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Blacktip Island Bar-Goers Plan Nocturnal Platypus Hunt

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Two Blacktip Island residents hope a Friday night hunt will prove their claims of a platypus living in the mangrove tangles behind the Caribbean island’s Sand Spit bar. (photo courtesy of Cori Anders)

Two Blacktip Island drinking aficionados will stage a nocturnal platypus hunt Friday at midnight behind the Sand Spit bar to prove their claimed platypus sightings are neither a hoax nor alcohol-induced hallucinations.

“Tired of folks doubting us, laughing at us,” handyman Dermott Bottoms said. “Me and James Conlee, we seen the platypus a bunch of times. Comes out of the mangroves late at night. Usually Friday, Saturday, sometimes Sunday. Came over on a shipping container, like as not, like green iguanas do.

“Wander down there to pee, you got a good chance to see it swimming around,” Bottoms said. “It moves real quiet, and is real shy, but it’s by-God a platypus. Got the duck bill, the beaver tail, everything. Only way to stop folks making fun of us is to catch it, and that’s what we’re gonna do.”

Conlee said their plan relies on participation of other Sand Spit patrons.

“We got some big nets we set up on either side of the Spit,” he said. “One end anchored to the shore, the other strung out wide on long poles. As soon as we get a sighting, people’ll wade out with the nets in big semi-circles and surround it.

“Gonna get some beaters, too, to chase it into the nets,” Conlee said. “We got it all worked out. Once we catch it, we’ll take it to the university so they can make it official. Then we’ll laugh at the laughers.”

Tiperon University-Blacktip officials are dubious about the reports.

“The university will have no part of this,” TU-B chancellor Donna Requin said. “There is no way a venomous mammal indigenous to eastern Australia migrated to Blacktip Island. And there is zero chance a platypus survived months inside a shipping container, undetected through multiple container repackings, to land here.

“You think it’s a coincidence the only people who’ve seen this thing are Dermott and James?” Requin said. “Who only see it late at night, at the bar where they’ve been drinking all evening? The only thing swimming behind the Sand Spit is their rum-fuelled imaginations.”

Some residents say they plan to attend the hunt, whether there is an actual platypus or not.

“Not much happens on Blacktip, so this’ll be something fun to be a part of,” resident Gage Hoase said. “The biggest worry is James or Dermott might actually catch a platypus and get envenomated. They probably wouldn’t feel it after all the booze they down, but still. Platypus or no, it’ll be a laugh to get out there with the nets.”

Requin agreed.

“They won’t catch a platypus, but if a bunch of drunks is going to wade out with giant nets, there’s no way I’m missing that kind of comic gold,” she said. “I’ll bring Marissa from the clinic, too. There’s bound to be a near-drowning or two, or someone’ll step on a stingray, and they’ll need someone medical on hand.”

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Conspiracy Theories Scuttle Blacktip Island Recycling Program

recycling program

A plan to ship recyclable items from the Blacktip Island dump to mainland processing centers met unexpected opposition from island residents this week. (photo courtesy of Catalina Luxfer)

A proposed island-wide recycling program stalled this week due to vocal opposition from island residents convinced the program was a plot to destroy the island’s culture and heritage.

“Blacktip’s a tiny island drowning in garbage, and this plan addressed that,” environmentalist Catalina Luxfer said. “The dump’s the highest point on the island now, and the beaches are clogged with plastic. The clock’s ticking.

“We worked out a deal with local shipping companies to haul recyclables off island to mainland facilities,” Luxfer said. “It’s the first step in making Blacktip completely green and sustainable. Then came these protests and, frankly, I’m still trying to make sense of what they’re protesting.”

Opponents claim program organizers are hiding darker motives.

“Cat’s people are Big Island profiteers who want is to kill our Blacktip traditions,” Ginger Bass said. “Browsing through the dump for that perfect item is a great Saturday outing for the whole family. It’s our way of life. They want to ship our culture, our heritage off-island, like they did on Tiperon years ago.

“We’ll have to buy new items, from them, instead of repurposing what we find at the dump,” Bass said. “This is just a sneaky way to line their pockets by stealing from ours and calling it a sustainable something or other.”

Others saw a more sinister plot.

“Catalina and them want to increase pollution worldwide,” Antonio Fletcher said. “They’re just using the ‘green’ cover so people here’ll go along with it. Recycling centers burn more fossil fuel. So does a tugboat to haul stuff away. Everybody knows that.

“The recycling industry hurts the environment, long term, you know,” Fletcher said. “They’re secretly part of the global anti-environmentalist plot. And what happens to the dump workers they put out of work?”

Luxfer denied those claims.

“There’s no conspiracy. No secret plots with the global recycling Illuminati,” she said. “This is an Occam’s Razor moment. The answer with the fewest assumptions is true: we just want to help the island and everyone on it.

“On a speck of land this small, it’s crazy not to recycle as much as possible,” Luxfer said. “The Blacktip can only hold so much. Throwing everything in the dump will bite us in the butt. Soon. Also, ‘Blacktip Island culture’ is an oxymoron.”

The island’s business leaders were dubious.

“They’re creating a solution where there’s no problem,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Cat’s just grandstanding. She can take that green, global hippie crap back to the mainland where she got it. Blacktip’s not that kind of island. And never will be. Unless I get a slice of the profits.”

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Facial Recognition System Will Protect Blacktip Island Reefs

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Blacktip Island marine parks authorities have installed facial-recognition cameras like this one on the Caribbean island’s dive sites in an effort to reduce scuba diver-caused coral damage. (photo courtesy of Nick Hobgood)

Concerned with increasing diver damage to Blacktip Island reefs, authorities have installed facial-recognition cameras, disguised as coral heads, throughout the island’s dive sites to identify the most egregious offenders.

“The coral on some of our most popular dive sites is wiped out from so many divers with crap buoyancy,” marine parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “We’ve tried being nice. We’ve tried educating people. Now we’re getting ugly.

“There’s not enough dive staff, or marine park staff, to patrol the reefs, so we’ve installed hidden cameras,” Schrader said. “Whenever someone crashes into coral, we’ll be able to track them down and take appropriate action.”

Authorities say punishment for damaging coral will be stiffened as well.

“In addition to the fines already in place, we’ll be posting violators’ names and faces on our website,” Department of Tourism head Rocky Shore said. “We’re going for an all-out, island-wide full-court press. Naming and shaming’s an integral part of that.

“Additionally, we can move the camera housings from site to site,” Shore said. “Dive staff will be able to spot them, but tourists down for the week will never know. They’ll have to assume they’re under surveillance the entire time they’re under water.”

Many scuba diving visitors raised concerns about the program.

“This is a serious invasion of privacy,” Bill Fisch said. “They say it’s to protect the coral, but who gets all that data they’re collecting on every diver, and who are they selling it to later?

“Plus, how can divers relax and unwind is they know they’re being spied on?” Fisch said. “I’m gonna get fined and insulted time my fin brushes a sea plume?”

Others supported the plan.

“If it protects the coral, I’m all for it,” longtime island visitor Suzy Souccup said. “Plus, it’s fun to watch divers striking poses underwater, as if there’s a camera in every coral head. The guy who mooned the brain coral, though, I could have done without that.”

Park officials were quick to defend the program.

“Divers waive some of their privacy rights when they enter the marine park,” Schrader said. “That’s stated quite clearly on every dive operation’s waiver. And we’re only concerned with major reef crashers.

“You put out a fingertip to keep surge from slamming you into coral, no worries,” Schrader said. “We’re going after the yahoos who crawl across the reef, drag their gauges over it, kick the crap out of sea fans or stand on coral. We expect this to be a major revenue enhancer.”

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Underwater Gift Shop Comes To Blacktip Island

underwater gift shop

Eagle Ray Cove resort staff will vacuum seal retail merchandise in plastic wrap to stock the resort’s new underwater gift shop, believed to be the first of its kind in the Caribbean. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/Blacktip Times staff)

A Blacktip Island resort owner will open the Caribbean’s first underwater gift shop this Sunday in an effort to increase the resort’s profile in the scuba industry.

“We’re creating a new revenue stream and boosting the outfit’s visibility,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “We already got our topside gift shop, and world of a new, submerged one’ll get around quick. It also lets us tap into visitors from all the resorts, not just The Cove.

“We’re aiming at the impulse buyers, the kind of folks who wander through Wal-Mart picking up crap they don’t really need,” Skerritt said. “Whether it’s a coffee mug or paperweight or what have you, they’ll pay good money to say they bought it underwater. We’re not just selling tchotchkes, we’re selling the experience.”

The store, on the sand flats off Didley’s Landing public pier, will be manned by Eagle Ray Divers staff.

“Our divemasters’ll stock the place every morning, then break it down after the last dive boat docks in the evenings,” ERD operations manager Ger Latner said. “We’ll only staff it when boats are nearby, and rotate DMs through so no one takes on too much nitrogen, though we may staff it all day if it proves popular with shore divers.

“We vacuum seal the products in plastic, like food for the freezer, along with fishing weights to make sure nothing floats away,” Latner said. “People can tap their credit card or charge it to their room. Cash is welcome, too, but we don’t make change.”

Island visitors embraced the concept.

“It has everything you can get in a terrestrial gift shop, only better,” Earnestine Bass said. “So what if the t-shirt’s a little damp? It’ll dry.

“I’m staying an extra day just so I can be at the grand opening,” Bass said. “I’ll be able to take my friends gifts from underwater. How do you get more unique than that?”

Island environmentalists raised concerns.

“This is crass abuse of an incredibly-fragile ecosystem,” activist Harry Pickett said. “There’s already plenty of shiesse shops on shore that don’t damage coral or disturb aquatic wildlife.

“And there’s the issue of people unwrapping purchases underwater and letting the plastic wrapping float away,” Pickett said. “The last thing we need is more plastic on the reefs or washing up on the beach.”

Skerritt shrugged off those concerns.

“Harry and the scuba hippies need to see the bigger picture,” he said. “We’re offering guests a new service. That’ll bring more people to Blacktip, and that benefits everyone. A rising tide lifts all boats, and a little dinged-up coral’s a small price to pay for that.”

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Hungry, Hungry Hippos Will Decide Blacktip Island Mayoral Race

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Blacktip Island’s four mayoral candidates will compete in a Hungry, Hungry Hippos tournament Saturday to determine which two move on to next month’s general election. (photo courtesy of Dave Fischer)

In an effort to combat low voter turnout, Blacktip Island’s four mayoral candidates will face off in a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos Sunday at the Caribbean island’s Heritage house, with the two candidates receiving the most crowd support moving on to next month’s general election.

“Last time around we only had three people vote,” election chief Wade Soote said. “That’s how we ended up with a hermit crab as mayor. So we decided to make this election a public spectacle – on Blacktip, that’s guaranteed to draw a crowd. We were gonna have a Whack-A-Mole tourney, but this seemed more dignified. And no one had a Whack-A-Mole game.

“The mayor’s got no power and really doesn’t do anything other than make the occasional speech,” Soote said. “People basically ignore him. But we’re determined to keep democracy alive and well on Blacktip. And to keep crustaceans out of public office.”

This year’s candidates include former mayor Jack Cobia, resort owner Elena Havens, activist Val Schrader and ne’er-do-well Dermott Bottoms.

Island residents supported the idea.

“Blacktippers are always up for a party, so this really isn’t as whacky as it sounds,” Alison Diesel said. “The mayor’s a stuffed shirt, and doesn’t get paid. Why not have some fun with it and bring the community together?”

Election officials have built a small arena for the expected crowd

“We’ve erected a four-sided grandstand so everyone can see the game table in the center,” election supervisor Rocky Shore said. “Fans’ll sit behind their favorite candidate, and we’ll have multiple decibel meters deployed to determine which section’s cheering loudest.

“The official game board’ll be the classic setup of Lizzie the purple hippo, Henry the orange hippo, Homer the green hippo and Harry the yellow one, though candidates can prep with any version,” Shore said. “Hippos will be assigned to candidates at random to avoid any allegations of game tampering.”

Candidates are taking different approaches to prepare for the election.

“I’ve been doing wrist exercises to increase my stamina,” Cobia said. “This hippo game ends in ties a bunch, so I’m prepping for multiple games. Like most things, it’s all in how fast you can whack that lever.”

Others employed different techniques.

“I meditate while resort guests play the game beside me, focusing on the flow of the play,” Havens said. “A mindful, steady rhythm works far better than Jack’s rabbit-on-Adderall approach.”

Officials have waived no-alcohol election day rules to allow multiple beer stalls at the game site.

“We want as many people as possible participating in this election,” Soote said. “If beer gets people to buy into the process, so be it. And alcohol’s considered a performance-enhancing drug in competitive Hungry, Hungry Hippos circles, so we’re hopeful it’ll help the candidates, too.”

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Anti-Littering Request Draws Blacktip Residents’ Ire

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Blacktip Island’s police constable hopes his request to keep empty beer bottles in cars will reduce the number of empties littering the island’s roadways. (photo courtesy of Santeri Viimanäki)

A public plea from Blacktip Island’s police constable asking motorists to refrain from throwing empty beer bottles out their car windows brought angry responses from many residents of the small Caribbean island Thursday.

“Community leaders were unhappy about all the discarded bottles along Blacktip’s roads,” Marquette said. “Tourists were mentioning it on the internet, so the Chamber of Commerce asked me to step in. It’s a simple request at this point.

Some residents complained the constable’s plea sent the wrong message.

“This is the police giving the green light to anyone who wants to drive under the influence,” resident Bill Fischer said. “Like Blacktip drivers need any encouragement. Rafe just threw gas on a bonfire.”

Marquette defended his request.

“Sure, I’d love to crack down on drinking and driving, but you have to be realistic,” he said. “This is Blacktip. I can’t arrest the entire island. Keep your car out of the pond and don’t run into anything or anyone, and there’s wiggle room.”

Other residents say the plea is too shortsighted.

“Where do beer cans fall in all this?” Jessie Catahoula said. “Why just bottles? A ban on all litter on the roads would accomplish a lot more. And how does Rafe know he can’t arrest everyone on the island if he hasn’t tried?”

Blacktip motorists bristled at the constable’s request.

“Rafe’s got no right telling us what to keep in our cars,” Antonio Fletcher said. “You don’t throw the empties out, they clatter around and drown out the music.

“And besides, bottles along the road makes driving safer,” Fletcher said. “Headlights hit those bottles, it makes a glow, like runway lights. Keeps you out of the ditches. Mostly.”

Island officials, however, praised the plan.

“This makes the island more idyllic for visitors,” Blacktip Island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Safety comes later. We’re taking baby steps here.

“And keeping bottles in cars does enhance safety. It keeps people from being hit by them,” Cobia said. “Last Saturday Dermott chucked a bottle that broke on my head. Later he said it was a mistake, but he sure did laugh at the time.”

Marquette stressed the program is voluntary.

“Folks need to work with me on this,” he said. “If the problem persists, the next step will be issuing littering citations. After that, we may have send for more constables from the big island, and they won’t be so understanding of Blacktip ways. It’ll rain DWIs.”

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Blacktip Island Summer Musical To Honor Jacques Cousteau

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A coral-encrusted motor scooter serves as the wreck of the Imperial Japanese Navy ship Fujikawa Maru on Blacktip Island’s Heritage House stage during Thursday night’s dress rehearsal of “Death Lagoon,” the Blacktip Island Community Players’ 2019 Summer Musical. (photo courtesy of Aquaimages)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will kick off their 2019 Summer Musical season Saturday evening with the first performance of ‘Death Lagoon,’ a punk rock-themed homage to scuba diving pioneer Jacques Cousteau. The play will be performed Saturday evenings June 8 – July 6 at the Caribbean island’s Heritage House.

“People are making musicals about every other damn-fool thing, so why not a punked-up Cousteau?” said BICP artistic director Doris Blenny. “We’re recreating his most famous episode, ‘Lagoon of Lost Ships,’ where he and his team explored the Imperial Japanese Navy warships sunk in Truk Lagoon during World War Two.

“Blacktip would be a backwater nothing without scuba tourism, and Cousteau was the first to popularize recreational diving,” Blenny said. “It’s an homage, really, showing our collective respect and appreciation for Cousteau and his team. And Payne Hanover’s been on a Stooges jag lately, so it all came together quite naturally.”

The musical features Alison Diesel and Jacques Cousteau, Payne Hanover as Philippe Cousteau, and Lee Helm, Elena Havens and Jessie Catahoula as Calypso crew members.

The staging proved challenging for the BICP props team.

“Creating a realistic underwater scene was tough, but we have some incredibly inventive stage hands,” props master Marina DeLow said. “We scrounged a half-dozen trashed scooters from the dump to use as sunken warships, and we built a suspended fly system to make the actors and fish look like they’re swimming.

“We tried just hanging people from the rafters with dock lines, but it looked way too cheesy,” DeLow said. “It was fun watching Lee Helm swing back and forth, though, yelling for us to cut him down. Which we did. After lunch.”

Original songs include:

  • Sink and Run
  • Yamato and Musashi Buggered Off
  • I’m So Bored With the IJN
  • Hailstone Riot
  • Up Your Fujikawa Maru

The performance will conclude with a Sex Pistols-inspired version of John Denver’s ‘Calypso,’ celebrating Cousteau’s famous ship, Blenny said.

“The finale brings a tear to everyone’s eyes every time we rehearse it,” she said. “When those 15, 20 people in the audience hear it, there won’t be enough Kleenex on the island.”

Theater-goers are reminded of the BICP’s standing no-alcohol policy in the Heritage House, instituted after the infamous ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ incident of 2013. Purses, backpacks and pant legs will be checked at the door.

Proceeds from the performances will go to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Blacktip Island.

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