Tag Archives: islands
Sunday, October 10, 2021
Precipitation – Not happening
Blacktip Island residents are urged to seek shelter during the height of this week’s Perseid meteor shower, predicted to strike the Caribbean island from 11:17 pm – 2:43 am the night of August 11-12.
“Blacktip will be at the absolute bull’s eye for this year’s Perseid event,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip professor Ernesto Mojarra. “We’ll experience one of the most projectile-intense passes in recent history.
“By Tuesday morning this place could look like a World War I battlefield.”
Many locals plan to shelter in place underwater on the island’s coral reefs for the shower’s most intense period.
“That hurricane shelter smells of feet, and the tin roof barely stops rain,” island resident Lee Helm said. “No way it’ll stand up to meteors. Me? I’m riding it out on scuba.”
“Your average meteor is only deadly to about 18-20 feet in seawater,” TU-B’s Mojarra said. “After that it’s just a cold rock dropping a few feet per second.
“We’re telling folks the best depth for survival is in the 20-30 foot range. That gives the ideal balance between safety from meteors and prolonging one’s air supply.”
“All our rental gear’s spoken for,” Eagle Ray Divers’ owner Rich Skerritt said. “Regulators, tanks, everything. Some folks are reserving two, three cylinders just to be safe.
“We’ll have dive boats available, too, to take folks to the deeper reefs. For an additional fee, of course. Pricey? Sure. But, hey, what’s your life worth?”
Other resort operators are skeptical.
“We’ve set up chairs on our beach so people can watch, and will have complimentary Kevlar umbrellas, but that’s about it,” Club Scuba Doo manager Polly Parrett said. “The way some people are reacting, you’d think the sky was falling. And I suppose it is. But not in a bad way.
“Is it coincidence Ernie’s got a ton of money invested in Eagle Ray Divers? I think not.”
“The Chicken Little story has its basis in fact,” Mojarra said. “This sort of catastrophe’s happened before. And’ll happen again. We can’t just bury our heads in the sand.”
Eagle Ray Divers will offer NAUI, PADI and SSI Meteor Diver distinctive specialty courses for those who shelter on the reefs.
“This is a unique opportunity, despite the danger,” Eagle Ray Divers’ Skerritt said. “Folks are crazy if they don’t take advantage of it. This is a cert card none of their friends’ll have.”
“How often do you get to say, ‘meteors rained down on me and I survived’?” Mojarra said. “And with luck, divers will find spent meteorites on the reef to keep as souvenirs. That’s priceless.”
Blacktip Haven resort’s annual anger management retreat has island residents up in arms following repeated run-ins between participants and scuba diving guests from Blacktip Island’s other resorts.
Local business owners have demanded the resort cease the week-long program.
“The Haven’s up on the Bluff, within easy earshot of half the island,” said Rich Skerritt, owner of Eagle Ray Cove resort. “There’s no way to get away from the noise. Sound carries in tropical air.
“The primal screaming at all hours of the night, it keeps guests and staff alike awake. I know these retreats are all the rage, but this one’s killing our business.”
Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens was quick to defend the program.
“What we do at The Haven’s no one’s business. I’m filling my resort during the slow season, covering my expenses. If Rich’s place’s half-empty, that’s his problem.”
Other locals disagreed.
“All that hollering, we thought the mersquatch was back on the prowl,” resident Molly Miller said. “To find out it’s just tourists, honestly, that pisses me off.”
“We advertise our resort as a peaceful getaway,” Club Scuba Doo manager Polly Parrett said. “When Elena brings these people in, it destroys that. They set the birds off. Get the iguanas stampeding.”
Island police records show an uptick in violence during the weeks Blacktip Haven has conducted the retreats.
“You bring that many angry people together on one small island, it’s a recipe for disaster,” said Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette. “One person’s anger sets off another, and the next thing you know it’s snowballed into a bar fight or road rage.”
Attempts to conduct sessions underwater have resulted in confrontations as well.
“I’m swimming along with a stingray when this jackass starts whacking me with a stick,” said a Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort dive guest who asked to remain anonymous. “Then his buddies joined in. Only thing kept them from killing me was my pulling a knife on them.”
“There was an isolated incident where a diver stumbled into an underwater drum circle,” Elena Havens said. “It was unfortunate, but in no way indicative of these retreats.”
“These workshops do a lot of good,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians, the workshop’s facilitator. “I’m a recovering anger-holic myself. It’s easy to think of Blacktip as a tropical paradise, but there’s a lot of pent-up anger here.
“The naysayers need to have some sense beat into them,” Ephesians said. “When you point a finger at someone, you have three more fingers pointing back at yourself.”
A town hall meeting to discuss the fate of future anger retreats was aborted when a fight broke out in Eagle Ray Cove’s conference room. The meeting had not been rescheduled at press time.
Blacktip Island’s Scuba Hunt Club will kick off lionfish season this weekend with an underwater safari along the Caribbean island’s west coast. Club members aim to cull as many of the non-native pests as possible with newly-developed underwater rifles.
The Tiperon Islands Department of Natural Resources instituted the hunting season as part of the effort to eradicate the invasive Indo-Pacific fish devastating the islands’ reefs.
“Seven years ago we put a firm quota system in place,” the DNR’s Noddy Bolin said. “Licensed hunters are allowed to cull as many lionfish as they can, with whatever device they can find.”
“We’ve used nets, clubs and spears,” hunt club president B.C. Flote said. “It’s been pretty piecemeal, though, with folks getting what fish they could, but having to leave a lot behind.”
The recent invention of an underwater lionfish rifle – a specially-adapted .308 caliber sealed for underwater use and chambered for an ultra-high velocity round to compensate for water’s density – has made this year’s safari possible. The rifles are fitted with underwater scopes that correct for light refraction at depth.
“Spearing’s fun, sure,” said divemaster Gage Hoase. “But with the spears, you can only get a dozen or so before your air runs out. And the fish duck back in the coral where you can’t get them.
“With these rifles, we can pop hundreds in one dive. It’s not elegant, but it’s effective. And still fun. We can take down a stripey from 40, 50 feet away, no matter how they hide.”
The club hopes the safari concept will allow it to cleanse entire sections of the reef.
“We’re using beaters and baggers to streamline the process,” B.C. Flote said. “Beaters’ll fan out over the reef, whacking their tank bangers to flush the lionfish from the tall sea grass, drive them into killing zones where the hunters can shoot them. The fish, not the beaters.
“Then once a fish is shot, baggers’ll scoot in and grab the carcasses so the hunters can concentrate on shot count and quality. That’s the dicey part. Wounded lionfish can be ferocious. Lots of good hunters’ve been spined that way. They got special gloves this season. And orange wetsuits.”
“We tried using grouper as underwater retrievers instead,” Gage Hoase said. “But the grouper just kept eating the fish.”
Blacktip Island’s PETA chapter has filed a formal protest against the hunt.
“This is piscine genocide, pure and simple,” said PETA head Harry Pickett. “‘Cull’ is just another word for ‘murder.’ The ecosystem has changed. Lionfish are the dominant species on the reef now, with no natural predators. We have to embrace that. Embrace them.”
“Those suckers’ll have plenty of predators come Saturday morning,” the hunt club’s Flote said. “And us hunt club folks are as natural as it gets.”
Catastrophic window failures Thursday afternoon destroyed all but one entry in Blacktip Island’s Underwater Home Show. The Caribbean island homes were to be featured on HGTV’s “Pimp My Beach Shack” reality series highlighting alternative destination housing, with the winning designer to host a network DIY show.
“They said it was some kind of high-tensile, space-age polycarbonate,” show organizer Sheena Goode said. “Everyone bought it. Everyone used it. Now we see why we got such good prices.”
“We were putting the final touches on the armoire and, KABLAM! Water and snappers and chubs were everywhere,” designer Payne Hanover said. “Luckily there were scuba divers outside to breathe us to the surface.”
The windows’ manufacturer, Fenêtres de la Mer, denied culpability.
“Do our brochures specifically state not to use our plastic windows underwater? No.” spokesman B.P. Glass said. “But who in their right mind would expect an eighth-inch thick sheet of plastic to hold up to that kind of pressure? Not to cast stones, but this is an end-user issue.”
The sole surviving home, built without windows, was declared the show’s winner by default.
“I’m sickened by the damage, and I hate to win this way,” said Suzanne Souccup, the house’s designer. “But I’m keeping the prize money. And the reality show gig.”
“It was the modern, open-concept design of most of the homes that did us in,” organizer Goode said. “We laughed at Suzanne’s manky grotto, but that saved her from disaster.”
“Everyone was going with lots of light and rattan,” Souccup said, “So I opted for post-modern gloom. It’s not so much feng shui as it is funky shui.
“It’s done in 100% organic materials, locally-sourced and dyed with seaweed-based tinctures harvested from the island’s reefs. We finished it off with coral-rubble walls and black coral posts for the master bedroom.”
Local environmentalists decried Souccup’s choice of materials.
“Rattan is renewable,” said Harry Pickett of Earth First!. “Those black coral logs took centuries to grow. This isn’t locally sourcing. This is devastating the locale. This home should have been destroyed along with all the others.”
Picketts denied allegations Earth First! targeted any of the homes for sabotage, or that Souccup had any connection to his organization.
The Tiperon Island Department of Tourism has embraced the flooded homes.
“This is a lemons-to-lemonade situation for us,” the D.o.T.’s Val Schrader said. “We’ve plans to turn the mess into a self-guided snorkeling trail. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come along every day.”
Local scuba divers have been recruited to help with making the homes safe for snorkelers.
“We can’t pay you,” Schrader said, “but you can keep anything you haul up.”
American history partisans will face off today in the Caribbean island’s reenactment of the 1802 Burr-Hamilton duel between then-Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.
Both men had summer homes on Blacktip Island, and a number of island residents claim descent from one or the other of the men.
“After the original duel, feuding between the factions got so bad, it nearly depopulated the island,” Blacktip’s historian Smithson Altschul said. “To keep the peace, they started choosing one person from each to side fight it out.”
The duel’s loser and his supporters must lead the post-duel parade past the island’s scuba diving resorts wearing only Union Jack Speedos and fuzzy pink bunny ears, singing ‘I’m a Little Teapot.’
Island native Rocky Shore will represent the Burrists. Dermott Bottoms will represent the Hamiltonians.
“Guns are illegal, and last summer’s lionfish spear exchange got messy, so we’re using coconuts this year,” Rocky Shore said.
“Used rubber band pistols once, but that wasn’t dignified,” said Dermott Bottoms. “This’s a serious business, you know.”
“The duel’ll be up on The Bluff, on the Heights of Blacktip,” Bottoms’ second Polly Parrett said. “It’s also Blacktip Haven’s parking lot. They’ve set up grandstands and beer stalls so people can make an afternoon of it.”
Island police have doubled their numbers for the event.
“We’re flying in an extra officer to make sure the duel is confined to the two designated combatants,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We won’t have another all-night, island-wide broom melee of a couple of years back.”
Both sides are confident of victory.
“Dermott’s a big guy, with a hell of an arm,” Burr supporter Gage Hoase said. “But he popped his collarbone last month. He can’t make a full follow-through. He’ll float everything high and right.”
The Hamiltonians aren’t worried.
“Rocky takes that first coconut upside the head, he won’t have a choice about wearing those ears,” Polly Parrett said. “He goes down, I’ll sit on him and put ‘em on him myself.”
“I don’t understand a bit of this,” island visitor Kitty Mitchell said. “But it sounds fun drinking beer and watching people throw coconuts at each other.”
“It’s roots are American, but at its heart it’s all Blacktip,” said island resident Sgt. Major (ret.) Beaugregory Damsil, “Drinking beer and fighting is what Blacktip folks do best.
“It breaks the monotony, as well. And I’ve several US $10 wagers on Hamilton.”
Saturday marks Blacktip Island’s 433nd Running of the Iguanas, recreating St. Dervil’s original herding of rock iguanas to his Caribbean island monastery and converting them to Christianity in 1544.
“Dervil shared a one-room shack with dozens of those suckers,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Called them ‘monks.’ Taught them Gregorian chants. Records say they sang like the dickens.”
“To get the iguanas inside, Dervil’d run in front of the them with handfuls of fruit,” Altschul said. “Got people into church that way, too.
“After he died, islanders kept up the run, with folks racing in front of the iguanas, trying to make it to the kraal without getting mauled.”
The modern-day Running serves a more practical purpose.
“The runners are all residents convicted of minor crimes,” said Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette. “It’s the only way we can get through to some of these people. If they finish the run, their debt to society’s paid.
“We smear all the shoplifters, deadbeats and drink-drivers with fresh fruit, then turn the lizards loose,” I.P.C. Marquette said. “Bystanders are encouraged to throw fruit and vegetables as they pass.”
Runners are dressed in traditional white shirt and trousers, with a red waistband and neckerchief for easy identification.
“We set up barricades to keep the runners on course,” event organizer Jay Valve said, “but with just the one road, it’s more to keep the iguanas from running off into the bushes. The crowd sings a quick benediction, we shoot a skyrocket, and off they go.
“We had a couple of nasty clawings last year,” Valve said. “You have to expect that, though. You trip and fall, you’re gonna pay the price. But these are adjudicated criminals we’re dealing with here.”
“The Running also lets transgressors atone for their sins,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians, head of the island’s Interfaith Committee. “Last year’s Running was cathartic. The slashing I got was way more rehabilitative than any week in jail.
“We’ve also revived the traditional baptism of the iguanas afterward,” Ephesian said. “We try to get the iguanas to sing along with the benediction, too, but so far’ve only gotten a couple to hum.”
Island animal rights activists decry the Running.
“It’s barbaric penning wild animals, then forcing them to harm people,” said island PETA representative Harry Pickett. “This isn’t natural behavior. And iguanas are being baptized willy-nilly, regardless of any stated religious affiliation.”
Event organizers downplayed those concerns.
“No iguanas are harmed in the Running,” Jay Valve said. “It’s not like we’re staging iguana fights later. The iguanas get fed. Then saved.
“Do people get hurt? Sure. But they have it coming.”
Inspired by 2012’s record-setting space jump, Blacktip Island dive leader Marina DeLow will perform a giant stride scuba entry from the edge of space, splash down on an island dive site, then complete a recreational scuba dive this weekend.
“I grew up wanting to be an astronaut, and I love diving,” said DeLow, a divemaster at Eagle Ray Cove resort. “What better way to combine both passions? It’ll be the first time anyone’s gone from above the troposphere to below the troposphere with one step.
“We do giant strides from elevated piers all the time. This is really the same thing, just with more hang time.”
DeLow will splash down at Halyard Wall on Blacktip Island’s west coast, then do a 45-minute open-circuit dive before surfacing.
“The angle has to be just right,” said Dr. Azul Tang, head of DeLow’s jump support team. “She hits vertical, she’ll bottom out 260 feet down the wall; too oblique, she’ll skip across the water like a stone. She bounced four times and did a double-gainer in last week’s practice drop.
“Seventy-one point two degrees off vertical should put her at 53 feet of depth. That’s our goal.”
The European Space Agency (Agence spatiale européenne) has donated the balloon to lift DeLow 120,000 feet into the stratosphere. Eagle Ray Divers has donated a specially-modified dive boat for use as a gondola.
“The Guinness World Record folks said it won’t count as a giant stride unless it’s from a boat,” Eagle Ray Divers ops manager Ger Latner said, “so the Skipjack’ll be the first dive boat in space. We’ve about used up the island’s supply of 10-mil Visqueen and duct tape. And explosive bolts.”
Kevlar scuba fins will give DeLow additional maneuverability while airborne. The Kevlar will also resist burning up on entry.
Island dive operators plan to avoid the island’s west coast for the duration of DeLow’s jump window.
“We trust her aim and all,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens said. “But if she hits our boat, well, we don’t have the staff for that kind of repair. Or clean up.”
DeLow isn’t worried.
“I’ve already written up lesson plans for a new specialty course,” she said. “NAUI, PADI and SSI instructors will also be able to incorporate it into their existing Altitude Diving courses.”
Eagle Ray Divers’ Latner is optimistic as well.
“If she survives, and the insurance company gives us the OK, we’ll make space diving one of our regular dive offerings,” he said.
Researchers from Tiperon University-Blacktip have discovered a primitive coral circle in the heart of the Caribbean island’s near-impenetrable interior.
“These standing stones are thousands of years old,” expedition leader Ernesto Mojarra said. “The idea of ancient peoples carving them from coral, then moving them hundreds of meters inland over this sort of terrain, it’s a technological marvel.”
The henge’s construction is similar to that of Neolithic stone circles in Western Europe, Mojarra said. Radio carbon dating indicates the structure is approximately 2,500 years old.
The discovery has sent shockwaves through academic communities.
“This is either a case of convergent cultural evolution, or evidence of early Brittonic peoples settling in the Caribbean,” TU-B history professor Edwin Chub said. “If the latter, it would predate the first documented European arrival in North America by more than 1,000 years.”
“Caesar’s diaries mention druids ‘sailing to the Summer Lands’ to escape Roman persecution,” said comparative literature professor Christain Troye. “But historians attributed that to a night of overindulgence in Aminean wine with Pliny the Elder.
“There’s also a reference to ‘nigris extremum insulae’ in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘Historia Regum Britanniae.’” Troye said. “It’s a phrase that’s confounded generations of Arthurian scholars. Now we may finally have our answer.”
“There’s indications of smaller buildings surrounding the henge,” expedition leader Mojarra said. “Whether workshops or residences, we’re not sure.”
The team also found remnants of Bronze Age helmets and tubing that could have been used for breathing underwater, as well as numerous small amphorae of a type used for beer and wine storage at European Bronze Age sites.
“Sea levels were higher back then,” Mojarra said. “The bluff we know today would have been a smaller island, barely 20 feet above the waves, putting this site on the coast. We have to do more research, obviously, but it’s possible we’re looking at the Caribbean’s first scuba diving center.”
The expedition has drawn fire from local neopagan groups.
“We’ve filed a formal protest to stop further desecration of the site,” said Aubrey Hole, local divemaster and chieftain of The Ancient Order of Druids’ Blacktip Lodge. “Magnetic lines of force crisscross over that site like you’ve never seen. It may be our most sacred site in the central Caribbean.
“And with the summer solstice on top of us, well, how’d they like us ripping all the stained glass out of their church right before Easter?”
Mojarra said the exploration will be curtailed by the impending rainy season, but the team plans to return next spring with ground-penetrating radar to check for underground anomalies.
“We can’t process all the artifacts we’ve found so far,” Mojarra said. “Bronze air cylinders, Neolithic beer urns, what could be the remains of a circular table. It’s overwhelming.”