Monthly Archives: January 2021
A Blacktip Island handyman and amateur scientist claims to have developed the world’s first artificial gills to allow humans to breathe underwater. (photo courtesy of Krishna Satya)
A Blacktip Island amateur scientist this week announced he has developed artificial gills, which can be implanted in humans to allow people to spend extended periods of time underwater without relying on scuba equipment.
“Divers talk all the time about wanting to stay underwater longer,” Harry Bottoms said. “I started playing with the idea and came up with implanting gills in peoples’ necks so they could spend all the time they want to in the sea.
“They look kinda like those things Kevin Costner had in Waterworld, only bigger,” Bottoms said. “And since you’re not breathing compressed air, you can be underwater for hours without getting decompression sickness. They worked great in simulations in the garage.”
Some in the community were skeptical of Bottom’s claims.
“It’s a great idea, if Harry actually pulls it off,” Nelson Seagroves said. “But there’s been no demonstration the things even work, much less if he can transplant them into a person. I’m holding off judgement until after the trials, but I can’t imagine them being successful.”
Others were outright dismissive.
“There’s not a chance Harry’s contraptions will ever work,” Tiperon University-Blacktip biology professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “Never mind implanting . . . whatever he’s cobbled together . . . would be an incredibly invasive medical procedure. Harry needs to stick to fixing air conditioners. If they surgery doesn’t kill you, drowning will.”
Dive professionals, meanwhile, were concerned about the impact the gills could have on the scuba industry.
“The problem with these things is, if they work, they’ll kill the recreational scuba diving business,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “People won’t need scuba tanks or regulators. They won’t need dive boats or divemasters—they’ll be able to just jump in the water and go. I wish Harry all the best, but I hope his gizmos are a complete failure.”
Bottoms rebuffed the criticism.
“Sure, there’s some surgery involved, and you’ll have to go to the hospital to have the gills implanted,” he said. “But we’re working on a simplified outpatient procedure the nurse can do at the island clinic. “And the scuba folks should have more faith in their product,” Bottoms said. “This is an opportunity for them to reinvent their industry. Folks’ll always want to take a boat out to dive sites they can’t easily get to from shore, and to socialize with other people while they do it. Where there’s a gill, there’s a way.”
One of the opening panels of Blacktip artist Jackie Wrasse’s just-released, island-themed manga, Manga, B.I. (image courtesy of Niabot)
A Blacktip Island artist this week announced the publication of a scuba-themed manga graphic novel set on the Caribbean island and its reefs.
“I wanted to take the manga concept somewhere it had never been,” resident Jackie Wrasse said. “It’s styled on the classic Japanese graphic novels, but set largely underwater in the tropics. Think Magnum, P.I. meets a cynical seinen storyline. I’m calling it ‘Manga, B.I.’
“It riffs a little on Lone Wolf and Cub—it’s about an older divemaster and her young protégé seeking revenge on the resort owners who unfairly fired them,” Wrasse said. “They’re basically divemaster-ronins running around attacking dive staffs, frightening tourists and sabotaging dive boats in an effort to get at their enemies.”
Criticism has been largely positive.
“It’s a fresh take on the manga genre, with great narrative and artwork, and some Hawaiian shirts thrown in,” Tiperon University-Blacktip literature professor Christina Tome said. “Most of the action’s either underwater or on dive boats and docks. Like any seinen, it has some pretty graphic violence, with underwater knife fights and speargun shootouts and flying machetes.
“It’s also a big-time revenge drama, with the person seeking revenge getting harmed far more than the people they’re seeking revenge on,” Tome said. “The tension builds with the pair hiding out, trying to get close to the owners, the owners hiring security to keep them at bay, and so on. It’s a great addition to Blacktip’s literary tradition. That’s not saying much, but still.”
Local retailers are eagerly awaiting the book’s release.
“I’ve got people lined up asking about when they can get a copy,” island store owner Peachy Bottoms said. “And Doris Blenny at the Heritage House says the same thing’s happening over there. You wouldn’t think folks on this island would be so excited about a book. This one is mostly pictures, though.”
Wrasse said she is working on the book’s next edition.
“Mangas can go on for 70, 80 volumes, so I have plenty of room to expand the story,” she said. “I may even have the plot branch out to other islands as the divemaster duo hunts down all the members of the owner’s family. I have plans for a scratch-and-sniff version, too.”
Sunday, January 17, 2021
Precipitation – Soon come
Gage Hoase, left, and Angela Fisher square off during the first meeting of the newly-formed Blacktip Island kendo club Wednesday afternoon (photo courtesy of Harald Hofer)
A group of sporting enthusiasts Wednesday announced they have created Blacktip Island’s first kendo club, hoping the Japanese sword-based martial art will give islanders a safe way to vent their frustrations.
“It started with James Conlee and Dermott Bottoms, drunk as skunks, whacking each other with broomsticks outside the Ballyhoo,” club president Angela Fisher said. “We figured there’s no way to stop this kind of thing, so we might as well make it safer and offer training.
“Got the basics off internet videos, and Eagle Ray Cove’s letting us use their deck, which is handy, since their bar’s right there for post-practice drinks,” Fisher said. “We tell everybody to bring their own broomsticks, plus bicycle helmets, leather gloves and whatever body armor they can scrape together and we walk ‘em through the basics.”
Participants say the first class was a success.
“People on the island are wound pretty tight, being confined for so long, so this is a great way to let off steam safely,” Gage Hoase said. “It was pretty straightforward—they showed us some stances and attacks and parries, then let us go at it.
“At first, Joey Pompano went all Luke Skywalker and whacked me hard,” Hoase said. “Good thing I had that plastic garbage can lid strapped to my chest. I got him back, though, with a katsugi-waza upside the head that laid him out flat. It was great fun!”
Some questioned the benefits of the club.
“All I know is we got a broom shortage now, with everyone sawing off the handles to use as samurai swords,” Chrissy Graysby said. “Lots of places going unswept lately, and dust and leaves are piling up everywhere. I got my broom locked up inside where nobody can get at it.
“Not sure about the wisdom of it, either, big-picture wise,” Graysby said. “Folks get riled up and drunk, and you’re gonna give ‘em sticks to whack each other with? Me, I’m steering clear of that nonsense.”
Others saw the activity as a business opportunity.
“I’m completely sold out of brooms and helmets,” Blacktip Island store owner Peachy Bottoms said. “I have two cases of each coming tomorrow to meet the demand. Plastic rubbish bins are flying off the shelves, too, but I had a ton of those in the back room.”
Some participants experienced unexpected secondary benefits.
“Angela said to wear baggy clothes, and the only thing I had was the SpongeBob jammies my mom sent me for Christmas,” Dermott Bottoms said. “I don’t wear pajamas, and was gonna throw ‘em out, but now I got a use for ‘em.
“Lee Helm made fun of ‘em, so I whacked him good,” Bottoms said. “He won’t do that again, laughing at something my mamma gave me.”
Blacktip Island researchers say a hybrid damselfish/tardigrade will soon protect the Caribbean island’s coral reefs from scuba diver damage (photo courtesy of Warnken Schokraie)
Researchers at Tiperon University-Blacktip Wednesday announced a successful gene-splicing of a yellowtail damselfish with a Blacktip tardigrade, creating a new species they envision safeguarding Blacktip Island’s coral reefs.
“It was a longshot, but it actually worked,” TU-B marine sciences professor Goby Graysby said. “The new species has legs and a spikey mouth like a tardigrade, but also fins a tail and can dart about quite quickly. They’re about the size of your hand and attach themselves to coral. And the bright blue spots make them impossible to miss.
“They have damselfishes’ aggressive attitude, too, and are all but impossible to kill, like tardigrades,” Graysby said. “We’re calling them ‘damsel-grades.’ Like damselfishes, they nurture algae gardens and are extremely protective of them. Any diver getting too close to the coral will get one hell of a nip. We reckon it’ll do wonders for keeping divers off the reef.”
Research team members agreed.
“We envision them as reef defenders,” geneticist Lucille Ray said. “Divemasters and Marine Parks staff can only do so much. Divers wear too much weight and crash into coral all the time. But one bite from a damsel-grade’s oral stylets, divers’ll damn well learn to respect the reef.
“Damsel-grades also can’t overpopulate the reefs because they’re sterile—we create them that way in the lab,” Ray said. “We’re working with Marine Parks on where and how many are needed so we can set up a production schedule.”
Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader was cautiously optimistic.
“We’re waiting to see how they work, but conceptually it’s brilliant,” she said. “With so many divers with crap buoyancy, the reefs are just taking a beating. We’re all but powerless to stop it. But if these critters work out, the reef’ll be able to defend itself. Like fire coral, but more aggressive.
“Before, divers would laugh us off,” Schrader said. “Now, they’ll get bit anytime they even get close to coral. If this works out, we can get back to nabbing poachers and fixing mooring lines.”
Some on the island worried the experiment went too far.
“Creating a totally new species from two very different ones isn’t experimentation, it’s monstrous,” ethics watchdog Wade Soote said. “These scientists are playing God, with no way of knowing how these creatures will work out. It’s not natural and it’s not right.
“Also, anytime people introduce an exotic species into an environment, that environment invariably suffers,” Soote said. “Goby and them have no idea what the long-term effects of these creatures will be. They say damsel-grades can’t reproduce, but how can they be sure? And what happens when one savages an oblivious diver?”
Graysby said multiple precautions are in place.
“We know they can’t reproduce because we designed them that way,” he said. “We also made them so they emit a high-pitched whine before they attack. That and the coloring will give divers plenty of warning.
“There’s no down side, unless you dive like an idiot,” Graysby said. “And since damsel-grades only live a year, and have to be created individually, it provides a new industry on an island desperately in need of income.”