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‘Nitrox Bandit’ Has Blacktip Island Authorities Baffled

bizarre thefts

Eagle Ray Cove dive boats are under constant surveillance this week after a series of bizarre thefts at Blacktip Island resorts. (photo courtesy of Ger Latner)

A rash of stolen scuba gear this week has Blacktip Island authorities puzzled, and tourists worried, on the small Caribbean island.

“There’s dive gadgets disappearing from drying sheds, boats and resort porches all over the island,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “First a full-face mask and two Zeagle BCs went missing. Then a bunch of big dive knives and tank bangers.

“The only common thread is the missing items are all things dive staffs hate,” Marquette said. “And the thief always leaves a ‘Nitrox Diver’ mask strap behind as a calling card.”

Island officials are concerned the thief, dubbed the ‘Nitrox Bandit,’ is a threat to the island’s tourism.

“We’re trying to keep a lid on this thing so guests don’t get spooked,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “So of course everybody knows about it.

“Whether it’s for laughs or for profit, a smart ass is about to ruin Blacktip’s economy,” Cobia said. “Of course, the elephant in the drying shed is it may be some rat bastard from Tiperon Island trying to steal our guests. They’ve done it before.”

The island constable has focused on island divemasters.

“Most likely is it’s a disgruntled DM,” Marquette said. “One who’s either had it with annoying scuba gear, or trying to hide one crime amongst a lot of others. Either way, it’s classic divemaster passive aggression taken to the next step.”

The scrutiny has angered some dive staff.

“It’s not fair, Rafe pulling us aside and grilling us without a bit of evidence,’ Eagle Ray Cove divemaster Lee Helm said. “He questioned me in front of guests yesterday, and others have been detained more than once.

“It’s profiling, plain and simple,” Helm said. “The divemaster’s union will have something to say about this, I can assure you.”

Island resorts, meanwhile, have upped their security.

“We’re patrolling the drying shed and the boats ‘round the clock,” Eagle Ray Cove dive operations manager Ger Latner said. “And Finn up at Scuba Doo has webcams and motion detectors. God help the person caught with a ‘Nitrox’ slap strap on them. There’s been several ugly incident with innocent guests already.”

While many guests are troubled by the thefts, others see them as an adventure.

“It’s like vacationing in a 1950s Cary Grant crime caper film, isn’t it?” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort guest Suzy Souccup said. “There’s a real-life cat burglar out there, eh?

“This is my best vacation ever!” Souccup said. “Sure, I lost my underwater Etch-A-Sketch, but I have the thief’s calling card on my mask now. What a souvenir!”

The police and mayor’s office have released a join plea to the island’s scuba-diving guests.

“Divers, if you have annoying, or useless, scuba gear, lock it up,” Marquette said. “Or better yet, leave it at home.”

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Blacktip Island Divemasters Develop Hoseless Regulator


The prototype of the “L’Air de la Mer” hoseless regulator, showing its patented triple bamboo oxygen separator units. (photo courtesy Marina DeLow)


In what is believed to be a scuba industry first, three Blacktip Island divemasters announced Thursday they have developed a working prototype of a hoseless regulator.

The device works by separating seawater’s oxygen atoms from the larger hydrogen atoms and salt molecules to create a constant supply of breathable air, the regulator’s creators said, and allowing its users to dive without the need of a scuba cylinder.

“A hoseless reg’s been an ongoing joke for years,” said divemaster Marina DeLow, one of the creators. “Then one night after the Ballyhoo closed, the physics of how to make it work just popped.

“We spent the next couple weeks working out the mechanics and building a working model,” DeLow said. “We used old second-stage regs, bamboo tubing and refrigerator water filters, mostly. It’s pretty technical.”

The team has tentatively dubbed the device the “L’Air de la Mer.”

“The Cousteau suits are all up in our business over the name,” co-creator Finn Kiick said. “But that’ll sort itself out. If not, well, you can’t buy advertising like that.”

Though the current prototype is limited in scope, its designers say they plan to produce freshwater versions, Nitrox versions, and a version suitable for technical diving.

“It’s rough looking, but it works,” said Gage Hoase, the team’s third member. “For now the L’AM’ll only convert water into pure O2, so we can’t go below 20 feet. But we got plans to rig one with an oxystat that’ll let you dial in whatever O2 percentage you need.

“On deeper tech dives you’ll be able to crank the O2 down as you descend, then turn it back up as you decompress,” Hoase said. “No more being weighed down with doubles and side mounts and pony bottles.”

The device is not without its skeptics.

“A bunch of drunk scuba bums cooked up The Holy Grail of scuba after a night at the bar, then got rat-faced again while they built the gizmo?” said local scuba enthusiast Barry Bottoms. “That’s not a breakthrough. That’s an accident waiting to happen.

“They say they have a specialty course in the works, too,” Bottoms said. “What’re they gonna call it, ‘Dumb-Ass Diver?’ ‘Dead Diver?’”

Local entrepreneurs, though, are eager to back the project.

“Assuming the L’AM tests to specs, we’re gonna handle the manufacturing and marketing,” said Piers ‘Doc’ Plank, owner of the island-based organic scuba outfitter Bamboo You. “Making this out of locally-sourced, renewable bamboo’ll be boon for the economy, too.

“This’ll be a top of the line reg, and eco-friendly, what with the bamboo O2 filters. This thing could sell better than our Nitrox snorkels.”

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