Mutant Sand Fleas Nip Blacktip Island’s New Year’s Fireworks

P7041277.JPG

An uptick in the population of a previously-unknown variety of sand fleas has forced organizers to cancel Monday’s New Year’s Ever fireworks displays on Blacktip Island. (Blacktip Times file photo)

Blacktip Island’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display, scheduled for Monday night, has been canceled due to an unprecedented sand flea infestation on the small Caribbean island, event organizers said.

“The sand fleas and no-see-ums are so bad right now, you can’t go outside anytime after dark,” Rosie Blenny said. “Go to any island resort and all you’ll see are welted-up tourists. The clinic’s out of any kind of cortisone.

“Usually the fleas are bad at dusk, then go away once it’s full dark, but these suckers are different,” Blenny said. “We tried setting up the mortars last night and the crew was eaten alive in five minutes. There’s no way we can set up fireworks in these conditions, much less set them off.”

Experts say the pests are a genetically-modified strain of sand fleas.

“Tests we’ve run on collected subjects show a slightly-altered DNA,” island public health chief Herring Frye said. “Whether that alteration is natural or human-induces has yet to be determined.

“At first we thought the mutation was due to cyanide gas from all the decaying sargassum seaweed washed up in the beaches,” Frye said. “Sand fleas love that sargassum, and we’ve been up to our knees in it lately. But new data suggests the change is more likely from some sort of genetics experiment gone wrong.”

Island entomologists downplayed that possibility.

“We run genetics experiments on insects and crustaceans all the time, sure,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip biology chair Goby Graysby. “But our labs are secure and nothing, I mean nothing, escapes them. Lately, anyway. And James Conlee’s not allowed within 100 yards of the TU-B campus.”

Other island residents suspected a more sinister source.

“A few homeowners have complained for years about the noise from the fireworks,” resident Lucille Ray said. “Not to mention any names, we’ve all overheard someone with the initials Cyrus DeCamp talking about how nice it’d be if something made it impossible to set off New Year’s fireworks.

“He has the know-how, And he’s just crazy enough to do it,” Ray said. “People’ve called him the New Year’s Grinch before now. My bet is he kicked his game up a notch.”

DeCamp could not be reached for comment, all phone calls to him were unanswered and reporters’ visits to his house were met with a hail of thrown rocks.

In place of a fireworks show, island residents and guests are making alternate plans.

“The Sand Spit’s organized a midnight flashlight war inside the bar,” bartender Cori Anders said. “And down at the Ballyhoo, it sounds like people are going to just drink until they see fireworks in their heads.”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Singing Coral Head Highlights Blacktip Island Holiday Festivities

singing xmas coral

Gage Hoase and Alison Diesel wear Christmas tree worm caps Thursday night during the dress rehearsal of the Blacktip Island Acapella Society’s underwater Singing Coral Head. (photo courtesy of Nick Hobgood)

The Blacktip Island Acapella Society will eschew its traditional Singing Christmas Tree choral performance this Sunday night in favor of an underwater Singing Coral Head, with singers dressed as Christmas tree worms instead of ornaments, to celebrate the Caribbean island’s bond with its coral reefs.

“Instead of a choir in a giant tree, we’re doing a choir in a coral head,” director Donna Requin said. “We wanted to do something traditional, yet scuba themed, given the importance of scuba diving to the island.

“We’ll be giving Christmas favorites an aquatic twist,” Requin said. “The singers will wear big, bushy bonnets that mimic actual Christmas tree worms. It’s not some tacky holiday stunt, though. We’re being fully respectful of the holiday and the reef. We’re calling it A Merry Fishmas Choral Head.”

Songs include:

  • God Rest Ye Merry Jawfish
  • It Came Upon The Viz So Clear
  • Snapping Shrimp We Have Heard On High
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Night Dive
  • Fishmastime Is Here

Singers will perform in full-face masks, with songs played on underwater speakers.

“The masks muffle our voices a bit, and the hydrophones distort them, but that adds to the effect,” tenor Gage Hoase said. “The idea is to get people to see Christmas, and the reef, in a new light.

“Singing on scuba actually solved one of our problems,” Hoase said. “We needed a soprano, but no one could hit those high notes. Then Alison Diesel switched from air to heliox and BAM! She sounds like Maria Callas. In that range, anyway.”

Some in the community were critical of the concept.

“It’s another cheesy holiday train wreck,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens said. “Last year’s underwater Nativity scene made from old tires was an absolute embarrassment. We’re still getting trashed on Trip Advisor for it.

“‘Different’ doesn’t always mean ‘creative,’ especially when it trivializes the holiday,” Havens said. “People singing underwater wearing silly hats? That’s not Christmas. And what about people who don’t dive? Our church caroling is inclusive of everyone. Who celebrates Christmas.”

Requin brushed aside the criticism.

“The ‘caroling at the church’ audience has been dwindling for years,” she said. “Our choral head will be a breath of fresh air. Or freshly-compressed air.

“For those who don’t dive, or don’t care to dive, the singing can be heard quite clearly from a boat,” Requin said. “It’s quite ethereal. And non divers can also enjoy the performance via a live feed in the Sand Spit bar, where they’re welcome to sing along.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Thespians Bring Norwegian Christmas Tale To Life

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Holiday lights were raised over Blacktip Haven’s amphitheater Thursday in preparation for the Blacktip Island Community Players’ annual Christmas performance. (photo courtesy of Doris Blenny/BICP)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will kick off the holiday season Friday night with their performance of the classic Norwegian Christmas story, “The Cat on the Dovrefjell” at the Blacktip Haven outdoor amphitheater.

“Blacktip theater-goers are a savvy lot, and tired of the usual holiday fare,” director Doris Blenny said. “This is also a hat tip to the Norse raiders who sacked the island back in 650 A.D. or so.”

The story centers on a hunter, bringing a white bear to the king, who stops at a woodcutter’s house by the Dovrefjell mountain on Christmas Eve, Blenny said.

“The woodcutter, Halvor, was abandoning the house for the night because every Christmas Eve trolls came down, ate all his food and trashed his house,” Blenny said. “The hunter decided to stay anyway. That night the trolls came down and partied hard.

“They thought the bear was a giant cat and teased it,” Blenny said. “Things went south when one of them burned the bear’s nose with a hot sausage, and the angry bear chased the trolls back up the mountain. The next year at Christmastime, when a troll asked Halvor if he still had his white cat, Halvor said his cat now had seven kittens. The trolls never bothered him again. It’s a lovely holiday message, really.”

The cast includes:

  • Dermott Bottoms as the Bear
  • Jerrod Ephesians as the Hunter
  • Marina DeLow as Halvor the Woodcutter
  • Alison Diesel, Hugh Calloway, Jessie Catahoula and Finn Kiick as Assorted Trolls
  • The Blacktip Island bluff as the Dovrefjell

The rehearsals have already resulted in one injury, cast members said.

“Casting Dermott as the bear and wrapping him in that white flokati rug was brilliant, but telling him to attack people? That’s mental!” former troll Lee Helm said. “The first time I said, ‘Kitty, would you like some sausage,’ he knocked me unconscious and flung me out the window.

“They’ve barred him from rehearsals, but the damage was done. To me, anyway,” Helm said. “For Christmas this year I got 124 stitches, a concussion and a broken arm.”

Other cast members say Bottoms’ unpredictability will add realism to the performances.

“No one has a clue what Dermott’ll do when he gets his cue, not even Dermott,” replacement troll Alison Diesel said. “All we know is when I say ‘sausage,’ we’re all gonna be running like hell away from him.

“I’ve been practicing my tuck-and-roll,” Diesel said. “Dermott’s totally in character now. He won’t take off that rug, and he growls at anyone who talks to him. We told people in the first three rows to wear motorcycle helmets and any body armor they might have.”

BICP officials say the play will run through the holiday season.

“Performances will be every Friday and Saturday through New Year’s, cast injuries permitting,” Blenny said. “And it’s wonderful we can actually use the, ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’ stage direction.’”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Community Christmas Tree Lights Shock Blacktip Islanders

christmas tree lighting

A stampede at Blacktip Island’s Community Holiday Tree lighting ceremony Thursday night injured five residents. All were treated at the island medical clinic and released. (photo courtesy of KTNV)

Five people sustained minor injuries at the Blacktip Island Community Holiday Tree lighting ceremony Thursday evening after many attendees claimed the lighted palm tree resembled male sexual anatomy.

“We didn’t think it through, obviously,” event organizer Jay Valve said. “We used a palm tree this year instead of the usual sea grape tree, and on paper the lights looked lovely, with the trunk all bright, and oversized blue Christmas balls around the base. We should have put more lights on the fronds so you could tell it was a tree.

“Someone told us never to put holiday lights on a palm tree,” Valve said. “I guess we found out why the hard way.”

Witnesses described a chaotic scene following the lighting.

“We’d finished singing The Chipmunk Song, Jay flipped on the lights and all hell broke loose,” Gage Hoase said. “Most of us were laughing, but a bunch of people started screaming and running every which way.

“They were trampling each other, trying to get away, trying not to look,” Hoase said. “The people who fell down laughing got the worst of that. They’re the ones got hauled off to the clinic. We all needed a good, stiff drink afterward.”

The display shocked many attendees.

“The kids were excited about seeing the new tree, so we made sure we were in the front row,” resident Glenda Goby said. “Then the lights came on, and Christmas turned into a nightmare.

“I covered the little ones’ eyes quick as I could, but I have three kiddos and only two hands,” Goby said. “My youngest is still screaming. I’m still answering awkward questions. We expected a nice, family-friendly tree. That shouldn’t have been so hard.”

Some defended the decorations.

“It’s Christmas. There’s supposed to be surprises,” Wendy Beaufort said. “I mean it was awkward, happening in front of God and everyone, but it’s still quite festive. I wouldn’t accept any presents from under that thing, but, in a way, it sums up Blacktip Island life.”

The display has caused others to rethink all holiday decorations.

“Now people are imagining sex organs in every decoration on the island,” the Rev. Pierre Grunt said. “Icicle lights, angels, you name it, they’ve been dragged into the gutter. Jay and them really should have done some lighting test runs instead of going off all half-cocked.

“We even took the wreaths on the church doors, for decency’s sake,” Grunt said. “There were way too many people pointing and snickering. And taking rude selfies.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Messages-In-Bottles Flood Blacktip Island Beaches

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blacktip Island beaches have been inundated with messages-filled bottles this week, sparking numerous rescue missions. (photo courtesy of Edwin Chub/Marine Parks Department)

Blacktip Island beaches this week were flooded with hundreds of message-filled bottles from around the globe, sending island officials scrambling to find the cause and stretching the island’s emergency services thin.

“Message bottles started washing up over the weekend,” marine parks spokesperson Edwin Chub said. “Mostly on the windward east coast, but some came ashore on the west side, too. Resort guests were running up and down the beaches collecting the damn things.

“We never guessed there were so many castaways so many places,” Chub said. “Now, some are probably jokes, but they all ask for actual rescues and we can’t ignore any of them.”

Experts are uncertain what caused the sudden influx.

“Out of nowhere there’s 80, 90 bottles washing ashore every day, so something significant changed,” Tiperon University-Blacktip oceanography professor Grady Snapper said. “The leading theory’s warming sea water’s creating new convection patterns in the open ocean. The North Atlantic Gyre probably trapped a bunch of these bottles, and now shifting currents are shooting them all our way.”

Others suspect the bottles are an elaborate hoax.

“All these bottles showing up at the same time? That’s not natural,” resident Marcia Seagroves said. “Someone’s out dumping bottles off a boat. Or chucking them in at the beach so they wash back onshore.

“I’d bet it’s Antonio Fletcher or Jerrod Ephesians pulling our collective leg,” Seagroves said. “Like those guys who made crop circles for years to cause a kerfuffle while they laughed among themselves.”

Fletcher denied the accusations.

“Got no time for that kind of nonsense,” he said. “Ain’t got that many bottles, either. People’re pointing fingers at me when folks out there need rescuing.”

Observers say the messages are too varied to be the work of one person or group.

“We’re finding notes in all kinds of languages. That’s way beyond anything ‘Tonio’s capable of,” Donna Requin said. “I found one yesterday in Norwegian. Some kid tossed it in off Stavanger as a joke in 2009 and it took that long to get to us.”

Island emergency personnel are taking a sterner view.

“We have to take every rescue request seriously,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We’ve been contacting the appropriate authorities worldwide all week. Some have stopped taking my calls.

“If any of these notes do turn out to be jokes, the culprits will face the full brunt of the law,” Marquette said. “I’ve had no sleep for days, tracking down all these places. I still can’t find ‘Wanna-Hocka-Loogie’ on any nautical chart, but I do hope that Nigerian prince gets rescued safely.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Blacktip Island Braces For Black Friday Dump Scrounging

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blacktip Island resident Ginger Bass scans the island landfill’s scrap metal section for holiday bargains prior to the dump’s Black Friday scavenging event. (photo courtesy of Stoney Macdam/Tiperon Islands Public Health Department)

Blacktip Island bargain hunters will storm the Caribbean island’s landfill at dawn today to find the perfect holiday treasures, the island’s public health department announced Thursday.

“We closed the dump’s for all but our garbage trucks last week while we spruced the place up,” health department head Stoney MacAdam said. “We needed the place free of people while we put in a new incinerator and rearranged the junked auto section. It’s just coincidence we’re re-opening the place this Friday.

“Thing is, we underestimated how popular dump diving is this time of year,” MacAdam said. “People were already lining up along the entrance track Thursday, so we threw up gates and barriers in the interest of safety. Folks being deprived of scavenging for so long, it’s made them bug-nutty. Well, more bug-nutty.”

Residents say the impromptu event is the perfect start for the holidays season.

“It’s the Blacktip version of the Black Friday sales in the U.S.,” resident Ginger Bass said. “And now with no one being able to get in the dump for a week, there’s bound to be all kinds of great stuff all over the place.

“The trick’ll be getting in fast,” Bass said. “We have our little ones ready to go at the main entrance, and we’ll circle around the back to be the first ones in back there. We’d never sneak in ahead of time, of course. That’d set a bad example for the kiddos. But we’ll all charge in quick as we can when they blow that whistle.”

Some decried the event’s commercialism.

“It’s the holiday season. The focus should be on the holidays,” the former Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “People descending on the landfill en masse to pick through junk isn’t festive. It’s crass. And unsanitary.”

Island emergency personnel will be on alert during the event.

“We have volunteer medics, bandages and stretchers ready to go,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “And pickup trucks to haul any injured shoppers to the clinic.

“We also have the fire truck with its water cannon, primed for crowd control,” Marquette said. “Any fights break out, we can blast the troublemakers out the other side of the dump. And won’t hesitate to do so.”

Landfill officials expect the morning to be violence free.

“We’ve warned everyone about the need for civility,” MacAdam said. “Sure, there’ll be some pushing and shoving, but that just adds to the holiday atmosphere.

“Our aim is to create a safe environment for the children to scavenge in,” MacAdam said. “We didn’t plan on this becoming such a big deal, but we’re going to make sure it’s a family event now that it is.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Outgoing Blacktip Island Mayor Dedicates Mayoral Library

mayor's library

All Blacktip Island outgoing mayor Jack Cobia’s correspondence and documents from his time in office will be archived in the Caribbean island’s new mayoral library. (photo courtesy of Jack Cobia)

Following a surprising recount loss in this month’s mayoral election, outgoing mayor Jack Cobia announced Thursday he will create Blacktip Island’s first mayoral library to house all documents from his years in office.

“Folks call it arrogant, but I have a legacy to protect,” Cobia said. “They’ve got no clue the amount of time and effort that goes into running an island this size. I’m making all that public. For posterity. For the people.

“Every note, email, text and bar napkin’ll be downloadable,” Cobia said. “There’ll also be a searchable database so researchers can look up stuff by topic. The database is pretty small, but that actually helps with research.”

Library designers say interactive displays will bring Cobia’s tenure to life.

“There’ll be a scale model of the Sandy Bottoms bar, where Jack did most of his business, so visitors can get a feel for a day in his life,” said Ferris Skerritt, of the Skerritt and Skulpin architect firm. “They can also check out mobile readers and sit in their choice of bar stools, hammocks or toilet stalls.

“We’ll have video screens showing clips of Jack in action, too,” Skerritt said. “Everything from him leading the St. Dervil’s parade to singing karaoke at the Tail Spinner. It’ll be first class all the way.”

Many were critical of the proposed facility.

“Jack’s going passive-aggressive after he lost. At public expense,” Frank Maples said. “Who in their right mind would read his emails. Or see what he had for lunch or who he met for drinks five years ago? Researchers? Seriously?

“And I guarantee no one wants to watch video of Jack singing ‘Fat Bottom Girls’ off-key on the karaoke machine,” Maples said. It is appropriate there’s toilet seating, though. Now if they could just invent something that prints documents on toilet paper printer, that would be perfect.”

Island visitors, though, praised the concept.

“It’ll be something different to do in the afternoons, won’t it?” said Club Scuba Doo guest Amarillis Tang. “Especially for the non-divers and the kiddos. You don’t get anything like that on other islands. It’s a glimpse inside how local politics works – in bars, at parties, out fishing, that local color sort of thing.”

Some residents were inspired by the planned library.

“Gonna get me one of those memorial reading rooms, too,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Let folks stand in a scale model Ballyhoo, read the bar food menus and watch curling on TV.

“Or maybe sit in the Sand Spit toilet and read the graffiti,” Bottoms said. “Wrote most of it myself, you know. The good stuff, anyway.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean