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.”