Divemasters scuba diving off Blacktip Island’s rugged east coast Wednesday discovered the wreckage of an airplane believed downed in the World War Two Battle of the Blacktip Sea.
“We was looking at a stingray when we seen the wings and undercarriage,” Eagle Ray Cove divemaster Lee Helm said. “We brushed the rubbish off and there was the Tiperon Air Corp’s roundel, plain as my hand.”
“Those storms last week blasted out all kinds of sand, I guess,” said divemaster Alison Diesel. “I mean, we’d dove there before and never seen anything but fish and coral.”
The wreckage matches photos of the island’s Piper Cub mail plane shot down as it delivered the fatal blow to the invading Axis flagship.
“The Battle of the Blacktip Sea was minor, but decisive,” said island historian Smithson Altschul. “The Italians hoped to gain a foothold in Cuba. All that stood in their way was Blacktip Island and the Tiperon navy’s light frigate Frigate. It was outgunned and outnumbered by the Italian pocket destroyers Fianchetto and Giuoco Piano.
“Islanders loaded the mail plane with Molotov cocktails made from grain alcohol and rum bottles,” Altschul said. “The last bomb dropped took out the Fianchetto’s bridge just as the Piper got hit.”
“Mama seen it,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Said folks thought it was a fireworks show ‘til they heard hollering in Italian. After, any enemy sailors swam to shore, folks whacked ‘em with conchs and stuffed ‘em in the turtle kraal.”
The Tiperon government has declared the area around the wreckage a heritage site and banned scuba diving to discourage souvenir collectors. Local dive entrepreneurs Sandy Bottoms and Rich Skerritt, however, are lobbying to turn the site into a pay-per-dive scuba park with interpretive tours.
“This is our heritage,” Skerritt said. “We got a right to access. Got Battle Diver specialty courses lined up, you know. In English and Italian. The fees’ll raise money for more exploration. And other things.”
Island officials, meanwhile, commemorated the find by declaring a new public holiday.
“August was the only month without a bank holiday,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “It screamed for one. Hell, April has two holidays. This first-ever Battle Day’ll be a blast!”
Holiday festivities are works in progress, organized by local residents.
“Gonna start with a round-robin Boobies and Frigates tournament with lawn darts out back of the Last Ballyhoo,” said local James Conlee. “There’s free beer for all team members, and a free kamikaze shot if you get hit.”