Blacktip Island entrepreneurs Rich Skerritt and Sandy Bottoms have teamed up to install the first underwater wireless network for scuba diving guests on the small Caribbean island.
“It’s the 20-something generation of divers who’re behind it,’ Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “They get bored on safety stops. They want their social media. And if we don’t give it to them, you can bet the next guy will.”
“Underwater Wi-Fi draws divers to Blacktip Island, away from other dive destinations,” Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “It’s good for the island. A rising tide lifts all boats, you know.
“No one resort could foot the bill for something like this, so Rich and I threw in together to meet our guests’ needs,” Bottoms said.
The network functions via underwater routers hardwired to topside modems.
“We put antennas in all the dive site mooring balls, then ran cables down the mooring lines,” Blacktip Island Public Works head Stoney MacAdam said. “You can get a signal in a 50 foot radius of every mooring pin.
“Folks take a smart phone or a tablet down in a waterproof case and, voila, they’re streaming live video to their blogs and their kids are playing Candy Crush.”
The response among divers is split along generational lines.
“This is brilliant,” 28-year-old dive guest Kenny Chromis said. “Just looking at the reef is so 2014. I mean, what’s the point if you can’t share it in real time? Plus, we can leave the baby in the room and still monitor the crib-cam while we dive.”
Others are less enthusiastic.
“Leave it to the damn millennials to ruin diving, too,” said 53-year old scuba enthusiast Joe Pompano. “It used to be calming, a silent world. Now it’s all beeps and pings and yahoos Skyping through their regulators. Put the damn gadgets down and look at the fish, why don’t you.”
Blacktip’s dive operators have embraced the new technology.
“We’re selling waterproof tablet cases like crazy,” Club Scuba Doo dive operations manager Finn Kiick said. “Interactive fish ID apps, too.
“The hot spots also create an extra level of diver safety,” Kiick said. “Our Wi-Fi connected guests never stray more than 15 meters from the boat. And if one does wander off, we can track their signal from anywhere on the island.”
“This is the new frontier in scuba tourism,” Rich Skerritt said. “For a reasonable access fee, of course.”