Tag Archives: coral reefs

Blacktip Thespians To Perform Underwater ‘Day Of The Staghorn’

day of the staghorn

Detail of Lee Helm’s Staghorn King costume for the Blacktip Island Community Players’ underwater staging of the post-apocalyptic drama ‘The Day of the Staghorn.’ (photo courtesy of Onislandtimes)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will perform the post-apocalyptic underwater drama, The Day of the Staghorn, off the Sand Spit Bar Saturday and Sunday to draw attention to the plight of the Caribbean island’s ailing coral reefs.

The play, written by Blacktip resident Payne Hanover, is based loosely on The Day of the Triffids, the 1951 novel and 1962 motion picture about intelligent, animate plants that take over the Earth.

“In this, it’s the coral that’s a threat to mankind, so it’s different,” Hanover said. “Dump runoff gives one coral species the ability to think and move. Then the coral attacks the people that threatened it.

“The story’s set underwater, after rising seas cover the island,” Hanover said. “Humans have to build an undersea haven, then protect it from the marauding coral. It’s actually turned out quite well, all things considered.”

The play will be performed underwater to highlight the island’s coral damage.

“It started with wondering what would happen if the reefs could fight back,” said director Doris Blenny. “For the audience to see how much damage there is to the actual coral, it really drives that point home.

“As for the staghorn suits, Elena Havens and the costumers put in long hours making them as realistic as possible, right down to the stinging cells,” Blenny said. “And we did vote down repeated suggestions to make it a musical. It was a close thing”

The scuba-certified cast includes:

  • Hugh Calloway as Bill Mason
  • Marina DeLow as Josella Playton
  • Finn Kiick as Wilfred Coker
  • Gauge Hoase as Michael Beadly
  • Jessie Catahoula as Miss Durant
  • Lee Helm as the Staghorn King

Though island environmentalists praised the play, resort owners are concerned about its impact on future business.

“All this touchy-feely talk about coral is fine,” Club Scuba Doo owner Ham Pilchard said. “But showing a damaged reef is going to scare off divers. The Caymans are gonna eat our lunch over this. And casting divers as the bad guys? There’s gonna be some ugly blowback on that.”

Producers, however, insist the play will do more good than harm.

“We expect it to draw additional divers to Blacktip rather than scare them away,” Blenny said. “We’re staging multiple showings, as the actors’ no-decompression limits allow, so as many people can see it as possible.

“The only negative so far has been Lee Helm developing an unnatural attachment to his Staghorn King costume,” Blenny said. “He kept sneaking around the island bars stinging people. It took three of us to hold him down and peel the suit off of him.”

All proceeds from the production will go to the Nature Conservancy’s Coral Reef Preservation Fund, Hanover said.

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Tiperon University-Blacktip Fields First NCAA Football Team

fightin-mantis

A Blacktip mantis shrimp, (Odontodactylus blacktipius) on a Blacktip Island reef. The fearsome underwater predator is the namesake of Tiperon University-Blacktip’s resurrected athletics program. (photo courtesy of Alexander Vasenin)

Tiperon University-Blacktip kicked off football season Thursday at Skerritt-Bottoms Stadium when its inaugural American-style football team, the Fightin’ Mantis Shrimp, faced their arch rivals Slippery Reef Medical College’s Surgeonfish. The team competes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division IV.

“It’s a boost to island pride, having a varsity sports team again,” said TU-B’s athletic director Goby Graysby. “It was devastating when we had to ditch our water polo program, but we couldn’t go on after all those horses drowned.

“When the Mantis took the field in their turquoise-and-coral, it was magical,” Graysby said. “And how great was to hear the old TU-B fight song –‘Mantis! Mantis! Eyestalks high! We’re the shrimp from B-T-I!’ – echoing from the bluff again?”

Some in the community questioned the university’s motives.

“It’s a money grab, plain and simple,” said longtime resident Billy Ray. “Ol’ Goby’s eyeing the TV money an NCAA team draws. And he’ll get the lion’s share of the Tiperon Islands TV market share. Not to mention t-shirt and jersey sales.

“But if he thinks locals are gonna bankroll a new stadium, he’s nuts,” Ray said. “We got better things to spend our money on. And the ‘Mantis?’ Really? Not the ‘Sharks’ or the ‘Barracuda’ or the ‘Ciguatera?’”

Fans, though, were quick to defend the name.

“Mantis shrimp are deadly predators, despite their small size,” said Mantis supporter Marina DeLow. “Their claws move so quick they break the sound barrier. Even if they miss, the shock wave still kills their prey.

“Those suckers’ll blast apart any crab or clam shell out there,” DeLow said. “There’s a reason fishermen call them ‘thumbsplitters.’ Put one in an aquarium, it’ll break the glass and go for your throat.”

Most locals, though, focused on the team’s disappointing 64-0 loss to the Surgeonfish.

“We’re a work in progress, using what talent we’ve got,” said coach Rocky Shore. “None of these guys can throw. None of them can catch. But they can all run like scalded rats when someone’s chasing them.

“We lost pretty bad, but there was lots of positive stuff we can build on,” Shore said. “All our players showed up sober. Mostly. Our goal this week is to get ‘em to cut down on the drinking and smoking so they can run more than five yards without throwing up.”

University officials remained upbeat despite the loss.

“Logowear sales are through the roof,” Graysby said. “With that, plus the alcohol sales, plus the Bottoms Up Distillery sponsorship, we’ll be able to afford a domed stadium in no time.”

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Singing Coral Heads Discovered on Blacktip Island

Blue chromis school above a stand of Blacktip Island’s singing staghorn coral on Jawfish Reef. (Photo courtesy Amanda Meyer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Blue chromis school around a stand of Blacktip Island’s singing staghorn coral on Jawfish Reef. (Photo courtesy Amanda Meyer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Blacktip Island researchers this week documented coral heads on the Caribbean island’s Jawfish Reef interacting with other corals via harmonic resonance.

“There’d been tall tales from scuba divers about singing coral,” Tiperon University-Blacktip professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “On a hunch, we installed one of our new Broadband Datalogging Sound/Vibe Monitoring arrays on the reef. The BDSM tests showed the staghorn polyps flagellate to create high-frequency vibrations.

“It’s more of a high-pitched hum than actual melody,” Mojarra said. “Like Tuvan throat singing, but in the 16740 hertz range. Near as we can tell, that lets polyps communicate coral-to-coral. It also explains why more people hear the tones as the staghorn recovers from near extinction.”

The discovery settles a debate that’s raged among Blacktip’s divers for years.

“There’s always that annoying whine at Jawfish” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Marina DeLow said. “Like The Chipmunks singing ‘Good Vibrations.’ I chalked it up to doubling up on Sudafed, or vodka hangovers. Now we know better.”

Some experts, however, dispute the finding.

“This is textbook wish fulfillment, fueled by alcohol and who knows what else,” Island Psychological Association president Sigmund Skinner said. “Every scuba hippy wants to anthropomorphize the reef. They want to believe coral flagellates to communicate, and hey! What do you know? They discover coral flagellates. And sings while it does it!”

Local business owners, however, embraced the discovery.

“If coral can communicate with other coral, it stands to reason it can communicate with other organisms, even humans” said Elena Havens, owner of the Blacktip Haven resort. “Elephants communicate over vast distances with ultra-low frequency sounds. This is really no different.

“We’ve started underwater meditation sessions on the reef,” Havens said. “The effects have been stunning. It’s like our guests have become one big polyp colony.”

Researchers, meanwhile, are scrambling to catalogue the coral sounds.

“Ernesto brought us in to decipher the individual tones and tone combinations,” TU-B linguistics department chair Porgy Chomsky said. “We’re testing whether this is simply a species-specific vocabulary, or if we’re dealing with a pancorallic semiotic. It’s potentially ground breaking. Staghorn coral’s the Chatty Kathy of the reef.”

TU-B’s Mojarra concurred.

“If these harmonics are fueling coral growth, it could be key to restoring coral populations worldwide,” Mojarra said. “We have plans to regenerate individual coral heads with recorded music. And a crack team of marine geologists is working up plans for underwater coral topiary.”

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Underwater Golf Comes To Blacktip Island

A groundskeeper prepares the first tee at Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort’s new underwater gold course for Friday’s grand opening.

A groundskeeper prepares the first tee at Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort’s new underwater golf course for Friday’s grand opening.

Blacktip Island golfers will tee off underwater Friday when Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort opens its 18-hole underwater golf course, allowing scuba divers to tour the island’s reefs while golfing.

“A lot of our guests felt left out,” resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “Scuba golf reaches out to a broader demographic eager for underwater activities and topside attractions.

“It’s the first of its kind in the Caribbean,” Bottoms said “There was a place over in China tried it last year, but their caddies kept drowning.”

“It’s like regular golf, really,” course designer Rocky Shore said, “Except the course hazards are hungry barracuda, coral heads and jellyfish.”

“Another challenge is mantis shrimp claiming the holes,” Shore said. “We shoo them out, but they scuttle right back. Then one claw snap and BAM! your ball’s in a hundred pieces.”

Resort guests had mixed reactions to the new activity.

“I like to dive, and my wife likes to golf,” visitor Buddy Brunnez said. “Now we can dive and golf together. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. For either of us.”

Non-golfing divers complain the course is laid out across a dozen of the island’s most popular dive sites.

“They’re dropping folks into an incredibly fragile ecosystem to flail around with clubs,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens said. “We’ve already seen scolfers blasting out of coral heads with pitching wedges and whacking balls at stingrays.

“And what of the habitat destroyed creating this atrocity?” Haven said.

Bottoms was quick to allay environmental concerns.

“We chose sandy areas for each hole,” Bottoms said. “There was no need to landscape. Well, not too much, anyway. And our course rule is you add a stroke to your score every time you damage coral.”

For island dive professionals, safety is a bigger concern.

“You can yell, ‘fore’ all you want down there, but no one’ll hear you,” said divemaster Marina DeLow. “I had two divers get plunked today. And playing 18 holes, they’re gonna have yahoos blowing their no-decompression limits left and right.”

“We put all these holes in 20 feet of water or less,” Bottoms said. “Getting bent shouldn’t be an issue. Unless you’re a bad golfer. Or get a hole with a mantis shrimp in it.”

Bottoms also plans to build a knee-deep miniature golf course for non-divers and children too young to be certified.

“There’ll be an underwater shopping mall, too,” Bottoms said. “It’ll be tasteful, though, really spruce up the reef.”

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Blacktip Island Dive Sites Get Underwater Wi-Fi

Blacktip Island’s scuba diving guests can now roam the internet while underwater on the Caribbean island’s dive sites.

Blacktip Island’s scuba diving guests can now roam the internet while underwater on any of the Caribbean island’s dive sites.

Blacktip Island entrepreneurs Rich Skerritt and Sandy Bottoms have teamed up to install the first underwater wireless network for scuba diving guests on the small Caribbean island.

“It’s the 20-something generation of divers who’re behind it,’ Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “They get bored on safety stops. They want their social media. And if we don’t give it to them, you can bet the next guy will.”

“Underwater Wi-Fi draws divers to Blacktip Island, away from other dive destinations,” Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “It’s good for the island. A rising tide lifts all boats, you know.

“No one resort could foot the bill for something like this, so Rich and I threw in together to meet our guests’ needs,” Bottoms said.

The network functions via underwater routers hardwired to topside modems.

“We put antennas in all the dive site mooring balls, then ran cables down the mooring lines,” Blacktip Island Public Works head Stoney MacAdam said. “You can get a signal in a 50 foot radius of every mooring pin.

“Folks take a smart phone or a tablet down in a waterproof case and, voila, they’re streaming live video to their blogs and their kids are playing Candy Crush.”

The response among divers is split along generational lines.

“This is brilliant,” 28-year-old dive guest Kenny Chromis said. “Just looking at the reef is so 2014. I mean, what’s the point if you can’t share it in real time? Plus, we can leave the baby in the room and still monitor the crib-cam while we dive.”

Others are less enthusiastic.

“Leave it to the damn millennials to ruin diving, too,” said 53-year old scuba enthusiast Joe Pompano. “It used to be calming, a silent world. Now it’s all beeps and pings and yahoos Skyping through their regulators. Put the damn gadgets down and look at the fish, why don’t you.”

Blacktip’s dive operators have embraced the new technology.

“We’re selling waterproof tablet cases like crazy,” Club Scuba Doo dive operations manager Finn Kiick said. “Interactive fish ID apps, too.

“The hot spots also create an extra level of diver safety,” Kiick said. “Our Wi-Fi connected guests never stray more than 15 meters from the boat. And if one does wander off, we can track their signal from anywhere on the island.”

“This is the new frontier in scuba tourism,” Rich Skerritt said. “For a reasonable access fee, of course.”

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Mutant Crabs Protect Blacktip Island’s Reefs

Genetically-modified channel crabs, escapees from Cuban biological labs, are now protecting Blacktip Island’s marine parks.

Genetically-modified channel crabs, escapees from Cuban biological labs, are now protecting Blacktip Island’s marine parks.

The Tiperon Island Marine Parks Department Friday confirmed reports it is using laboratory-bred channel crabs to protect Blacktip Island’s dive sites against scuba diver-related damage, tasking the crustaceans with pinching divers who come in contact with the Caribbean island’s fragile reefs.

The crabs, larger and more aggressive than wild channel crabs, are a byproduct of the genetic research of famed Cuban geneticist Pellizco de Cangrejo, Tiperon University-Blacktip biology professor Ernesto Mojarra said.

“It’s a gene-splicing experiment gone horribly wrong,” Mojarra said. “Instead of big, tasty crabs, they ended up with big, mean ones. Then the crabs broke out of the lab and took over the reefs. For a short time they controlled significant portions of Old Havana.

“Trade winds and currents carried some of them to Blacktip Island’s reefs, where they’ve become intractable.”

“These suckers are nasty,” said marine parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “They’ll defend their territory to the death. We’re lucky we’ve been able to recruit them to our side.

“Scuba tourism’s our life’s blood, but reef-crashing divers are fast destroying that,” Schrader said. “We have to take action. One touch from a careless diver can kill an entire coral head. We’re strapped for cash, or we’d hire more officers. With these crabs onboard, well, it’s win-win. The reefs are safe, and we don’t have to pay wages or benefits.”

Local reaction to the news has been positive.

“We’ve had the crabs for years,” Club Scuba Doo dive operations manager Finn Kiick said. “They’re more of a nuisance than anything. We can’t get rid of them, so we might as well embrace them.”

“Recreational divers have to learn: you touch coral, you pay the price,” Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens said. “You think a stingray hickey’s bad? Wait ‘til you get a Cuban crab pinch.”

Scuba diving visitors, however, are furious.

“These monsters have been leaving us bruised and bloody for years,” longtime Blacktip Island dive guest Buddy Brunnez said. “Now, to find the government’s sponsored it? It’s like a bad horror movie. Trip Advisor’s getting some scathing reviews about this. We pay good money to dive here. We can touch anything we want.”

Meanwhile, island dive shops are making the most of the situation.

“We’re selling Peak Performance Buoyancy courses like hotcakes,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “It’s amazing how motivating a 450 foot-pound pinch in the shorts can be. Our Crab Diving specialty courses are jam packed, too.”

Marine Parks officials would not confirm rumors of other marine life being trained to safeguard the island’s reefs.

“Moray eels chomp divers all the time,” Schrader said. “And it’s not uncommon for pike blennies to take a chunk of flesh from a diver who strays too close. That’s just coincidence. Reef life protecting itself.”

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Zombie Barracuda Stalks Blacktip Island Divers

Baracuda

Amateur photo of what is believed to be the undead barracuda terrorizing Blacktip Island divers. (photo by John Martin Davies)

 

A rash of underwater attacks on recreational scuba divers Thursday is being attributed to the legendary chupagroupa, or ‘grouper sucker.’

“This manky gray thing buzzed by my head, teeth flashing,” said one victim. “One minute I’m taking pictures of a fairy basslet, the next, whoosh, my hand’s bleeding and my camera’s gone.”

“It looked like an eel, but with a crocodile head,” said another victim. “And whirly red eyes. And chunks falling off it. It wasn’t natural.”

Tiperon Island marine park officials are skeptical.

“We know something unusual’s out there, but a zombie barracuda? Seriously?” Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “We’ve been finding dead, blood-drained grouper on the reef, sure, but a rogue octopus or a boating accident are far more realistic culprits.”

“This was no rogue octopus,” government watchdog Wade Soote said. “This was worst case scenario. The Marine Parks folks just don’t want to spook the tourists.

“We’ve had our eye on this situation. Our worry’s been whether chupagroupa’s attacks would shift to humans as the grouper population thinned. What happened yesterday confirmed our worst fears. Now he’s got a taste for human blood.”

Scientists at Tiperon University-Blacktip say the creature is most likely a barracuda hobbled by sickness or age, able to gnaw at grouper but not kill them.

“In a weakened state, such a fish might see recreational scuba divers as viable prey,” said TU-B marine biology professor Ernesto Mojarra. “As for the rotting flesh people are reporting, well, it could just be an old fish. Or the divers were so deep they had nitrogen narcosis. Or were diving drunk.”

Island old timers swear otherwise.

“It’s old chupa. Guarantee you that,” Dermott Bottoms said. “He’s hungry, and pissed off all those divers are on his reef scaring the grouper. If that chupa’s pissed at you, he’ll get you.”

“Hooked chupa, fishing a while back,” James Conlee said. “Hauled him in, chopped him up, chucked the bits over the reef. Fish wouldn’t eat him. Next day, he’s whole and eyeballing my skiff. Now he’s found fresher meat, thank God.”

Blacktip Island’s business owners worry about the negative impact the incidents have had on the island’s dive industry.

“This damned chupa-whatsit nonsense’s gutting us,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “No one’ll get on our dive boats. They’re all howling for their money back.”

“No way we’re getting in the water with who-knows-what out there,” said one Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort guest. “We’re not even letting the kids near the pool.”

The bitten scuba divers voiced larger concerns.

“That thing drew blood,” one victim said. “I mean, I read the news. I know how this stuff works. Next step, I’m an underwater zombie, too.”

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