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Blacktip Island Drinkers Launch Duck Duck Goose League

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The logo for the new Blacktip Island Duck Duck Goose League, launched this week by the Caribbean island’s domino players. (graphic courtesy of SeizureDog)

A group of Blacktip Island dominoes enthusiasts this week launched the Blacktip Island Duck Duck Goose League, the Caribbean’s first ongoing duck duck goose competition, based on the popular children’s game, organizers said.

“Bunch of us sitting around, you know, two playing dominoes and six watching, and we wanted to do something different,” James Conlee said. “Turns out, duck duck goose is a perfect drinking game. Everyone can play.

“Got simple rules and checks how drunk you are,” Conlee said. “Everybody sits in a circle, facing in, and one player walks behind them tapping each ‘duck’s’ head until he picks a ‘goose.’ Then the goose chases the picker to keep from being the next picker.”

Players say the game is more challenging than it seems.

“Gets harder when more people’re playing, ‘cause you got to run farther,” Peachy Bottoms said. “And if you’re the goose a bunch, you can get sick from all the running. It’s not a kids game anymore. We made it a sport.

“Drinking’s required, just like in dominoes, and each player has to take a drink between rounds,” Bottoms said. “Only other rule is you can’t run with your drink. We had too many spilled drinks and fights breaking out over that.”

Players say game strategy is constantly evolving.

“It’s a game of wits, more than anything,” Clete Horn said. “Antonio’s unholy hell. It’s like he knows you’re going to ‘goose’ him. And Lee Helm’s slow on the uptake, but he’s fast. He’ll catch you every time. There’s a trick to beating them, but I’m not sharing.

“Then after dark, there’s a bonfire in the center of the ring that complicates things,” Horn said. “Makes it hard to tell who’s who, especially when the booze kicks in. I’ve picked more than one goose I wished was a duck late in the evenings.”

Island authorities were ambivalent about the league.

“Anything that keeps that crew occupied, not fighting and off the road is a blessing,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “The game’s popular, so I know right where to find the troublemakers.

“On the other hand, people are wagering on who’ll win,” Marquette said. “There’s a lot of illegal money changing hands. I’ve had to arrest three people already for gambling, and the jail only has the one cell.”

The game has proved popular with island visitors as well.

“We stumbled across it exploring the island,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort guest Louise Limpet said. “We wandered behind the store and there were grown ups chasing each other around a circle.

“After a while, a couple of us joined in,” Limpet said. “It’s like being in kindergarten again. But with beer.”

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Blacktip Island Divemaster Discovers ‘Living Fossil’ Caribbean Coelacanth

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A photo of the previously-unknown coelacanth relative discovered by Blacktip Island scuba divers Wednesday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Alberto Fernandez Fernandez)

A Blacktip Island divemaster scuba diving on the Caribbean island’s rugged east coast Wednesday discovered a previously-unknown fish, closely related to the ‘living fossil’ coelacanth native to the Indian Ocean.

“We went in from shore on a day off,” Eagle Ray Divers’ Alison Diesel said. “I shined my light under a ledge and Whammo! There’s this gnarly-ass fish I’d only seen in photos.

“I thought I was narked, but I shook my head a couple of times and it was still there,” Diesel said. “Alberto took photos to prove it. That sucker was as big as me. The fish, not Alberto.”

Marine biologists confirmed the photos were of a coelacanth-like fish.

“It’s not a coelacanth, but it’s certainly a Latimeriidae,” Tiperon University-Blacktip ichthyology chair George Grasby said. “Judging by the fins and scales, it probably dates to the early Eocene Epoch – just post K-T extinction event.

“We’re calling it the deelacanth, since that’s the next step up, alphabetically and evolution-wise,” Graysby said. “It also ties in with our tentative genus-species, since we’ve named it Latimeria dieselius after Alison.”

Researchers are keeping the deelacanth’s location and depth secret to safeguard the discovery.

“The last thing we need is some yahoo snagging this thing and selling it to the highest bidder,” marine biology professor Lucille Ray said. “All I’ll say is it’s down deeper than diving guests go, but that doesn’t rule out scuba cowboys or hand-line fishermen.

“Our researchers are the only ones diving there now, but they can’t stay that deep for long,” Ray said. “We’ve got technical gear coming in so we can equip everyone properly. We hope to find more than one dieselius and, ideally, a breeding population.”

Other scientists disputed how to best study the fish.

“Someone’s gotta bring a deelacanth to the lab so we can examine it properly,” TU-B visiting marine biology professor Chester Balao said. “Going down to look at it’s a fine thing, but it’s not doing anyone any good just swimming around down there. We’ve got to be able to cut one up and see what makes it tick.”

Local dive operations are launching technical diving programs in response to the discovery.

“They can’t keep this thing under wraps forever,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “There’s no secrets on Blacktip, and folks’ll pay top dollar to dive with something they’ve only seen on National Geographic.

“Only other place in the world to see these critters is East Africa and Indonesia,” Latner said. “All those live down around 300 feet, so we’ll be set up with mixed gasses, multi-tank rigs, the whole shebang. We’ve got ‘Have We Got A Deel For You’ t-shirts and caps and water bottles, too.”

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Brawl Closes Blacktip Island Botanical Garden On Opening Day

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One of the few endangered Blacktip Island ghost orchid plants to survive Thursday’s brawl at the Blacktip Island Botanical Garden dedication ceremony. (photo courtesy of Reg Gurnard)

Blacktip Island’s new botanical garden was closed indefinitely during its opening ceremony Thursday when a brawl between rival gardening factions destroyed the facility’s entrance and many of its just-transplanted flora, island officials said.

“There was a dispute over who to name the garden after, with the crowd split evenly between two sides,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Several instigators began taunting each other and the violence escalated from there.

“Nearly 40 attendees were involved in the melee,” Marquette said. “The area has been cleared of people, and the garden will be closed until we can guarantee public safety at the site.”

Witnesses say the altercation resulted from simmering resentment in the island’s gardening community.

“I’m third-generation Blacktip Island Garden Society,” Molly Goby said. “My granddaddy founded the club. The garden should be named after him, out of respect, not some Johnny-come-lately who threw a bunch of money at it.”

Others disagreed.

“We contribute money and hard work,” Helen Maples said. “Who do you think paid for the land clearing and the gravel for the pathways? And trimmed the verges by hand?”

“Yes, we are changing the island,” Maples said. “For the better. That’s called ‘improving’ it. There would be no land for the Botanical Garden if it weren’t for us.”

Bystanders described a chaotic scene at the ceremony.

“The reverend had just started the opening prayer when someone yelled something about ‘golden trowels,’” Eagle Ray Cove resort guest Bill Fisch said. “The next thing you know people were at each others throats, flailing with gardening gloves, rakes, flower pots, even unplanted saplings.

“The tragedy is all the rare plants destroyed,” Fisch said. “Those poor orchids never had a chance. We kept our distance so we didn’t get dragged into it. And so we could video it. It’s all on YouTube now.”

Some locals say the brawl came as no surprise.

“Politics gets nasty with the garden set because the stakes are so small,” Belinda Graysby said. “Serving free alcohol at the pre-opening reception didn’t help, either. Both factions were lit, armed and looking for a fight.

“This kind of thing happens more often than you’d think,” Graysby said. “And they can call it a ‘botanical garden’ all they want, but it’s really just a path through the weeds. But saying that will start a riot, too.”

Some society members are pushing for a compromise to placate both sides.

“We floated ‘Goby Botanical Garden at Maples Park,’” BIGS secretary Reg Gurnard said. “But half our members pushed for ‘Maples Garden and Goby Park.’ ‘Goby-Maples’ and ‘Maples-Goby’ had the same result.

“The only option no one totally hates is naming it after ‘Tonio Fletcher, since he has no connection to the garden or gardening and, frankly, has a black thumb when it comes to plants,” Gurnard said. “We’re leaning toward ‘Antonio Fletcher Memorial Garden’ after all the plants that’ve died at his hands.”

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Airbag Boom-Off Competition Boosts Blacktip Island Safety

airbag competition

Blacktip Island motorists will take turns bashing airbag covers Saturday afternoon in the second round of the Department of Public Safety’s Boom-Off airbag safety competition. (photo courtesy of Herring Frye/BI Public Safety Office)

The second round of the Blacktip Island Department of Public Safety’s inaugural Boom-Fest airbag safety competition will take place at noon Saturday at the Caribbean island’s Public Works building, event organizers announced Thursday.

“The thing started as a simple auto airbag safety check, but so many people showed up to watch, we made it a contest to get as many cars inspected as possible,” public safety head Stoney MacAdam said. “Most airbags on the island are disasters waiting to happen, what with salt air rotting the contacts. Airbags don’t go off in collisions, or they’ll go off mid-drive with no warning.

“Contestants draw straws for which car to sit in, then bash the steering wheel with a rubber mallet,” MacAdam said. “If the airbag doesn’t deploy, you move on to the next round. If it does, you move on to the island medical clinic.”

Residents say the competition builds on an island tradition.

“It’s been an unofficial bar game for years,” Jerrod Ephesians said. “People in the car parks after the pubs close dare each other to hit their airbag covers. It started when James Conlee passed out, his head hit the wheel and BOOM! James barely noticed.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Ephesians said. “A bag goes off, it’ll mess you up bad. You can feel the tension build with each round. No one knows what’ll happen with each whack.”

Officials say the rules are simple.

“It’s a single-elimination, multi-round format,” public safety chief Herring Frye said. “The airbag deploys, you’re out. It doesn’t, you move on to the next round. And you’re disqualified if the crowd thinks you half-assed your whack or you lean back too much.”

“Car assignment’s totally random,” Frye said. “You can drive up in a new Honda, but draw a 20-year-old Land Rover from the hat. Those are the scary ones. British engineering’ll smack you in the face every time.”

Some in the community questioned the need for the event.

“Encouraging safety’s great, but this is really making light of a serious concern,” shopkeeper Peachy Bottoms said. “I mean, what’s next, a ‘who can drive at night without headlights’ race? Who can bail out of a burning car?

“More people are injured in Boom-Fest than in auto accidents,” Bottoms said. “And the losers use up critical medical resources. Why not just test airbags with no one in the car? Or take your chances on the road?”

Organizers say the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

“Medical staff is standing by, when possible, and we order all kinds of extra supplies for the clinic,” MacAdam said. “It’s worth the expense. It’s cheaper to treat a Boom-Off victim than an auto accident victim. And this ensures every vehicle on the island gets tested.

“We’re doing a round every Saturday to make sure everyone gets the chance to see at least one competition,” MacAdam said. “Worst case, we run out of cars before we have a clear winner. But at that point all the island cars will have been inspected.”

Contestants, meanwhile, were eager for Saturday’s second round.

“It’s like a jack-in-the-box, but full contact,” standings leader Dermot Bottoms said. “Trick is to have a few rums before you get in. After a couple of times, you get to where you kind of like it when the bag goes off.”

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Wilderness Safaris Let Blacktip Island Visitors Hunt Mersquatch

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A 2014 photo of the Blacktip Island mersquatch, the only known picture of the elusive and secretive aquatic relative of the more widely-known sasquatch. (photo courtesy of Molly Miller)

Blacktip Island visitors will have a new adventure option starting next week when local naturalist Rocky Shore launches his Mersquatch Photo Safari on the Caribbean island’s sparsely-populated southern end.

“The mersquatch is the mostly-aquatic relative of bigfoots and yetis,” Shore said. “It’s native to Blacktip and loves it down south where there’s not a lot of people and the island’s eat up with caves and sinkholes leading out to sea.

“We’ll be taking folks In Jeeps and on foot on overnight trips in the interior to see if we can get a look at him,” Shore said. “They’ll also see iguanas, hermit crabs, land crabs, grackles, no telling what, but the brass ring’s the mersquatch. There’s no guarantee, of course, but that’s the goal.”

Some residents scoffed at the idea.

“The mersquatch is a bunch of hooey, and Rocky knows it,” Ginger Bass said. “He’s charging a small fortune to take people out in the bush to get bug bit. Any ‘signs’ the guests find’ll be Rocky’s buddies off in the bushes howling and breaking branches.”

Others were more supportive.

“People say there’s no mersquatch, but I saw him first-hand, four years ago now,” south end resident Molly Miller said. “Got a quick picture, too. Right after he stole my sundress. The worry isn’t Rocky finding the mersquatch. it’s what happens when the mersquatch finds him?”

Island leaders were cautiously upbeat.

“I can’t speak to whether this what’s-it exists, but anything that brings visitors to the island is good,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Blacktip’s definitely lacking in topside activities, so Rocky’s camping trips are a perfect addition to our tourism product.

“Rocky’s quite the entrepreneur, I’ll give him that. He created a demand, then supplied the product,” Cobia said. “This’s already working out better than his Atlantis tours in the glass-bottom boat. And clicks on the island’s website have jumped through the roof.”

Guests on a test safari this week raved about the experience.

“It was as exciting as a big-game photo shoot,” Maria Pompano said. “We were never sure when the mersquatch would leap out from behind the trees. Or tear through our tent at night. The guide wasn’t armed, either, so that added to the rush.

“We didn’t find the mersquatch, but there were a lot strange noises at night, and some broken tree limbs. And scat. Lots of scat, so we were close,” Pomano said. “Sure, the mosquitos were hellish, but we got a t-shirts and water bottles, so it balanced out.”

Shore brushed aside the safari’s critics.

“Whether we find the mersquatch or not is beside the point,” he said. “People are getting an exciting nature tour, and loving it. And, really, are you more likely to pay top dollar for a ‘nature tour’ or a ‘mersquatch safari?’”

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Lionfish Shortage Spurs Blacktip Island Fish Farm

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Local aquaculture enthusiasts hope their plan to raise lionfish in inland ponds will solve the lionfish shortage at island restaurants. (photo courtesy of George Graysby)


A shortage of invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish on Blacktip Island reefs has prompted local aquaculturists to launch a captive-breeding program this week to supply lionfish to island restaurants.

“We’re victims of our own success, really,” Blacktip Haven chef Jessie Catahoula said. “We put lionfish on the menu to encourage scuba divers to cull them off the reefs. The cullers did such a good job, there’s no lionfish left.

“Problem is, we’ve marketed the hell out of fresh lionfish tacos, ceviche, medallions, you name it,” Catahoula said. “Tourists come here expecting lionfish, and boy, do they get hacked off when we don’t have any. Flying the meat in from the big island’s killing our bottom line. Thankfully the fish nerds stepped in.”

Resident aquarium enthusiasts floated the idea of a fish farm.

“The restaurants tried substituting other types of fish, but customers caught on,” George Graysby said. “Captive breeding was the only viable solution. We have lots of aquariums, so this isn’t really that big of a jump.

“We still push culling and conservation and all, but going forward all the lionfish served on Blacktip will be farm raised,” Graysby said. “Farm-to-table lionfish, if you will. And we’re working on genetically modifying them, too, to make them venom-less. And bigger.”

Experts say the plan will boost the small Caribbean island’s economy.

“Lionfish is set to be the new tilapia,” Tiperon University-Blacktip economics professor Sally Port said. “Digging the ponds is already keeping two people employed full time. And once the place is up and running, it’ll need a full-time staff to maintain it.

“It’ll be six months before the first fish are ready for harvesting, but at that point, the process will be self sustaining,” Port said. “George and Belinda are starting the fry in aquariums this week and will transfer them to the ponds as soon as, well, as soon as the ponds are completed.”

Island environmentalists cautioned about the project’s potential downside.

“We’ve spent so much time and energy getting rid of these invasive pests, now George’s actively breeding as many of them as he can?” Harry Pickett said. “What happens when a big storm washes thousands of lionfish onto the reefs?

“They’ll wipe out the native reef fish in no time,” Pickett said. “We’ll be worse off than before,” Pickett said. “This is an ecological disaster waiting to happen, never mind the stink a farm like that’ll create.”

Farm backers brushed aside such worries.

“We’re digging the farm way inland where it’s safe from any storm surge,” Belinda Graysby said. “And it’s up by the Tailspinner bar where it won’t bother anyone. And even if it does, if the booby pond stink doesn’t scare people away the smell of a fish farm won’t, either.

“Worst case, if a big hurricane does flood the ponds, well, we’ve got an island full of trained cullers who can clear the reefs in no time,” she said. “Either way, the restaurants’ll get their fish.”

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Caribbean-Themed Medieval Dinner Theater Comes To Blacktip Island

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Detail from the marquee at Blacktip Island’s new medieval-style dinner theater, which opened this week at the Caribbean island’s public pier. (image courtesy of Piers Planck)

Blacktip Island entrepreneurs this week launched a tropical-themed Medieval dinner theater to celebrate the Caribbean island’s history and broaden its tourist appeal.

“On Blacktip the focus is on scuba diving, fishing and bird watching, and rightfully so,” said show impresario Piers ‘Doc’ Planck. “But the island has so much more to offer. That’s what we’re tapping into with this Middle Ages-style dinner-and-tournament.

“Most people don’t know Blacktip Island was a Knights Templar outpost in the 11th Century,” Planck said. “It was the Order’s sole naval base in the Western Hemisphere, and the survivors of the Friday the 13th massacre escaped to Blacktip with what was left of the Templar treasury.”

Show organizers are still fine tuning many of its details.

“We’re still feeling our way with staging and choreography,” Rosie Blenny said. “It’s mostly James Conlee and Dermott Bottoms in second-hand Aquaman costumes and pool floaties whacking each other with bamboo poles and yelling ‘thee’ and ‘thou.’ But tourists love it.

“We made it aquatic-themed so it was more relevant to island visitors,” Blenny said. “Marketing’s tough, but that’ll change as word spreads. Knights in tights jousting with inflatable seahorses? That’s something people’ll tell their friends and neighbors about.”

The island’s business community is upbeat about the venture.

“Anything that gets people to the island is good, no matter how goofy it is,” Chamber of Commerce president Christina Mojarra said. “They’re staging it at Diddley’s Landing for now, and the audience brings its own chairs, but if this thing takes off, we’re looking at building a permanent stadium that can be used for other events, too.”

Not all island residents support the new show.

“The idea of the Knights Templar having a presence on Blacktip Island is ahistorical hooey,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “It was the Hospitallers. Tourism income is all well and good, but not at the expense of historical fact.

“And Antonio Fletcher dressed as King Neptune presiding over the affair undercuts any Society for Creative Anachronism-style educational value it might have,” Altschul said. “It is hard to look away from, though. Like an auto accident or a boat wreck.”

Island visitors were generally positive about the show.

“I didn’t really get what was going on, or what the point of it was, but it was fun to watch . . . whatever it was,” Eagle Ray Cove guest Otto Korrecht said. “Honestly, if I understood it I may not have liked it as much.

“The food was, well, the ‘Templar Conch Chowder’ and ‘Hospitaller Halibut’ were dodgy, and the ‘Holy Land Ale’ was just warm beer with limeade in it,” Korrecht said. “But you didn’t really notice during the jousting, though. I’m guessing that’s a big part of the business model.”

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