the coral heads there is an ancient meteorite emitting significant levels of radiation.
“We’ve always known the fish around that reef were odd – three eyes, two heads sorts of stuff,” marine parks chief Val Schrader said. “We named it as a joke. Turns out to be case of truth said in jest.”
Scientists from Tiperon University-Blacktip discovered the radiation while doing unrelated research at the dive site.
“We were tagging lionfish at the site with these new radium-226 trackers,” said TU-B professor Ernesto Mojarra. “Mild radiation, you understand. When we flipped on the Geiger counter to test the tags, wham-bam! the needle just pegged out.”
Samples date the meteor to approximately 65 million years ago, about the same time as the Cretaceous-Paleogene meteor strike in the western Caribbean that caused the dinosaur extinction.
“There’s an excellent chance this is a remnant of that extinction event,” Mojarra said.
Vacationing scuba divers, meanwhile, are upset the island’s most popular night dive site is closed indefinitely.
“It was wonderful diving there, what with the fish lighting up the reef,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort guest Suzy Souccup said. “And the water was so warm you never needed a wetsuit.”
Local authorities reassured island residents the meteorite poses no threat to those not diving around it.
“Closing the site’s just a safety precaution. Folks have been diving there for years with no ill effects,” Department of Public Health spokesman Ferris Skerritt said. “Now, divemasters who lead dives there a lot are a sickly bunch, but who’s to say that’s radiation sickness and not just your bog-standard hangover.”
One local business owner is taking advantage of the meteorite’s proximity to his property.
“We’re gonna power the resort with that thing,” Eagle Ray Cove’s Rich Skerritt said. “It’s here and we can’t get rid of it, so we might as well use it. Lemons-to-lemonade, even if it does make your eyebrows fall out.
“With it so close offshore, I’ll get a couple of divemasters to run cables out and, voila, we have free electricity.”
NAUI, SSI and YMCA have advised recreational divers to avoid Blacktip Island’s west coast.
PADI announced it is adding ‘Meteorite Diver’ and ‘Radiation First Responder’ to its course offerings.