A land crab explodes at Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort’s outdoor bar Sunday evening. The crabs ruined the Blacktip Island New Year’s fireworks extravaganza when they ate the Caribbean island’s store of pyrotechnics. (photo courtesy of Marina DeLow)
Blacktip Island residents and visitors celebrated New Year’s Eve without a firework display Sunday night after it was discovered land crabs had destroyed the stored pyrotechnics days earlier, officials said.
“We went to get the mortars and launch tubes and whatnot from the shed and found nothing but shredded cardboard tubes,” Blacktip Island Commission for the Holidays chair Jay Valve said. “All the powder inside the tubes was gone.
“We thought it was maybe kids, but kids’d have just shot everything off, not destroyed them,” Valve said. “Some people blamed PETA, thinking they’d done it to protect household pets. Turns out, it was stranger than that.”
Officials did not discover the true culprit until later that night.
“We were still scratching our heads about it, then James Conlee flicked a cigarette butt at a crab on the bar deck and, BOOM!, red and blue starbursts shot everywhere,” BICH safety officer Marlin Bleu said.
“It was like a box of Roman candles exploded,” Bleu said. “Knocked a half-dozen guests off their bar stools. I’m not sure they realized it, though.”
Scientists say negative wildlife interactions with the island’s human residents is rare, but not unheard of.
“We’ve had iguanas knock out power island-wide,” Tiperon University-Blacktip wildlife management professor Christina Mojarra said. “We’ve had the mersquatch pee in all the cisterns. But we’ve never seen anything like this.
“Land crabs will eat anything – rotted food, soap, ant bait – all without any ill effects,” Mojarra said. “I wouldn’t have thought they would find explosives tasty, but if they can eat fertilizer, I guess anything’s possible.”
Authorities have warned residents to keep open flames away from the island’s crabs until the explosives can metabolize out of them.
“There’s no telling how long it’ll take before the crabs are non-explosive,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We’re working with biologists to estimate a safety window, but it’s all trial-and-error guesswork at this point.
“You can tell which crabs ate fireworks because their shells kind of glow at night,” Marquette said. “Like the northern lights, but with legs and claws. We hope the colors will fade as the explosives wear off.”
Many residents put a positive spin on the events.
“The crabs may have been a New Year’s Grinch, but we had a good time anyway,” resident Ginger Bass said. “The kiddos chased the smaller crabs around with sparklers to set them off. Some shrubbery around the resort got scorched, but it created a festive mood. And little Shelly Bottoms’ eyebrows should grow back just fine.”
Others were happy crabs had eaten explosives.
“Gives them a nice flavor,” resident Dermott Bottoms said. “Gotta steam them slow, and handle the meat gentle, but it makes a fine extra-spicy crabmeat salad. Gonna miss them when they’re gone.”