Rabbits are oddly popular in fiction and film. For example, there’s Bugs Bunny, the iconic animated character whose catchphrase is, “What’s up, Doc?” On the female side, there’s the sultry Jessica Rabbit from the classic “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”
Few kids grow up without becoming familiar with mischievous little Peter from “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” penned by Beatrix Potter and published in the early 1900s. And most grownups have heard of the vintage play and film “Harvey,” which tell the story of eccentric Elwood P. Dowd and his invisible 6-foot-tall long-eared companion.
More recently, the offbeat British-American film “Curse of the Were-Rabbit” — the chronicle of a gigantic vegetable-stealing hare gone berserk — earned an Academy Award for its masterful animation.
Even the advertising world has an illustrious spokesrabbit: the slightly unnerving Energizer Bunny, who bangs a drum nonstop in battery commercials.
The Florida Keys too boast a notable example of the rabbit species. Like Harvey, he’s about 6 feet tall (plus ears). Like the Energizer Bunny, he displays notable stamina. But unlike the above characters, he’s real — and his favorite stomping grounds are underwater.
His name is Captain Spencer Slate. Each year around Easter, he dons a giant bunny suit and dive gear (picture a supersized bunny wearing dive fins as long as his ears) and hides brightly colored Easter eggs near shallow reefs in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Why does he do it? So divers and snorkelers visiting the Keys can become deep-sea “egg-splorers” while supporting a local charity.
This year’s Underwater Easter Egg Hunt will take place Sunday, April 5, in the warm, clear waters off Islamorada. It’s a popular underwater game of hide-and-seek where participants can win prizes — including a particularly valuable goodie basket that awaits the fortunate finder of a “golden egg.”
The unique Easter event is hosted by Captain Slate’s Scuba Adventures, located at mile marker 90.7 oceanside in the Upper Keys.
After Captain “Cottontail” hides the eggs (real eggs and nontoxic dyes are used to avoid negative environmental impacts), boats full of egg seekers head out to a secret location adjacent to a shallow reef area. Once the boats reach the secret spot, divers and snorkelers take the plunge to seek the hard-boiled hoard.
The Easter egg-citement takes place during a morning two-tank dive trip. Divers and snorkelers must pre-register to take part, and should check in at 8 a.m. April 5 at Captain Slate’s Scuba Adventures. Up to three boats are scheduled to depart at 8:30 a.m.
The egg-scursion is specially priced at $65 per certified diver, including tanks and weights. Snorkelers pay $30 per adult and $25 per child, including gear. And the money raised during the undersea hunt benefits Kids In Special Situations, providing gifts and holiday cheer for needy children throughout the year.
FYI, Spencer Slate does much more than stage the Easter event. (He portrays an underwater Santa Claus too, but that’s another story.) Since 1978 he has offered dive, snorkel, underwater wedding and glass-bottom boat packages in Florida Keys waters. He also promotes ocean conservation to divers, encouraging them to be active stewards of the undersea environment.
And that’s more important than anything even the Energizer Bunny can claim.