Monthly Archives: September 2017

Eiffel Tower Replica Is Blacktip Island’s Newest Dive Site


Starting Saturday, Blacktip Island scuba divers will be able to explore an underwater 1:10-scale steel replica of the Eiffel Tower. The privately-constructed structure honors the invention of the open circuit scuba regulator in France in 1942. (photo courtesy of Stoney MacAdam/Blacktip Island Public Works)

Blacktip Island scuba divers can now explore a replica of the Eiffel Tower after local entrepreneurs and public works officials teamed up to build a 130-foot, mostly-underwater tower replica off the Caribbean island’s northwest coast. The structure celebrates the 75th anniversary Jacques Cousteau’s introduction of the open-circuit scuba regulator.

“Blacktip’s a scuba island, and this is our shout-out to Jack Cousteau,” local businessman Rich Skerritt said. “A statue of him, or of the regulator, seemed disrespectful. Then we hit on the idea of the tower, what with its French connection and all, and voila!

“It’ll be a scuba icon, just like the real tower’s a Parisian icon,” Skerritt said. “We kept it tasteful, with a flashing light show every hour and everything. It’ll be even better once it gets a bit of coral growth and attracts some fish life.”

Skerritt’s associates agreed.

“Diving-wise, it’s like those oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, just shallower and easier to get to,” resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “We made sure it stuck out of the water a good 15 feet for safety and so boats can tie off on it. For a fee. And we got plans for an underwater restaurant on it, too.”

Not all Blacktip residents are happy with the tower.

“It’s an eyesore and an environmental nightmare,” said Harry Pickett, president of the Blacktip Benthic Society. “Acres of coral were destroyed to build that monstrosity. Rich and Sandy want to turn the reef into their private amusement park.”

Others voiced safety concerns.

“It’s a navigational hazard, plain and simple,” Marine Parks spokesperson B.C. Flote said. “It’s a distraction for aircraft, too. Monday’s late flight mistook the tower light show for the landing strip. Luckily there were night divers there to save the passengers and recover all the luggage.”

The tower’s designer brushed aside those concerns.

“We purposely built that sucker at the edge of the wall,” Public Works engineer Stoney MacAdam said. “The current took any construction sediment right out to sea.

“And those lights are a safety feature,” MacAdam said. “Lost divers, night divers, they can always find the tower. Some pilot can’t tell the difference between the Eiffel Tower and an airfield, that’s a training issue. It’s not on us.”

Skerritt bristled at criticism of his resort charging double to dive the site.

“That tower cost a pretty penny. We got to recoup our investment,” he said. “And with the ripping currents out there, we also have to have a chase boat down current to grab any yahoos who don’t clip onto an I-beam quick enough. That kind of attention to safety costs money.”

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Genetically-Modified Asparagus May Revolutionize Blacktip Economy

giant asparagus
A new strain of giant asparagus may transform Blacktip Island from a sleepy tourism spot to a regional food supplier if local agricultural and business leaders have their way. (photo courtesy of Redd Birch)

An agricultural experiment gone awry has produced a strain of giant asparagus that Blacktip Island scientific and business leaders said Friday has the potential to transform the Caribbean island’s economy.

“We were working on a genetically-modified asparagus that wouldn’t make people’s urine smell,” horticulturist Redd Birch said. “The gene splicing went wonky somewhere, and we ended up with these 10-foot monsters. We didn’t solve the pee smell problem, but the stalks are tender and tasty.

“This strain thrives in the mix of rocky earth, intense sunlight and high salt levels of our bluff-top farm,” Birch said. “It’s a fast grower, too. We did our first large-scale planting at the end of June, and we already reaped our first crop. This could revolutionize the region’s food supply.”

Island business leaders agreed.

“We can feed every resident and every resort guest with just one stalk a day,” said Chamber of Commerce president Ham Pilchard. “Redd’s got so many of those things growing now, we’ll be exporting a ton, too. This is a game changer. Blacktip’s not reliant just on tourism for income anymore.

“It’s created jobs, too,” Pilchard said. “Folks are lining up to tend and harvest the stuff. They may be freakish mutations, and there’s no telling what they’re doing to the people eating them, but so far it’s been a win for everyone.”

Island resorts were quick to embrace the new crop.

“It’s a the perfect island-based farm-to-market food source,” Blacktip Haven chef Jessie Catahoula said. “It’s totally renewable and totally green. Literally. And fresh as you can get.

“The guests love it, too,” Catahoula said. “Yeah, we get the occasional complaint about the odor, but no one’s turned down a serving of asparagus risotto or crepes yet.”

Not all locals are happy with the crop, though.

“The stench coming from the resorts just about knocks you out,” long-time resident Helen Maples said. “The entire west coast reeks of asparagus micturition. This new crop may provide inexpensive food, but long term, that odor can’t be good for business.”

Some tourism workers agreed.

“You think peed-in wetsuits smell bad? Come on the dive boat and get a whiff of post-giant-asparagus-at-lunch peed-in wetsuit,” said Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase. “We’re begging people not to pee in their suits. Two divemasters quit just this morning because of the stench.”

Birch said he and other growers plan to further refine the crop.

“We have plans for underground farming, too, to get giant white asparagus,” he said. “Our first crop in the old airplane hangar were fairly successful. It wasn’t completely dark, so we ended up with pale, lime-green stalks.”

The new crop has also resulted in an unforeseen real estate boom.

“Used to be, that bluff-top land was worthless,” local fisherman James Conlee said. “Now, those property values are jumping. Kind of like with the ‘worthless’ beachfront land in the 60s and 70s.

“Daddy and Granddaddy were fisherman,” Conlee said. “Now, there’s more money to be made farming. It’s tough work, but chain sawing asparagus is a lot more fun than hauling in snapper in eight-foot seas.”

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Fish On Strike At Blacktip Island Dive Sites

fish on strike

Blacktip Island scuba divers are blaming the island’s French angelfish for inciting a swim-off strike involving all the fish at all the Caribbean island’s dive sites. (photo courtesy of Barry Peters)

Scuba divers on Blacktip Island reefs Wednesday and Thursday were surprised to find the dive sites empty of reef fish, in what experts are calling a cross-species protest.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner. “As of yesterday morning it was hard to find any fish at all, and the ones you did see would taunt you, then dart away.

“It started with the French angelfish turning tail on photographers,” Latner said. “Then all the other fish followed suit. Guests thought it was funny at first, but now everyone’s pissed off. Every photo from today has been of bare coral or a fish’s butt. Even the sea slugs are hiding under the coral heads.”

Local marine biologists say the phenomenon is likely a form of piscine protest.

“Based on what data we have, our working theory is the fish are consciously spurning divers due to an environmental stressor,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip biology professor Ernesto Mojarra. “It happens a lot. You just don’t hear about it.

“Given the hostility displayed toward photographers, most likely the fish are tired of underwater strobes flashing in their faces all day,” Mojarra said. “They’ve made no demands yet. That we know of. They can be difficult to read, but we have our best biologists on site to mediate.”

Local resort owners, though, are not waiting patiently.

“I don’t care what they’re hacked off about, this is killing my business,” Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “It figures it’s the French angelfish behind it. Those bastards are always starting trouble.

“They demanded vacation time last year,” Bottoms said. “Got the idea from the grouper, who take off for a week on the spawning grounds every winter. Now all the other fish want entitlements. We need to cut them loose and bring in new fish who’ll be grateful to have a reef like this. You think the lionfish won’t jump at the chance?”

Experts, however, warned such action could escalate into violence.

“This morning a multi-species school circled Hammerhead Reef for hours,” Mojarra said. “A bunch of barracuda watched, but didn’t join in. If the barras, or the sharks, get involved, things could get ugly. Fast.

“We need to rachet things down a notch,” Mojarra said. “Banning cameras and strobes from the dive sites would be a good start. It’s drastic, but that good-faith gesture could be the thing that resolves this.”

While most guests were angered by the lack of marine life, some were unexpectedly supportive.

“I came here to look at the fish, sure, but it’s their right to not hang with divers,” said Blacktip Haven guest Maxie Fondé. “They’re wild animals, after all.

“Big picture, I support what they’re doing,” Fondé said. “I mean, if I don’t stand up for their rights, who, or what, will stand up for mine when the time comes?”

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Gravity Doesn’t Exist On Blacktip Island, Study Says

no gravity

Researchers with the Caribbean Anti-Newtonian Society’s Blacktip Island laboratory used a Bose-Einstein condensate – a cloud of super-cooled Rubidium atoms in a laser trap (pictured) – to reach their conclusion that gravity does not exist on the small Caribbean island. (photo courtesy of Steve Jurvetson)

Researchers from the Blacktip Island chapter of the Caribbean Anti-Newtonian Society on Thursday released the results of a study showing gravity does not exist on the small island.

“Isaac Newton was a first-rate huckster who convinced people there was gravity so he could sell them science books,” CANS spokesman Harry ‘Scratcher’ Wrasse said. “Then the church and the Rosicrucians piled on. If there’s a force so strong it can hold down all the people and buildings and oceans, why can birds, smoke and helium balloons escape it? It’s fake science.

“Our tests show a lack of so-called gravity on Blacktip,” Wrasse said. “And we’ll be replicating our tests on other islands soon, to see if it’s a localized thing or something global.”

The island’s scientific community quickly rebutted the study.

“I can’t believe I’m actually having to say this, but there are centuries of proof that gravitational forces exists,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip physics chair Olive Beaugregory. “Gravity went from ‘theory’ to ‘law’ a long time ago.

“It’s interesting that Harry and his colleagues don’t offer any alternative explanation for one of the fundamental forces of physics,” Beaugregory said.

Wrasse was quick to defend the CANS findings.

“We’re not sure what exactly keeps things stuck to the island just yet,” he said. “That’s another study. And it in no way invalidates this one.”

A TU-B press conference explaining Newtonian gravitational theory and general relativity, scheduled for Thursday evening, was cancelled due to protestors outside the island’s Heritage House.

“They had fire in their eyes and were waving torches and rum bottles,” Beaugregory said. “We’ll try again when things cool off and people are sober. Or as sober as they’re going to get. Maybe a 10 a.m. talk.”

Many of the protestors defended the report.

“It does answer a lot of questions,” Theosophy League president Antonio Fletcher said. “If something’s strong enough to stick me to the Earth, how come I can still raise my arms? String theory explains it, you know. Invisible strings hold everything in place.”

Others protestors focused their ire on university scientists.

“Calling it ‘science’ don’t mean it’s true,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Science is just a bunch of know-it-alls trying to prove stuff. Weight makes things stick to the ground. Negative Weight makes things fly. That’s just common sense.”

Others locals saw the CANS report as validation of existing theories.

“This is more proof the Earth’s flat,” bartender Kenny Chromis said. “We’re on a giant plate flying up through space. The acceleration keeps us stuck to the surface.”

Others scoffed at that explanation.

“Everyone knows the Earth’s balanced on the back of a giant turtle,” Catalina Luxfer said. “It’s the turtle’s motion that keeps us on the ground. Duh.”

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Blacktip Thespians To Perform Underwater ‘Day Of The Staghorn’

day of the staghorn

Detail of Lee Helm’s Staghorn King costume for the Blacktip Island Community Players’ underwater staging of the post-apocalyptic drama ‘The Day of the Staghorn.’ (photo courtesy of Onislandtimes)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will perform the post-apocalyptic underwater drama, The Day of the Staghorn, off the Sand Spit Bar Saturday and Sunday to draw attention to the plight of the Caribbean island’s ailing coral reefs.

The play, written by Blacktip resident Payne Hanover, is based loosely on The Day of the Triffids, the 1951 novel and 1962 motion picture about intelligent, animate plants that take over the Earth.

“In this, it’s the coral that’s a threat to mankind, so it’s different,” Hanover said. “Dump runoff gives one coral species the ability to think and move. Then the coral attacks the people that threatened it.

“The story’s set underwater, after rising seas cover the island,” Hanover said. “Humans have to build an undersea haven, then protect it from the marauding coral. It’s actually turned out quite well, all things considered.”

The play will be performed underwater to highlight the island’s coral damage.

“It started with wondering what would happen if the reefs could fight back,” said director Doris Blenny. “For the audience to see how much damage there is to the actual coral, it really drives that point home.

“As for the staghorn suits, Elena Havens and the costumers put in long hours making them as realistic as possible, right down to the stinging cells,” Blenny said. “And we did vote down repeated suggestions to make it a musical. It was a close thing”

The scuba-certified cast includes:

  • Hugh Calloway as Bill Mason
  • Marina DeLow as Josella Playton
  • Finn Kiick as Wilfred Coker
  • Gauge Hoase as Michael Beadly
  • Jessie Catahoula as Miss Durant
  • Lee Helm as the Staghorn King

Though island environmentalists praised the play, resort owners are concerned about its impact on future business.

“All this touchy-feely talk about coral is fine,” Club Scuba Doo owner Ham Pilchard said. “But showing a damaged reef is going to scare off divers. The Caymans are gonna eat our lunch over this. And casting divers as the bad guys? There’s gonna be some ugly blowback on that.”

Producers, however, insist the play will do more good than harm.

“We expect it to draw additional divers to Blacktip rather than scare them away,” Blenny said. “We’re staging multiple showings, as the actors’ no-decompression limits allow, so as many people can see it as possible.

“The only negative so far has been Lee Helm developing an unnatural attachment to his Staghorn King costume,” Blenny said. “He kept sneaking around the island bars stinging people. It took three of us to hold him down and peel the suit off of him.”

All proceeds from the production will go to the Nature Conservancy’s Coral Reef Preservation Fund, Hanover said.

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