Sunday, November 8, 2020
Precipitation – not today
Sunday, November 8, 2020
Precipitation – not today
Sunday, October 25, 2020
Precipitation – soon come
Halloween enthusiasts will descend on Blacktip Island’s Wahoo Reef Saturday night for the small Caribbean island’s first-ever underwater haunted reef display. (photo courtesy of Gustavo Gerdel)
Blacktip Island Halloween aficionados Saturday will stage an interactive haunted reef display, where scuba divers can swim through an underwater landscape filled with scary effects, to raise money for the Caribbean island’s school.
“We wanted to do something different,” divemaster Gage Hoase said. “Everybody does underwater pumpkin carvings. It’s cliché. Haunted houses are old hat, too. So we decided to turn Wahoo Reef into a haunted dive site, an aquatic twist that’ll be something new. Sort of.
“It’s dive oriented, with most of the frights coming from fish and whatnot,” Hoase said. “Divers’ll follow a polypropylene line around coral heads and through swim-throughs. There’ll be strobe lights and colored lights, and scary stuff I can’t mention’ll jump out at the divers.”
Organizers stressed the display will not harm the underwater environment.
“We played with it last week, and it was no big deal,” Alison Diesel said. “Sure, it scared the crap out of the fish, but they recovered after a few days. Some of them actually seemed to like the lights and dry ice bubbles.
“The divers we have dressed as ghosts and zombies’re cool about not banging into coral, too,” Diesel said. “And it’s outside the marine park, so we’re all good from that angle.”
Others noted the underwater scares will come from more non-ghoulish sources.
“We made a list of everything a diver could be scared of, and stocked the route with as many of those as we could,” Payne Hanover said. “We’ll have in-character divers doing every real-life scary scuba thing there is— blown hoses, empty tanks, inflator hose jams, idiots with knives, you name it. People won’t have a clue who’s a haunted reef actor and who’s a fellow visitor.”
Some in the community questioned the safety of the production.
“This is a recipe for multiple people to get hurt. Badly,” island nurse Marissa Graysby said. “All it takes is one person panicking down there, and they’ll have multiple divers bolting for the surface. Or stabbing each other with dive knives. They really should have just had a pumpkin-carving contest. At the Sand Spit.”
Diesel said those fears were unwarranted.
“We’re not gonna have ghost divers snatching masks or regs or anything,” she said. “They’ll just act like they’re in trouble. Sure, someone may get their fin grabbed here and there, but that’s as far as it’ll go. I mean, there’s risks involved—that’s what makes it fun—but everybody signs a mondo-waiver, and a lawyer at the bar said we should be fine. And there’s no booze allowed until after you exit the water.”
Hoase stressed proceeds from the haunted reef will go to the island’s one-room school.
“There’s no kids on the island now, but there might be soon, the way folks carry on,” he said. “We’ll hold the money in a trust until there are some. Minus the expenses for the afterparty at the Sand Spit.”
A Blacktip Island business startup this week introduced what the owner calls ‘dive-through dining’ on the small Caribbean island’s reefs, allowing scuba divers to purchase food underwater for consumption on dive boats later.
“We tried a food boat, but it never really took off,” Piers “Doc” Plank said. “Then we had this ‘Dive-In Snack Shack’ idea, and it sounded crazy enough to work. We set up a station in the sand on Wahoo Reef and divers can buy food to eat when they’re back on their boat later—during their surface interval or after their last dive. Instead of ‘take out,’ it’s ‘take up.’
“We catch divers at the end of the dive, when they’re feeling their hungriest,” Plank said. “They have their choice of shrink-wrapped sandwiches, pizza by the slice and tacos. We’re working on soup in little squeeze bags, too, so people can eat while they’re underwater. Novelty sells. We charge twice what we’d charge on shore, and divers line up to pay.”
Servers say the setup is simpler than it sounds.
“We lower weighted food bins mid-dive, so we’re ready when the divers start their safety stops,” Christina Mojarra said. “Then we lift-bag it back up afterwards. Divers pay by scanning their resort room key card.
“To keep staff from taking on too much nitrogen, we only have staff underwater for that 10 to 15 minutes divers are actually under the dive boats,” Mojarra said. “And we rotate staff, so no one gets too nitrogen saturated. So far it’s worked great. Diver are fed and none of us have been bent.”
The Dive-In is not without its critics.
“If they’re in the sand and not damaging coral, it’s legal, but just barely,” Tiperon Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “They’re turning the marine park into a circus. There’s also the issue of what happens to all those plastic wrappers. Do they wind up back on the reef? There needs to be less plastic out there, not more.
“A bigger concern is what happens when some joker decides to feed some of this food to the fish,” Schrader said. “That is a violation of the law. The first time there’s any sign of fish-feeding, we’re cracking down hard on Doc and his gang. Never mind the safety implications of divers concentrating on food, not their gauges.”
Plank downplayed those concerns. “We require divers to do an air check before every purchase,” he said. “And we have signs underwater asking all our customers to eat responsibly. All the dive boat crews are good at impressing their guests with the importance of putting all food waste in onboard refuse bins. It’s a foolproof system that benefits everyone. Val needs to lighten up and come have an underwater fish taco.”
Local jack-of-all-trades Antonio Fletcher Thursday announced he will deliver a TED-style Talk, live-streamed to Blacktip Island bars, on scuba from Blacktip Island’s Hammerhead Hole dive site Saturday to promote personal empowerment and mental health awareness.
“Calling it ‘Channel You Inner Nudibranch,’ on account of nudibranchs have life figured out,” Fletcher said. “They’re not in a hurry, they’re beautiful and don’t have any negative impact on the world around them. Except for the other sea slugs they eat.
“With so many people stressing these days and being ugly to each other, the idea’s to get folks thinking more like nudibranchs,” Fletcher said. “Folks need something upbeat, something empowering in these trying times. I’m gonna talk about how to make the world a better place by harnessing the inner strength we don’t know we have.”
Some in the community questioned the concept.
“I like, ‘Tonio, I really do, but this makes even less sense than he normally does,” resort owner Elena Havens said. “I get the upbeat, self-improvement idea, but ‘think like a nudibranch?’ Nudibranchs are sea slugs. They don’t think. ‘Tonio’s essentially telling people to turn off their brains. There’s way too much of that on Blacktip as it is. And ‘Tonio’s the last person to give motivational advice.”
Fletcher was quick to respond.
“I know a damn sight more about motivating folks than Elena thinks,” he said. “Sure, I drive the Eagle Ray Cove airfield shuttle now, but, past life, when I was Fletcher Christian, I motivated the Bounty’s crew every day. And nudibranchs? They make everybody around them smile. Even if they can’t smile themselves.”
Other residents are looking forward to the talk.
“I think it’ll be a hoot,” Ginger Bass said. “I like seeing photos of nudibranchs, and I love those rare times I find them on dives. We’re gonna take the kiddos to the Ballyhoo to watch his talk. We can all use a little positive energy these days.
“We’ve already had the little ones visualizing themselves as nudibranchs, to get them in the right frame of mind,” Bass said. “We’re not going so far as to wear antenna or butt tufts. They can just imagine them. That’s the real power of this, bringing out your inner butt tuft, and going through your day as if you had one.”
Fletcher noted the talk is not an official TED Talk or associated with the TED Conferences.
“I pitched the idea to the TED folks a couple of times, but never heard back,” he said. “So I decided to channel my own inner nudibranch and do this anyway, Got to do what you can with what you have, especially with the island still on lockdown.
“I even learned to scuba dive, with a full-face mask, so I could give the talk underwater. Have more impact that way, y’know,” Fletcher said. “Still calling it a TED Talk, though, ‘cause nobody’d listen to a ‘Tonio Talk.”