Illegal Iguana Cullers Injure Dozens On Blacktip Island

iguana culling

An invasive green iguana lurks in the underbrush at Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort Thursday. Over-aggressive culling of the non-native species has created a public safety crisis on Blacktip Island. (photo courtesy of Christian Linder)

A rash of mishaps involving over-zealous green-iguana cullers this week has created a groundswell public backlash against unlicensed cullers on Blacktip Island.

“The green iguanas don’t belong here and need to be checked, but things’ve gotten out of hand,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “Every yahoo and his cousin’s running around with slingshots, golf clubs, cricket bats, lionfish spears, you name it.

“Thank God guns are illegal. And bows and arrows,” Skerritt said. “James Conlee took out a whole row of bar stools—guests still on them—with a croquet mallet at the tiki hut yesterday. Sent five people to the clinic.”

Authorities blamed the rogue hunters on the bounty placed on iguanas.

“It’s only supposed to be a handful of licensed cullers, but with the government paying $5 a lizard, everyone wants in on the fun and profit,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Folks’re throwing common sense out the window trying to kill as many iguanas as they can. And most aren’t trained to cull safely.

“We tried only paying licensed cullers, but they just brought in iguanas their unlicensed buddies killed and split the take with them,” Marquette said. “I’m arresting illegal cullers. And drunk cullers, legal or otherwise. But I only have the one jail cell. To them it’s a laugh. To the rest of us it’s a public safety nightmare.”

Many island residents support the crackdown.

“It’s scary going outside these days, not knowing if you’ll be caught in a culling melee,” Peachy Bottoms said. “Nighttime’s the worst. You don’t dare wander out with all the spears and bats and sand rakes flying. People are whacking first and checking their target afterwards. Our little Shelley caught a stray lionfish spear in the buttocks Wednesday.”

Island nurse Marissa Graysby voiced safety concerns as well.

“The clinic’s in shambles,” she said. “There’s only one of me, and I’m out of medical supplies. We’re not equipped for a dozen injuries a day. Sure, the iguanas are bad, but all these people with cuts and bruises and cracked skulls are worse. It doesn’t help that most of the cullers are three-sheets-to-the-wind drunk, either.”

Many cullers defended their actions.

“Doing a service to the island’s what we’re doing,” longtime resident Dermott Bottoms said. “Jack Cobia and them said green iguanas were bad, so we’re taking care of them, on our own time and at our own expense. We sit in some stupid class, that’s time we could be killing iguanas.

“And alcohol’s a help, not a hindrance,” Bottoms said. “Couple glasses of rum, I start to think like an iguana. That’s where the magic happens. And that third glass, well, that just sharpens my aim.”

Marquette, meanwhile, is focusing his crackdown in the island’s more populated areas.

“I’m concentrating on the resort strip where most of the injuries are occurring,” he said. “Away from the resorts, it’s pretty much a free-for-all, but it’s mostly culler-on-culler injuries. If I can keep the tourists safe, I’ll call it a victory.”

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Blacktip Island Scuba Retailer Launches Steampunk Gear Line

Steampunk scuba

A gear-driven dive computer is one of many steampunk-themed scuba accessories released by local retailer Bamboo You this week in response to a growing demand for high-end steampunk gear among scuba diving visitors. (photo courtesy of Abraham Parseghian)

Blacktip Island scuba equipment manufacturer Bamboo You released a new line of steampunk-themed scuba accessories this week to capitalize on the growing popularity of the science fiction genre-inspired fashion among scuba divers.

“The whole alternative history with steam engines and metal gears is a natural for diving,” Bamboo You owner Piers “Doc” Planck said. “Divers are showing up with homemade cosplay-looking get ups, but none of it’s very polished. This’s an untapped market, and we’re going after like a duck on a June bug.

“Anyone can strap on an underwater top hat, or trick out their mask to look like a dirigible captain’s brass goggles, but we’re making high-end accouterments that capture an authentic steampunk aesthetic,” Planck said. “We’ll kit you out like you’re an underwater Jules Verne or Sherlock Holmes. Without the cocaine, of course.”

Steampunk aficionados are eager to use the equipment.

“You can make your own faux-riveted wetsuits and pith helmet dive beanies, but this stuff goes way beyond that,” Kenny Chromis said. “Leather fins with brass buckles up to your knees? Steam-powered dive computers with visible gears? That’s some bad-ass gear.

“That level of detail’s critical if you respect the genre,” Chromis said. “You can’t very well be Lord Archibald Clankenshaft-St. Giles at 80 feet without clockwork mechanisms and a skeleton pocket watch, now can you?”

Island dive staffs are concerned about the new equipment’s safety.

“Most of our divers, with standard scuba rigs, are lucky to finish a dive without hurting themselves,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Marina DeLow said. “They strap on all these funky gizmos, it’s gonna get ugly underwater.

“It’s job security for us, though,” DeLow said. “More than ever, our divers’ll need us to get them back to the boat alive and in one piece.”

Other resorts are requiring divers to familiarize divers with their new gear before entering open water.

“We’re making steampunkers do a full skill circuit in the pool so we can see what we’re dealing with,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “They have to know what they’re doing with whatever contraption they strap on before they jump in real water.”

Planck is planning to expand the line if it proves popular.

“We’ve got plans for all sorts of gear-driven diabolical devices—smoothbore spear pistols and zeppelin-shaped underwater scooters and the like,” he said. “They’re scuba accessories. The more useless they are, the better they sell, and we’re making our stuff plenty useless.”

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Ruins Off Blacktip Island Coast May Be Atlantis Remnants

underwater city

Cori Anders and other divers take measurements of the upright slab walls of the underwater ruins they discovered this week off Blacktip Island’s south coast. (photo courtesy of Vincent Lou)

Scuba divers exploring off Blacktip Island’s southern tip Wednesday discovered rocky formations some marine experts say could be the remains of a sunken city.

“We were out diving for fun and stumbled across these cool architectural features,” Cori Anders said. “They were totally obvious, but it’s right out from Mango Sound, where the currents are ripping and people don’t dive much. That’s got to be how it stayed hidden for so long.

“The vertical slabs with super tight seams between them reminded me of that Yonaguni site by Okinawa,” Anders said. “There were way too many straight lines for it to be natural—that doesn’t happen in nature. Much. And there’s weird figures scratched into them, too. They’re absolutely man-made.”

Island scientists were skeptical.

“Judging from the video, the slabs are most likely layers of sedimentary rock and the joints are natural, parallel fractures,” Tiperon University-Blacktip marine science professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “Those vertical walls likely used to be horizontal layers before the softer rock beneath them eroded and they settled upright. There’s plenty of straight lines in nature, and Cori’s photos prove that.”

Some locals say ruins off the island’s coast are no surprise.

“Always been stories about ancient civilizations on Blacktip, other cultures that thrived here ages ago,” amateur Atlantologist Antonio Fletcher said. “Ruins out there could be part of Atlantis, you know. We’re in the Western Hemisphere, and close to the Bimini Road—we know that’s part of Atlantis.

“Close to the Bermuda Triangle, too,” Fletcher said. “Could be something similar, that zaps you to another dimension. The Blacktip Trapezoid, maybe. That’s why folks on this island get so crazy sometimes. The university already did thorium tests that show the ruins are 10,000 years old. Ernesto just won’t release the results. And how does he explain the drawings?”

Mojarra rebutted Fletcher’s claims.

“No tests were done because no tests are needed,” he said. “Those ‘drawings’ are natural scratches where parrotfish nipped at the algae. And the only place those rocks are zapping anyone is to the bottom of a rum bottle.

“It’s more likely to be a part of Atlanta than Atlantis. At least Atlanta’s real,” Mojarra said. “Why don’t we exhaust natural, scientific explanations before we jump to UFOs, aliens and Bigfoot?”

Dive operators, meanwhile, are primed to capitalize on the find.

“We got Ruins Diver and Atlantis Diver specialty courses drawn up,” Sclub Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “Plus special ‘Dive Atlantis’ trips. For an up charge, of course. And t-shirts. Nothing like this anywhere else in the Caribbean. We’re all over that.”

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Blacktip Island Resorts Stage Underwater Hide-And-Seek Contest

Scuba hide-and-seek

A group of Blacktip Island scuba-diving guests have a practice session Wednesday afternoon in preparation for the Caribbean island’s inaugural underwater hide-and-seek contest. (photo by Paloma Fairlead/Blacktip Times)

Blacktip Island’s scuba charter companies will join forces Sunday afternoon to host the inaugural Where’s Waldo underwater hide-and-seek contest on and around the island’s Hammerhead Hole dive site, the Blacktip Island Tourism Department announced Thursday.

“It started with us joking about how dive staff are constantly searching for lost dive guests underwater,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “From there it morphed into a monthly staff training exercise, the guests got a kick out of it, so we made it a game.

“The staff still gets to sharpen their skills,” Latner said. “If anything, it’s even better training when the guests are trying to get lost. And to raise the bar more, we invited back some of our most navigationally-challenged guests as all-star hiders.”

Organizers say the rules are hide-and-seek standard, with a few twists.

“Everyone has five minutes to hide after they jump off the dive boats,” contest judge Jay Valve said. “We expect people to scatter like minnows once they hit the water. Open-circuit scuba bubbles are a dead giveaway, and rebreathers are banned, so we’re expecting more swimming away than crouching and hiding. Guests do it naturally.

“Hiders are limited to one 80-cubic-foot cylinder, and we’ll be frisking everyone for hidden pony bottles,” Valve said. “If you’re not ‘found,’ but you’re low on air and surface, you’re automatically ‘out.’ And we’ll have spotters, and drones, keeping watch.”

Some worried the contest presents significant safety issues.

“The temptation’s to suck your tank down to the last breath,” island nurse Marissa Goby said. “That’s potentially problematic, decompression sickness-wise, if you’ve been down a while. Or forget to exhale on your way up. There’ll be chase boats, and I’ll have a helper with first-aid training on hand, but it still creates a lot of risk.

“Also, the safety crews have to cover a ton of territory—people can go a long way with 3000 psi,” Goby said. “They’ll have GPS trackers on everyone to keep track of where they are, or where to recover the bodies, but GPS only works on the surface. We’re expecting lots of skip breathing, too, so we’ll have ibuprofen on hand for those vicious carbon-dioxide headaches.”

Others say the safety concerns are overstated.

“Bird dogging goofballs across three dive sites? That’s just a normal workday for us,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “Honestly, I can’t tell the difference between divers trying to get lost and divers trying not to get lost. Bottom line, they can swim, but it’s not our first cat herding.”

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Theosophy Society Takes Over Blacktip Island Church

church repurposed

A stained-glass panel in the newly-renamed Blacktip Polyagnostic Sanctuary is a reminder of its former life as the Blacktip Island Interdenominational Church. (photo courtesy of Ernestine Bass)

Faced with declining attendance and increasing expenses, the Blacktip Island Interdenominational Church shuttered its doors Thursday and handed the keys to the Blacktip Island Theosophy Society, church leaders said, setting off a war of words in the small Caribbean island’s spiritual community.

“I hated to do it, but I couldn’t cover the electric bills or afford repairs,” the Rev. Pierre Grunt said. “Congregation members either lost faith or were lured away by Our Lady of Blacktip. The church was the island’s heart and soul. Now it’s been sold off.

“The theosophists were the only ones who showed any interest, and that’s one hell of a coincidence,” Grunt said. “They’re in cahoots with that damned ecumenical council and pulled off a hostile takeover, pure and simple. They’ve always held a grudge against us. Both groups have.”

Ecumenical council members denied any hostility.

“We’re deeply committed to faith and enlightenment on Blacktip,” said the former-Rev. Jerrod Ephesians, Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council president. “But Pierre shot himself in the foot, repeatedly, by constantly preaching against the sins of drinking and smoking and carrying on. You’ve got to know your audience.

“His droning on and on and on in that monotone didn’t help, either,” Ephesians said. “The theosophy society had been looking for someplace permanent to meet for a while, so the council stepped in and helped make that happen. They’re already drawing bigger crowds than Pierre ever did.”

Theosophy society members hope to appeal to a broad swath of Blacktip residents.

“The building’s still a church, we’re just about seeking God through each individual’s direct, intuitive steps, not in some narrowly-defined sectarian tropes,” BITS president Ernestine Bass said. “We’ve renamed it the Blacktip Polyagnostic Sanctuary to emphasize that. And for our first meeting, the place was nearly full.”

Community members backed the change.

“It’s a lot more fun now that Reverend Grunt’s gone,” Ginger Bass said. “There’s less emphasis on sin and damnation and more on forgiveness and being happy. Plus, they’re OK with us bringing drinks in with us.”

The Rev. Grunt will continue to conduct itinerant services at various island locations.

“I’ll be preaching this Sunday at Diddley’s Landing public pier, weather permitting,” he said. “I’ll be doing baptisms right there on those concrete steps, too. There’s plenty on this island could use something like that. Communion’s out, though, after Dermott Bottoms got into the Communion wine last week. All the wine.”

Our Lady of Blacktip cathedral will continue to be open for any who prefer not to attend Rev. Grunt’s services or theosophy meetings.

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Tie-Dye Festival To Aid Blacktip Island’s Dying Reefs

tie-dying championship

A freshly tie-dyed shirt waits to be unbound Thursday afternoon in amateur dyer Wendy Beaufort’s workshop. Beaufort was practicing for this weekend’s Coral Reef Dye-Off craft competition to benefit the Caribbean island’s coral reefs. (photo courtesy of Johann H. Addicks)

Blacktip Island fabric artists will gather at the Blacktip Haven resort this weekend for the inaugural, two-day Coral Reef Dye-Off tie-dye competition to draw attention to the Caribbean island’s ailing coral reefs.

“Our coral’s nowhere near as healthy as it was ten years ago,” Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens said. “Whether from warmer water, acidic seas, development runoff or a combination, our reefs and our livelihoods are taking a hit.

“This combination juried dying competition and craft show will help combat that,” Havens said. “The competition will draw attention to how hard the coral is fighting to survive, and the proceeds will go to reef preservation efforts. And the shirts, shorts and whatnot are guaranteed to be groovy.”

Some worried the event will do more harm than good.

“Making people aware of the coral’s plight is great, but what happens when all this dye hits the reef? Or the aquifer?” environmental watchdog Wade Soote said. “There’s no telling what the ash and urea that makes the colors bond to fabrics will do once they hit the water table.

“At the very least, there should be an environmental impact study before there’s dozens of people dumping who-knows-what down the drain,” Soote said. “Pretty colors are all well and good, but what if they wipe out the marine park? Elena should know better.”

Organizers say those concerns are unfounded.

“All the used dye will go into a big vat and be neutralized before it’s dumped,” local dyemaster Harry Blenny said. “Also, though store-bought dyes are allowed, we’re encouraging everyone to use all-natural, locally-produced dyes, or even to make their own.

“There’s an art just in making the dyes out of local ingredients,” Blenny said. “Booby poop gives a really bright green you can’t get with a commercial mix. And ground up land crab mixed with balsamic vinegar gives a unique, vivid red.”

Local dye artists are eager to test their techniques against each other.

“You’re never sure exactly how good you are until you go head-to-head against another dyer under time constraints,” Wendy Beaufort said. “There’s lots of unknowns, and the competition should get pretty intense. The non-stop Grateful Dead in the background’ll take some of the edge off that, but still.

“The real challenge will be choice of medium,” Beaufort said. “Most people are sticking with tried-and-true cotton, but a few of us are experimenting with silk. Elena made a whole separate category for that, since the technique’s so different.”

All dyed items will be sold on site, with the winner serving as auctioneer, Havens said.

“We’ll have an auction Sunday evening to raise as much money as we can,” she said. “Hopefully the cash will cover the cost of a new coral nursery. Or snacks for our volunteers.”

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Blacktip Islanders Rally To Strengthen Earth’s Magnetic Field

earth's magnetic field

Two Blacktip Island residents have asked other locals to bring refrigerator magnets to the Caribbean island’s Heritage House Friday in hopes of boosting the planet’s magnetic field. (photo courtesy of Dermott Bottoms)

Blacktip Island residents, concerned by reports the Earth’s magnetic field is weakening, have organized a magnet-collection drive this Friday night at the island’s Heritage House in an attempt to strengthen the field.

“Magnetic field weakens too much, cosmic rays’ll get through and kill us all,” handyman Dermott Bottoms said. “We got to take action now, before it’s too late. We’re a small island, but we can do our part.

“We’re asking folks to bring any magnets they have to the Heritage House so we can concentrate all the magnetism in one spot,” Bottoms said. “The House’s in the center of the island, and there’s two power lines that cross there, so that’ll help, too.”

Other organizers stressed the need for community involvement.

“We were gonna order more magnets, but that’d create an imbalance someplace else, and cost money, so we’ll go with what we have,” James Conlee said. “There’s plenty of fridge magnets on the island, people just need to bring ‘em. And resort gift shops have a bunch they can loan out, too.

“Gonna string wires around the magnets and connect ‘em to a generator to give ‘em a boost, too,” Conlee said. “Sure, we’re low on the globe, but this’ll help build a base folks in more northern climes can build on to boost the magnetism up to the North Pole.”

Some in the community scoffed at the effort.

“Dermott’s switched from drinking rum to drinking booby pond water to come up with tis idea,” Tiperon University-Blacktip professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “Refrigerator magnets have nothing to do with, and no effect on the Earth’s magnetic field. This is just another excuse for him and his buddies to drink and pass out. I’m stunned there’s so many people talking about participating in this nonsense.”

Many locals plan to attend, and donate, whether the plan works or not.

“It’s Blacktip. People get bored, and this is something different to do,” Alison Diesel said. “Doesn’t matter if it works or not. It’s something to do on a Friday evening. And if everyone else is there, it’d be way antisocial not to go.”

Others were optimistic.

“Listening to Dermott and James, then looking things up on the internet, if there’s a change this’ll work, we have to try,” Dusty Goby said. “We’ll all be wearing non-ferrous clothing and jewelry so it doesn’t detract from the effect. We’ll know if it’s working if we don’t see the aurora borealis.”

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