Category Archives: Caribbean

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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Rum Bottles Help Find Blacktip Island Missing Persons

missing persons

Rum bottles at all Blacktip Island bars will have photos of missing persons placed on them under a new volunteer effort to reduce the number of people missing on the small Caribbean island. (photo courtesy of Stefan Giesbert)

Inspired by missing persons milk cartons, a Blacktip Island citizens group began placing missing residents’ faces on rum bottles at island bars Monday.

“We tried milk cartons, but no one on Blacktip gives a damn about milk,” Keen to Eliminate Lost People founder Harry Wrasse said. “But rum bottles? Blacktippers spend most of their free time staring at them.

“We don’t get a ton of missing people, but when we do, it’s a big deal,” Wrasse said. “Just last week Antonio Fletcher went missing for three days. The bottles got the word out, and we found him in a palm tree on top of the bluff. Said he flew up there. Jerrod had to fly up and get him down.”

The effort is funded by a local crowdsourcing effort.

“‘Groupsourcing’s’ more accurate, as few people as there are on the island,” Wrasse said. “And we rely on a stable of volunteers. We need as many as possible to make sure we have at least one sober at any given time.”

Bar rum bottles have been fitted with clear plastic sleeves that allow bartenders to change photos as needed.

“When someone goes missing, we send photos to all the bars and resorts,” KELP volunteer Rosie Blenny said. “As soon as we find the person, we send word out and everyone takes that photo off their bottles.”

The project has draw opposition from locals concerned about misuse and privacy issues.

“Less than a week and it’s already a train wreck,” resident Reg Gurnard said. “First, Kitty Katz posted a photo of her husband Mickey. That didn’t end well.

“Then Lee Helm posted a picture of his girlfriend when he thought she was off with someone else,” Gurnard said. “Problem is, she was. A bunch of folks tracked us down and all hell broke loose. Someone wants to be lost, that’s no one’s business but their own. All this does is get a bunch of drunks out snooping on people.”

Organizers are not daunted by the criticism.

“There’s been a few hiccups, sure. But we’ve done a lot of good, too,” Blenny said. “We found a missing tourist just yesterday. He’d taken a resort bike for a ride around the island, only he kept taking the crossover road and kept circling the south end. He’d still be out there if it wasn’t for KELP.

“Dermott gets lost all the time, too,” Blenny added. “Most of the bottles have his photo on them and a note telling him to go home. We’re saving lives here.”

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Vehicle Ban Aims To Save Blacktip Island’s Tranquility

vehicle ban

Automobiles on Blacktip Island will be harder to come by after the island’s council voted to limit the number of motor vehicles on the small Caribbean island. (photo by Samson Post/Blacktip Times staff)

In a 2-1 vote Wednesday, the Blacktip Island Council opted to limit the number of motor vehicles on the Caribbean island in what backers called an attempt to keep the 100-resident island true to its rustic roots.

“We’re saving Blacktip’s charm,” council member Maxie Fondé said. “Visitors come here for quiet, unspoiled nature. Cars and trucks and scooters take away from that.”

Other ban supporters cited population concerns.

“The island’s getting too crowded,” council member Clete Horn said. “Last week I had to stop at the stop sign. Today I had to use my turn signal. Twice. If I wanted to deal with that kind of hassle, I’d live in Miami.

“You used to be able to tell who was coming down the road just by the sound of the car,” Horn said. “Now, I don’t recognize half of them by sight. Any more cars, we’ll be putting up traffic lights. And crosswalks”

The ban limits households and businesses to one vehicle, provided a compelling reason to have a vehicle can be shown.

“Construction companies or Public Works, they need their trucks,” Fondé said. “Divemasters or bar staff that live a mile from the resort? They can ride bikes. Or walk.”

Many businesses owners oppose the ban.

“We’re supposed to get all our guests to and from the airfield in one van?” dissenting council member and Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “They’re hamstringing my livelihood. If Maxie and Clete don’t like cars, let them walk. I’m not giving up my vehicles.”

Many residents, though, expect the ban to be good for the island.

“Fewer cars means less pollution, less used motor oil and auto batteries in the dump,” resident Goby Graysby said. “They should make the law stricter and only allow Smart cars. Embarrassment would keep people from wanting to drive.”

Others residents concurred.

“We’re going to use a donkey cart to takes guests to and from the air strip,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens said. “The guests’ll love it and it’s eco-friendly. Plus, we can also rent it out for kiddie rides when business gets slow.”

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Underwater Rock Climbing Comes To Blacktip Island

underwater rock climbing

Underwater rock climbers scout Slubberdudgeon Wall on Blacktip Island’s southeast coast prior to a climb Thursday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Derek Keats)

Scuba divers on Blacktip Island can now do more than look at fish after Club Scuba Doo resort launched an underwater rock climbing program this week.

“We’ve got to attract a younger, hipper crowd,” Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “We’re revitalizing the sport. Underwater climbing’ll make scuba an adventure again.

“With that wall that dropping thousands of feet straight down, Blacktip’s a natural for deep-water climbing,” Kiick said. “It’s the best of both worlds. You’re on scuba, but you get the adrenalin rush of free-climbing. And with the zero-gravity feel, it’s like rock climbing on the moon.”

Other dive operators were critical of the plan.

“We spend all day telling guests not to touch coral, explaining how the slightest touch can kill a thousand-year-old coral head,” Eagle Ray Divers manager Ger Latner said. “Now we’ve got these knuckleheads encouraging divers to crawl all over it.

“They’re also gonna get divers hurt, too,” Latner said. “People looking for their next hand hold instead of their gauges? That’s a recipe for disaster.”

Club Scuba Doo management defended the program.

“We do the climbing on the southeast wall where all the coral’s dead anyway,” resort owner Ham Pilchard said. “And we don’t allow anchors or hooks of any kind. This is about as eco-friendly as you can get.

“Long-term, this is good for the reefs,” Pilchard said. “It gets young people on the reef and excited about the underwater world. We’re creating the next generation of marine ecologists here.”

Kiick stressed the sport’s safety.

“There’s been zero cases of climbers blowing no-deco limits or breathing their tank dry,” he said. “The injuries so far have been from fire coral. And scorpion fish.

“They’re hard to see, ‘til you grab them,” Kiick said. “We give our climbers Kevlar gloves and booties now, for their own protection.”

Underwater climbers had high praise for the sport.

“It’s great to be able to climb without anyone belaying,” Club Scuba Doo repeat guest Leah Shore said. “Plus, it’s fun for the whole family. We can dive with the kids one day and climb with them the next.

“For longer climbs, or deeper climbs, you can use doubles if you want,” Shore said. “There’s some phenomenal 5.12 overhangs down around 180, if you’re into techie climbing. We don’t let the kiddos do that, though.”

Resort scuba instructors will offer a range of underwater climbing specialty courses.

“You do four climbs rated 5.4 – 5.6, you get your basic Underwater Rock Climber card,” Kiick said. “For the more hardcore, we’ll be offering Trimix Climbing, Heliox Climbing and Extended Range Technical Climbing courses.”

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