Tag Archives: Tim W. Jackson

Blacktip Island Stages Socially-Distanced Literary Festival

BI lit fest

A ban on public gatherings on Blacktip Island prompted the Caribbean island’s literary festival organizers to broadcast this year’s readings island-wide over hastily-erected loud speakers. (photo courtesy of Doris Blenny)

Blacktip Island Friends of the Library this week are making their annual literary festival an island-wide event via loudspeakers after social-distancing rules made it impossible to have the event at the Caribbean island’s Heritage House.

“We can’t have gatherings of more than 10 people, so that put the kibosh on any public readings,” BIFL president Doris Blenny said. “We tried having presenters just yell really loud, but that just caused more problems. Lee Helm couldn’t get through his limericks without his voice giving out.

“We were set to cancel the event altogether, then Rocky Shore came up with the idea of putting up loudspeakers so everyone on the island could hear,” Blenny said. “We’ve had amplified readings every night this week, and it’s worked out quite well.”

BIFL members say the readings strike a balance between art and public engagement.

“We thought about streaming it online, but no one wants to watch someone just standing there reading something,” Shore said. “The speakers we set up have most of the island covered so everyone can hear while they do other things.

“In a way, this is better than the traditional lit fest,” he said. “You don’t get the social aspect of it, but more people get to hear the readings. Once we come out of lockdown, I think we’ll find it brought the island closer.”

Some residents agreed.

“I never realized what kind of talent we had on the island,” Wendy Beaufort said. “I’ve heard everything from poetry to short stories to essays to one-act plays the past few evenings.

“Wednesday’s poetry slam was especially good,” Beaufort said. “And last night Antonio Fletcher played all four parts in his play, talking in completely different voices for each character. He does that most nights at the bar, though, too, so it’s not as big of a deal as it seems.”

Others were not happy with the festival’s new format.

“Don’t want to hear all that crap blaring out at me every night,” James Conlee said. “I want to hear ‘Tonio babbling on, I’ll go to the Ballyhoo. Before, it was easy enough to avoid this nonsense by just staying away from the Heritage House. Now, they’re forcing it on us whether we want it or not. Doris and them need to give it a rest.

“Literature’s fine, but it’s something you should do in the privacy of your own home,” Conlee said. “And wash your hands afterward. This goes on another night, I’ve got a pair of wire cutters I’m gonna put to good use on them speaker wires. I know my rights.”

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Lionfish-Culling Robots Run Wild On Blacktip Island Reefs


Underwater drones used to rid Blacktip Island reefs of invasive lionfish have begun operating independently of their controllers, marine park officials said. (photo courtesy of Afnecors)

Several remote-controlled lionfish-culling drones, deployed earlier this year to aid in removing the invasive species from Blacktip Island reefs, this week began operating independent of their controllers, marine parks officials said.

“We use underwater drones to increase our culling capacity and to kill the lionfish down deep where scuba divers can’t go,” marine parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “You could sit at the computer and direct them in real time down to 400 feet. They’ve been a real game changer in lionfish eradication.

“A few days ago we noticed one of them was operating independent of any of us topside,” Schrader said. “At first we thought someone had hacked them, but the more we watched, we realized the drone was operating on its own without anyone’s direction. Then we noticed a couple more doing the same thing. They seem to be learning and adapting. That really got our attention.”

Some familiar with the drones say their behavior has changed as well.

“These things are hunting way more aggressively than we ever run them,” drone operator Rusty Goby said. “They’re tearing around the reef, smashing into coral and tearing up the reef structure. They’re killing a ton more lionfish, but at a cost.

“They’re also pushing their 420-foot depth limit, but not passing it,” Goby said. “That shows they know their limitations. That’s a frightening level of self-awareness. From what we can tell, they’re thinking for themselves.”

Researchers say the idea of self-directed machines is not as far-fetched as it sounds.

“This is the age of artificial intelligence. We should have anticipated this,” said Ernesto Mojarra, marine biology professor at Tiperon University-Blacktip. “The question is how many of these drones will go independent? And what happens when they kill all the lionfish?

“They’re learning from each other. If one starts hunting other kinds of fish, they could potentially wipe out the reefs,” Mojarra said. “And once all the fish are gone, what do they do next? Killing is their raison d’être. I doubt they’ll just shut themselves off.”

Island dive operators also expressed a growing concern about the drones.

“No way we can put divers in the water with these gizmos in kill mode,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “They’ll go after divers. Especially the younger, smaller ones. ‘They’ll come after all of us.

“What if this is some robo-Freudian thing where they want to kill their creators?” Kiick said. There may be no diving here until their batteries wear out. And no living on Blacktip if they can adapt themselves to land.”


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Quarantined Blacktip Island Restaurant Launches Rooftop Delivery

rooftop meal delivery

Diners ordering curbside take-out food at the Last Ballyhoo will now have their food and drink orders dropped into their arms from the restaurant’s roof. (photo courtesy of ZCaingkwaimliens)

A Blacktip Island restaurant, closed for dine-in service during the Caribbean island’s virus-prompted lockdown, has taken curbside delivery to new heights by dropping take-away food to waiting diners from the restaurant’s roof.

“Our goal is enhanced public safety,” Last Ballyhoo owner Peachy Bottoms said. “With standard curbside pickup, our workers have to get close enough to hand the food to customers. That’s close enough to pass the virus. We tried using a literal 10-foot pole, but it took too many people to handle it, especially for bigger orders.

“The system we worked out is customers park in designated delivery spaces beside the building, honk their horn, then Chrissy climbs up on the roof and chucks their food down at them,” Bottoms said. “It’s like cargo planes dropping supplies to soldiers, just on a smaller scale. And without the plane.”

Restaurant employees say the new service required them to learn new job skills on the fly.

“Me and Joey Pompano are the only ones with aim good enough to make the deliveries properly,” Chrissy Graysby said. “We had some pretty hacked-off diners at first, but we figured out how to wrap the food so there’s minimal disruption on impact. Soup was a major challenge, but we’re using scuba dry boxes and duct tape now.”

Customers praised the service.

“We appreciate the Ballyhoo’s emphasis on public health,” Christina Mojarra said. “We make a family outing of it. The kiddos just love catching the bags. Frankly, it’s about the only exercise they get these days. Plus, it’s nice not to have to cook and support a local business.”

Others said catching the meals can be a challenge.

“Some people stretch a beach towel between them to catch their food in, like old-school firemen,” Edwin Chub said. “‘Tonio Fletcher, he uses a landing net from his boat. Me, I put the kids’ mini-trampoline in the bed of my truck to soften the impact. Chrissy’s pretty good at hitting it dead center, and I can usually grab it on the first bounce.”

Local authorities have temporarily relaxed alcohol sales rules for the rooftop deliveries.

“The law says no alcohol can pass through a restaurant’s doors, but it says nothing about it being thrown from the rooftop,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “So long as the booze is sealed and in its original container, I’m letting it pass. These are trying enough times without an islandful of angry drinkers hounding me.”

Bottoms said the alcohol drops have been a surprise success.

“We’re happy to sell folks beer and wine, but with a caution,” she said. “We wrap the bottles in bubble wrap, but there’s no way we can guarantee they won’t get broken. The buyer assumes all risk.

“Funny thing is, we’re selling more booze now than we ever did,” Bottoms said. “When this quarantine business is over, we may keep doing rooftop deliveries. Except on Friday and Saturday nights. That’s when people down below take falling bottles the wrong way and start flinging empties back up. We had an ugly incident last week.”

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Quarantined Blacktip Island Residents Stream Live HORSE Tournament


An impromptu game of HORSE on socially-distancing Blacktip Island has developed into an island-wide tournament which spectators can watch live online. (photo courtesy of Aathavan Jaffna)

Blacktip Island residents confined under strict stay-at-home orders and missing sports have joined forces to create a social-distanced HORSE basketball-shooting competition and streaming it live online.

“People are starting to go bug-nutty inside so much, and we had to do something,” Alison Diesel said. “We’re allowed out for an hour a day, but still have to social distance. We came up with a hoops competition with just two people who don’t go anywhere near each other.

“Word got around and it really took off,” Diesel said. “Most people on the island wanted in on the action, so we came up with what amounts to conference-call basketball.”

The game’s rules were slightly modified to meet island public health mandates.

“Only two people are allowed on court at one time, and they have to stay at least 10 feet apart to allow for windage and heavy breathing,” B.C. Flote said. “Each player has to wear a facemask, and every time someone misses a shot and the ball changes hands, they have to spray the ball with bleach and leave it on the court for the other person to pick up.

“Also, each player has a ‘home base’ marked off far from the basket where they can take off their mask and have a drink,” Flote said. “Players are encouraged to bring their beverage of choice, alcoholic or otherwise, depending on their personal hydration needs.”

Matches are streamed online, where other competitors and spectators can watch.

“We thought it would be a passing thing for a few people to kill time, but folks got really into it,” Ernestine Bass said. “Half the people on island are playing, and the other half link up online to cheer for their favorite players. It’s really bringing the community together.

“The players are going all out, too, making uniforms and bringing laptops with them so they can play to the online crowd,” Bass said. “With so many people playing, the first round’s a round-robin format for seeding, then it switches to double elimination.”

The game has produced several surprise favorites.

“Who knew Lee Helm could actually shoot hoops?” Diesel said. “And Marina DeLow’s a stone-cold sniper from anywhere on the court. It’s early yet, but they’re hands-down the two to beat so far.

“At the tourney’s end we’ll set the trophies on the court 10 feet apart, spray them with Lysol and let the winners pick their trophies individually.”

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Blacktip Islanders Tout Wasabi As A Virus Cure


Two Blacktip Island sushi enthusiasts claim to have discovered wasabi fumes can cure the common cold and other similar viruses. (photo courtesy of Gage Hoase)

Two Blacktip Island residents this week claimed to have discovered a common Japanese condiment may destroy multiple types of corona viruses.

“We were scarfing sushi at the Tail Spinner when Gage Hoase inhaled at the wrong time and got a big snootful of wasabi,” Payne Hanover said. “He howled bloody murder and turned bright red, but his cold went away and he’s felt fine ever since.

“We figured if wasabi’ll knock out a cold, it’ll probably kick ass on similar viruses,” Hanover said. “Makes sense, when you think about it—those vapors get up in your sinuses and in your lungs, the fumes’ll burn up any microscopic organisms. Viruses can’t live in that kind of toxic environment.”

Some on the island are already trying the treatment.

“My little one had a head cold, so we put wasabi in the bedside humidifier to give her a gentle dose,” Ginger Bass said. “Within a few hours she felt fine. Of course, we’ve had a hankering for sushi ever since, but that’s a small price to pay.”

Others have been experimenting with dosage.

“We’ve seen good results from putting a dollop of paste on your tongue and inhaling as hard as you can,” chamber of commerce president Led Waite said. “Dermott, he snorted a whole line of the stuff, and he’s never looked healthier. We’re thinking the fumes break down the virus’ outer walls on contact. Sure, it hurts like hell, but a lot of people are into that sort of thing, so that can be a bonus.”

Public health professionals were skeptical of the claims.

“There’s no proof Japanese horseradish cures colds, and no medical reason to think it would kill any sort of virus,” island nurse Marissa Graysby said. “People trying this so-called cure are hurting themselves needlessly. I’ve treated multiple patients for chemical burns after they shoved wasabi paste up their noses. And elsewhere.

“It also gives false hope of being cured, and makes people avoid seeking proper medical treatment,” Graysby said. “Come on, people, use your noggins.”

Hanover remained upbeat about wasabi’s potential.

“We know it works. Now we just have to play with how best to use it,” he said. “We’re also looking into combining it with pickled ginger and soy sauce. The naysayers can slag us all they want, but huffing wasabi’s better than doing nothing. People need to give it a chance. What do they have to lose?”

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Blacktip Authorities Announce Island-Wide, Self-Distanced Fire Drill


Sheltering-at-home Blacktip Island residents will have an excuse to get out of their homes Saturday morning when island authorities will conduct an island-wide fire drill. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/BTT staff)

Blacktip Island authorities Thursday announced residents will be required to participate in an island-wide fire drill Saturday while still practicing strict self-isolation protocols.

“People may be in isolation because of this virus situation, but they still need to be prepared for emergencies,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “There’s no fire department on Blacktip, so fire-safety awareness and preparedness is especially important.

“We’ll blow the hurricane warning siren Saturday morning, and everyone will have to stand in their front yards with a functioning garden hose and bucket,” Marquette said. “I’ll be driving around the island to check on compliance, and anyone found not participating or unequipped will be fined on the spot.”

Island officials say the exercise is necessary.

“This is a community-building thing,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “The point isn’t to fine or harass people, it’s to make sure everyone’s thinking two steps ahead. Neighbors are encouraged to check up on each other and make sure everyone’s properly prepared. And to let us know if anyone’s not.”

Not all residents were happy with the planned drill.

“This’s just gonna get folks spying on each other, making anonymous calls to rat each other out,” James Conlee said. “Blacktip’s not that kind of island. Neighbor’s house catches fire and they’re not ready, I’ll just help them out. I’m not standing in my yard with no bucket. I dare Rafe Marquette to drive all the way out here to check if I am.”

Others downplayed the drill.

“Rafe can blow that siren all he wants. I’ll be sitting inside,” divemaster Lee Helm said. “I already planned to binge watch The Lord of the Rings Saturday, and no daft fire drill’s gonna get me off the divan. There’s 100 plus houses on the island. No way Rafe’s gonna check every one of them.”

Some residents, bored with isolation, welcomed the drill.

“With all the resorts empty, it’s not really needed, but it’ll give everyone something to do,” Christa Goby said. “My neighbors and I are already planning a yard party to coincide with the drill. As soon as the siren goes off, we’ll all gather in our front yards and meet up almost like we used to.

“Me and Gauge Hoase already have lawn chairs and ice chests set up on our lawns,” Goby said. “No law against that. And as long as we each have our hose and bucket, Rafe can’t cite us for anything but public drunkenness.”

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Misunderstood Conservation Announcement Inspires Blacktip Island Artist


An island artist used washed-ashore hard and soft corals to fashion a timepiece-and-wristband after misreading a reef conservation flyer. (photo courtesy of Jerrod Ephesians)

A misreading of an environmental announcement on Blacktip Island this week led to an island artist’s creating a line of wristwatches made of coral.

“The sign said they wanted everyone to participate in ‘the Coral Watch’ over the weekend, so that’s exactly what I did,” said island artist Jerrod Ephesians. “I collected bits of sea fans, hard coral and soft coral from the beach, ground down the stuff I needed and made a watch from it. It was a bit big, but looks-wise it rocked.

“The clockwork mechanisms inside are solid state, and it runs on a battery, but the face, hands and wristband are all repurposed coral,” Ephesians said. “I made a bunch more as unique mementos for people who want to feel connected to the reef. I was surprised as anyone else when I found out the announcement meant literally looking at coral. A wristwatch makes way more sense.”

Island environmentalists were not amused.

“Jerrod’s nonsense undercuts everything we’re trying to accomplish,” environmental activist Harry Pickett said. “We’re encouraging people to be mindful of, and protective of, our fragile reefs, not use their skeletons as fashion accessories. You don’t ‘repurpose’ coral. He’s scavenging it off the beach and destroying wildlife habitat.

“These watches trivialize reef preservation,” Pickett said. “People won’t participate if they’re busy snickering. And now copycats will be out tearing up live coral for their artsy-fartsy creations.”

Others took a more lighthearted view.

“The best part of all this to me isn’t Jerrod doing one of his off-the-wall takes on something, it’s that he made an actual watch,” Wendy Beaufort said. “I mean, who wears a watch anymore? Now, if he made a coral dive computer, or a coral cell phone, that would’ve been useful.

“I guess it works as jewelry, if you’re into that kind of thing,” Beaufort said. “But as a functioning timepiece? I don’t get it. And using dead coral really does send the wrong message.”

Ephesians defended his creations.

“They’re not meant to be functioning timepieces. That’s the beauty of them,” he said. “They’re works of art, a throwback to the Medieval and Renaissance clocks that were beautiful art pieces, but were crap at telling time. The guts are $20 Timexes. You want the exact time, check your phone.

“Long-term, this will actually get people more interested in the reef,” Ephesians said. “And no live coral was harmed in making this watch. I used only coral washed up on the beach. What was I supposed to do, throw the black coral back?”

The original watch will be on display at the island’s Heritage House. Ephesians’ line of watches will be available exclusively through island outdoors retailer Bamboo You.

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