Tag Archives: Jacques Cousteau

Eiffel Tower Replica Is Blacktip Island’s Newest Dive Site

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Starting Saturday, Blacktip Island scuba divers will be able to explore an underwater 1:10-scale steel replica of the Eiffel Tower. The privately-constructed structure honors the invention of the open circuit scuba regulator in France in 1942. (photo courtesy of Stoney MacAdam/Blacktip Island Public Works)

Blacktip Island scuba divers can now explore a replica of the Eiffel Tower after local entrepreneurs and public works officials teamed up to build a 130-foot, mostly-underwater tower replica off the Caribbean island’s northwest coast. The structure celebrates the 75th anniversary Jacques Cousteau’s introduction of the open-circuit scuba regulator.

“Blacktip’s a scuba island, and this is our shout-out to Jack Cousteau,” local businessman Rich Skerritt said. “A statue of him, or of the regulator, seemed disrespectful. Then we hit on the idea of the tower, what with its French connection and all, and voila!

“It’ll be a scuba icon, just like the real tower’s a Parisian icon,” Skerritt said. “We kept it tasteful, with a flashing light show every hour and everything. It’ll be even better once it gets a bit of coral growth and attracts some fish life.”

Skerritt’s associates agreed.

“Diving-wise, it’s like those oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, just shallower and easier to get to,” resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “We made sure it stuck out of the water a good 15 feet for safety and so boats can tie off on it. For a fee. And we got plans for an underwater restaurant on it, too.”

Not all Blacktip residents are happy with the tower.

“It’s an eyesore and an environmental nightmare,” said Harry Pickett, president of the Blacktip Benthic Society. “Acres of coral were destroyed to build that monstrosity. Rich and Sandy want to turn the reef into their private amusement park.”

Others voiced safety concerns.

“It’s a navigational hazard, plain and simple,” Marine Parks spokesperson B.C. Flote said. “It’s a distraction for aircraft, too. Monday’s late flight mistook the tower light show for the landing strip. Luckily there were night divers there to save the passengers and recover all the luggage.”

The tower’s designer brushed aside those concerns.

“We purposely built that sucker at the edge of the wall,” Public Works engineer Stoney MacAdam said. “The current took any construction sediment right out to sea.

“And those lights are a safety feature,” MacAdam said. “Lost divers, night divers, they can always find the tower. Some pilot can’t tell the difference between the Eiffel Tower and an airfield, that’s a training issue. It’s not on us.”

Skerritt bristled at criticism of his resort charging double to dive the site.

“That tower cost a pretty penny. We got to recoup our investment,” he said. “And with the ripping currents out there, we also have to have a chase boat down current to grab any yahoos who don’t clip onto an I-beam quick enough. That kind of attention to safety costs money.”

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Blacktip Island Players To Perform “Waiting For Cousteau”

Divemaster Alison Diesel rests recumbent as the Imperial Japanese Navy cruiser Aikoku Maru during the dress rehearsal for Doris Blenny’s absurdist scuba drama, “Waiting For Cousteau.” (Photo courtesy of Woodym555)

Divemaster Alison Diesel rests recumbent as the Imperial Japanese Navy cruiser Aikoku Maru during the dress rehearsal for Doris Blenny’s absurdist scuba drama, “Waiting For Cousteau.” (Photo courtesy of Woodym555)

Absurdist scuba drama comes to Blacktip Island’s underwater theater Saturday with the Blacktip Community Players’ Fall Extravaganza “Waiting For Cousteau,” commemorating marine explorer Jacques Cousteau’s famous 1971 expedition to Truk Lagoon.

The play, written by B.C.P. artistic director Doris Blenny, blends ‘The Lagoon of Lost Ships’ episode of “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau,” which documented the exploration of the World War II-era Imperial Japanese fleet sunk at the South Pacific atoll, with Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting For Godot.”

“That show hooked a generation of scuba divers,” Blenny said. “Beckett hooked a generation of theater-goers. Combined, the two speak to a certain je ne sais quoi of time and place that is Blacktip Island.”

In Blenny’s play, the crew of Calypso waits in Truk Lagoon for Jacques Cousteau to arrive. A succession of messengers tells them Cousteau is coming, but he never does. Crewmembers pass the time studying fish, debating whether they’re seeing the same fish or merely similar fish, and whether they’ve had that conversation before.

“It’s art copying life for most of Blacktip’s residents,” Blenny said. “And, frankly, some of the guests.”

The play will be staged in 20 feet of water off Diddley’s Landing public pier in a model of Cousteau’s famous exploration ship, Calypso. Local divemasters will play Cousteau’s crew as well as the Japanese wrecks.

“It’s an awesome acting exercise,” said divemaster Alison Diesel, who plays the sunken auxiliary cruiser Aikoku Maru. “Any schmuck can lay there and say she’s a shipwreck, but for this, you have to tell a destroyer from a minesweeper just by the set of the actor’s shoulders. In full scuba gear, mind you.”

“The depth of talent on display here is stunning,” Blenny said. “Gage Hoase does the narration in an absolutely spot-on Rod Serling. And his prologue in Cousteau’s voice is uncanny.”

“Aft-air many days in the lagoon the Crew of Calypso became very lonely,” Hoase said as Cousteau. “Some even grew quite friendly with the booby birds populating the island.”

“Of course, on Blacktip the guests usually become friendly with the dive staff,” Hoase added, dropping out of character. “But it amounts to the same thing.”

All performers will use Aqua Lung regulators in honor of Cousteau’s invention.

The performance will be streamed live to televisions in the Sand Spit bar as well as on the B.C.P. website.

The Sand Spit will feature specials on rum-and-bourbon Shipwreck cocktails, French wine and Japanese sake. Red knit watch caps will be available for purchase before and after the calypso dance contest.

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Blacktip Island Gets Artificial Reef

A model aircraft carrier used in the film “Tomcats of Fury” is one of the ships slated to be sunk as an artificial reef.

A model aircraft carrier used in the film “Tomcats of Fury” is one of the ships slated to be sunk as an artificial reef.

In keeping with the trend of sinking retired ships to create artificial reefs, model warships used in numerous Hollywood films will be sunk off Blacktip Island’s west coast this week to create the island’s first artificial reef.

“They’re small, sure, but there’s a lot of them,” Director of Tourism Val Schrader said. “It may not be as dramatic as the artificial reefs in, say, Florida or the Cayman Islands, where they used full-sized ships, but we’re tickled pink nonetheless. Some islands larger than us don’t have an artificial reef at all.”

The plan has drawn protests from veterans groups, environmental organizations and cinematic professionals.

“If these craft aren’t properly cleaned, they could wreak havoc on incredibly fragile reef systems,” Harry Pickett of the Pelagic Society said. “One drop of airplane glue can wipe out a 1,000-year-old coral head. And they’re talking about dropping dozens of these things out there.”

Minnie Bilder, head of the Screen Propmakers Guild, voiced concern as well.

“These vessels have had long, dignified careers,” Bilder said. “They’re stars. They deserve better than to be chucked off a dive boat by a bunch of Jacques Cousteau wannabes building an amusement park.”

Schrader countered both objections.

“These models have been cleaned according to the highest international standards,” she said. “And we’re not going to just toss them overboard to settle willy-nilly on the coral. They’ll be taken down individually, with full honors, and placed on the sand in a dignified manner.

“This is win-win-win. The wrecks will attract divers to the island’s resorts, and the underwater structures will provide homes for fish and other marine creatures. It’s a boon for the economy and the ecosystem, and also allows the movie studios to free up warehouse storage space.

“We’re especially excited at the prospect of these ships providing homes for juvenile Goliath grouper,” Schrader said.”

Dives done on the miniature wrecks will count toward NAUI and PADI Miniature Wreck Diving specialty certifications.

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