Category Archives: Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Scientists To De-Extinct Caribbean Penguins

caribbean penguins

A sailor’s pen-and-ink sketch from 1853 showing a group of now-extinct Western Caribbean penguins (Megadyptes blacktipius) defending their nest from a ship’s terrier. (image courtesy of the Blacktip Island Heritage House)

Biologists at Tiperon University-Blacktip this week announced their plans to revive the extinct Western Caribbean penguin as a way to augment the small island’s marine ecosystem and to possibly pave the way to save critically-endangered species.

“This is the cutting edge in modern genomics, and these penguins are the perfect subject,” TU-B genetics professor Vera Cuda said. “Everyone’s focused on bringing back wooly mammoths and aurochs and other megafauna. Anything that big’s gonna be tough to pull off. But with us starting small with penguins, we have a real shot at being the first team to successfully de-extinct a species.

“Western Caribbean penguins were native to Blacktip, but were hunted out of existence by hungry sailors back in the late 18th Century,” Cuda said. “We have some preserved skins, though, and more than enough penguin DNA to genome-edit multiple birds. We’re working on sequencing the genome now, and hope to have a functional one by year’s end. That’s way ahead of the teams trying to de-extinct dinosaurs and mammoths and thylacines.”

Community officials were supportive of the plan.

“Since the sailing ships full of sailors are history, the re-extinction threat has been eliminated,” Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “We’ll set up a captive breeding program to grow the population, and protect it by creating a penguin sanctuary by the marine park.

“We’ve already identified sites on the north end, near Nobbie’s Inne, with good nesting beaches that will make perfect rookeries,” Schrader said. “The hope is the ecosystem will benefit from them preying on the invasive fish species taking over our reefs.”

Others focused on the financial benefits.

“Blacktip’ll have the only wild penguins in the Northern Hemisphere,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “We’ll be the premiere eco-tourism destination in the Caribbean. Folks’ll come from all over to see them. And to swim and dive with them.”

Others questioned the project’s wisdom.

“Bring extinct animals back to life?” Chip Pompano said. “Has no one here ever seen ‘Jurassic Park?’ Hello! There’s no guarantee they won’t eat all the fish on the reefs. And what if they turn on humans? With that CRISPR technology, one wrong move and you’ve created Frankenstein’s monster. Assuming it works at all—this could just be another funding grift.”

Island geneticists weren’t worried.

“The technology’s foolproof,” Cuda said. “Our big issue is financing. We’re massaging our budget and relocating resources, but we still don’t have what we need. We’re having a bake sale this weekend, and have set up a Go Fund Me account so people can donate. For the island’s common good.”

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Wednesday! Yay!

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Blacktip Island Weather

xx

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Temperature: 89

Humidity: 78%

Precipitation: Not today

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Fire Destroys Blacktip Island’s First Renaissance Faire

renaissance fire

The main stage at Blacktip Island’s inaugural Renaissance Faire was destroyed Wednesday by arsonists who misread a publicity notice. (photo by Paloma Fairlead/BTT staff)

A misunderstanding regarding notices for Blacktip Island’s inaugural Renaissance Faire Wednesday resulted in four arrests, nine injuries and the venue’s destruction after a series of purposely-set fires, organizers said.

“We had a flyer-writing party to divvy up the workload, and some of them had a minor gaffe in them,” the island’s Society for Creative Anachronism shire grand seneschal Jay Valve said. “Clete Horn left the ‘a’ out of the ones he did, so they read ‘Renaissance Fire. A handful of folks took that literally and torched everything.

“The first sign of trouble was Dermott Bottoms and his buddies showing up wearing Viking helmets made from buckets and carrying tiki torches,” Valve said. “We thought they just wanted to be part of the spectacle. Then they sparked the tents, the food shoppes and the stage. The whole village burned in less than 15 minutes.”

Event participants were stunned.

“We were so excited to have our first Ren Fest on Blacktip,” Angela Fisher said. “The kiddos were enjoying their gruel-on-a-stick when—bam—yahoos started burning everything. We were looking forward to the jousting-on-hobby horses, but they even burned the horses. Then a vat of mead exploded all over us. The little ones are traumatized.

“The tents, and the dunk-a-wench booth took ages to build,” Fisher said. “And there’s hundreds of conch fritters ruined, and kegs of ale destroyed. They even burned some nearby docks. And the library. Thankfully, the librarian saved both books. I don’t know how we talk to the kids about this.”

Authorities arrested four residents.

“Couldn’t get here in time to stop the fires, but I’ve got the perpetrators locked up,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “No surprise it was Dermott Bottoms, James Conlee, and Linford Blenny. The fourth, Catalina Luxfer, is chained to my office desk since we only got one cell and I can’t put her in with those yobbos.

“Nine folks went to the clinic with injuries, mostly smoke inhalation,” Marquette said. “And Lee Helm’s got second-degree burns from running into a food booth to steal corndogs. I’m still tallying what to charge who with.”

The arsonists defended their actions.

“Organizers’ fault, you know, putting them signs up for a Renaissance Fire,” Dermott Bottoms said. “We thought the flyers about a ‘faire’ were mistakes. ‘Fire’ makes more sense. Who the hell spells ‘fair’ with a ‘e’? They didn’t want stuff burned, they should’ve been clear on that.”

“We was just joining in, dressed like Huns since they didn’t have any of those yet,” Bottoms said. “Seemed odd they wanted that stuff burned, but we were happy to do our part. Thought it went off pretty well. It all burned real good. And fast. And that was a lot more fun than folks playing lutes and dressing funny. Can’t wait to do it again next year.”

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Wednesday vibes:

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Blacktip Island Weather

sunrise

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Temperature: 91

Humidity: 77%

Precipitation: Soon come

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Lusca Sightings Have Blacktip Island Divers On Edge

lusca

A photo of the remains of a lusca that washed ashore at Eagle Ray Cove in 1972. (Blacktip Times file photo)

Multiple reports of a lusca—a large sea creature with tentacles and teeth blamed for attacks in the Bahamas—this week have Blacktip Island’s scuba divers, snorkelers and swimmers wary of entering the water, island authorities said.

“Treated this as a hoax at first, but enough people say they’ve seen it, we got to take it seriously,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “It’s basically a shark with tentacles, or an octopus with teeth, depending on who’s describing it, about 20 feet long.

“We’re telling folks to use their best judgement about going in the sea,” Marquette said. “No lusca attacks on record, but anything that big and that toothy, you got to be mindful of it. Can’t guarantee folks’ safety.”

Long-time locals say the threat is real.

“Been a while since a lusca’s come into the shallows,” local cryptozoologist Antonio Fletcher said. “Live way down the wall, under the island. That’s what gets divers who go too deep. Coming close to shore like this, it’s looking for food.  Or a host for its eggs. Divers’re right to be afraid. They’re the low-hanging fruit out there.

“Last month, couple of snorkelers had something grab ‘em. Came out of the water with suction-cup marks on their legs,” Fletcher said. “I warned folks then, but just got laughed off. This’s happened before, y’know. Got a photo from the ‘70s. And university studies confirmed it.”

Scientists disputed the claims.

“There’s no studies from this university confirming luscas, or any other sea monster,” Tiperon University-Blacktip marine biology professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “There’s zero evidence of such a cryptid’s existence other than a blurry photo of some unidentified blob on the beach from 50 years ago. Cramps and sunburn are threats to swimmers. A shark-to-pus, not so much.”

Divers remain wary.

“Fishermen see them all the time,” Chrissy Graysby said. “These sightings keep happening. I’m not going near the water ‘til somebody whacks this thing. Just last week it attacked a diver—he shoved his camera at it for defense, and it snatched the camera and swam away. Otherwise we’d have photos and video.”

Other locals suspect the sightings are part of a hoax.

“Dude, Payne Hanover has that giant octopus costume from his ‘Under the Sea’ beach party last year,” Alison Diesel said. “It’s right up his alley to prank people like this. Until somebody proves me wrong, I’m not buying it.”

Fletcher, meanwhile, is taking no chances.

“This thing’s dangerous,” he said. “It coming into the shallows, alarm bells should be flashing. We got to do something. Me, I go out in the afternoons, throw frozen pizzas and chicken strips into the sea. Ol’ lusca eats those, its arteries’ll clog and that’ll be the end of it.”

Payne Hanover denied possession of any costumes, octopus or otherwise.

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TGIW

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Blacktip Island Weather

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Temperature: 93

Humidity: 78%

Precipitation: Not a chance

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Fashion Week Brings Underwater Fashion Show To Blacktip Island

underwater fashion show

Blacktip Island’s amateur fashion designers will show off their creations underwater this weekend in the island’s inaugural underwater fashion show. (photo courtesy of Slava Zaitsev)

Aspiring local underwater fashion designers will show off their creations this weekend on Jawfish Reef, off Blacktip Island’s west coast, as a run up to next month’s New York Fashion Week.

“There’s a lot of untapped design talent on Blacktip, and it’s time the world recognized that,” show organizer Sue Nami said. “We have people doing some really exciting things with color and texture. The way these garments billow like algae in the current is stunning.

“The goal is to create designs that simply wouldn’t work on land,” Nami said. “Anyone can create clothes topside. These pieces flow so naturally they could be seaweed or soft coral or discarded plastic bags. It takes extra-ordinary skill to do ‘diaphanous’ successfully underwater.”

Garments will be constructed in a variety of confined-water venues, then showcased in open water.

“Designers are using pools at the various resorts, mostly in the evenings when guests are eating dinner,” fashion critic Vinny Abalone said. “A few are using blow-up pools and cisterns. Lee Helm’s doing his work in the booby pond, though there’s some debate on how his garments will function in the viscously-different sea water.

“Models will be dive staff, since they’re the most experienced on scuba and use the least air,” Abalone said. “We’re working out what the tides will be doing Saturday and Sunday so we can time the show when there’s just the right water movement. We pick the wrong time, our models might have their garments just hang there, or they could get swept away in the current.”

Designers say the underwater aspect offers intriguing challenges.

“The temptation is to go old stodge and use lots of neoprene, but that defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?” designer Dusky Blenny said. “The beauty of this is we can make garments that will flutter like underwater life. We’re breaking new ground here. Or water, rather.”

Others echoed that enthusiasm.

“I’m patterning my collection on stoplight parrotfish phases,” Joey Pompano said. “I’m mimicking scales and colors of juvenile, male-and-female adults, and terminal phase to emphasize that while all these fish may look so different, they’re actually the same species at different stages of development. Like much of the island’s dive staff.”

Some dive professionals were concerned about safety during the show.

“It’s fine to talk about ‘diaphanous robes,’ but what happens when one wraps itself around a model’s head, or gets tangled in a regulator?” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “And if currents shift unexpectedly, folks could get blown over the wall.

“We’ll have rescue divers hovering over the catwalk, and a line of divers carabinered in down current to grab any flailing models as they fly past,” Latner said. “Can’t stop this nonsense, but we can try to control it. And create a new specialty course.”

The show will be streamed live to all island bars. The winner will receive an application to New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.

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