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June 1998 Vol. 13, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the June, 1998 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Left on the Edge: There's more about those two missing divers in Australia who were left behind by their dive boat, the Outer Edge, on January 29 (see Undercurrent, March, 1998). Some of their diving gear was recovered miles away, but their bodies were never found. However, police reopened the inquiry in April after Mike Rose, skipper of the boat Quicksilver who took an all-Italian party to the reef on January 29, told police the head count on the return journey on his boat was three more than on the trip out. The Courier-Mail newspaper said Rose also told police he remembered hearing American voices aboard his boat because the accents stood out among the Italians. This fueled speculation that the couple had faked their own deaths. But the father of missing American diver Eileen Lonergan said, "I think people are real stupid if they believe it. These are two kids whose every asset is in this house with me. Their money, their passports, and all they had left was bathing suits. Where the hell are they? Are they running around Australia naked?" he said. Hains directed his anger at the news reports. "You are putting these stories out so that when it comes time for a trial the jury will believe 'Well they might be alive.' That's crap man. That's jury tampering before the trial."

Are They Faking It?: Members of Jacques Cousteau's film team are claiming that he faked some scenes in his documentaries, says the London Times. In one case, footage of an octopus scrambling out of a tank and hopping overboard was obtained by pouring bleach in the tank, the newspaper said. The filmed story of two sea lions trained to walk on the deck of the Calypso before returning to the sea actually used four sea lions because the first two died during the filming, the newspaper reported. "We kept them out of the sea too long to make the film," Calypso crewman Albert Falco said. Team member Andre Laban also said he was told to pretend to have symptoms of the bends. In The Silent World, screened in 1956, Laban was told to spend three hours in a decompression chamber. "They asked me to simulate narcosis," he was quoted as saying. "There were a lot of things which were not as truthful as they might have been." The Cousteau Foundation has denied such accusations in the past.

More on Faking It: A decade ago, exdive shop owner Mel Fisher strutted around the DEMA convention like he owned it. You see, he had just made a fortune by discovering the treasure of the wreck of the Atocha off the Florida Keys. But now he's being accused of selling phony coins complete with a certificate of authenticity attesting to their being found off the Florida Keys where treasure galleons sank in a 1733 hurricane. In April, a raid of his gift shop yielded gold coins that an expert says are modern-day counterfeits -- not booty from Spanish galleons. A coin-minting expert, brought in by prosecutors, said 25 gold coins are hand-stamped imitations struck the same way as those made in New World Spanish mints centuries ago. The state had been investigating his treasures when a customer complained that a coin he bought from Fisher for $5,900 wasn't genuine. Fisher denied the accusations, saying the coins were authentic.

Even More on Faking It: God only knows how many people reading the Diver's Institute of Technology ads in Skin Diver over the years ponied up the $10,500 in tuition to become a commercial diver. But there won't be any more now that the feds have found that the Institute defrauded the government of more than $800,000 in student loans. The school agreed to pay a $250,000 fine, and owner John L. Ritter has agreed to sell the Seattle school and pay up to $2.4 million to settle the lawsuit. Their former director of student aid was the whistle blower who filed the suit. He stands to receive a share of the proceeds -- more than $600,000.

Coral Disease: In the past year, the number of areas with diseased coral in Florida increased by 276 percent and the number of coral species affected increased 211 percent, according to a major EPA-funded study. On one reef 80 percent of Elkhorn coral was killed within a three-year period. Recently, scientists at Florida International University said a previously unknown species of a bacterium called sphingomonas has infected 17 species of coral since 1995. Environmental changes, including the burgeoning population and resulting pollution, are suspect.

A Word About Rats: Scientists have known for years that rats laugh ... yup, laugh ... and now a researcher at Bowling Green State University found that they love to be tickled. Recording giggling rats by using a device that detects high-pitched bat sounds, psychobiologist Jaak Panskepp found that when he tickled rats "it sounds like a playground. . . . Keeping them laughing isn't difficult ... it's quite easy; it's really no different than running your fingers as if you're tickling a child." Why do we tell you this? Why else would those big grouper let you chuck them on the chin? Don't laugh, but smart money says you're giving them the giggles.

And More About Rats: How do we know that post-dive exercise could enhance the likelihood of getting bent? Because researchers working at Duke University a few years back put two-month-old rats in a chamber, took them down to 240 feet of sea water, brought them up at various rates of ascent, then put some on a treadmill for 30 minutes and let others rest. Post-dive DCS signs included respiratory distress, difficulty walking, paralysis, and death. Researchers learned that resting rats fared better than exercising rats, and rats ascending at 30 ft/minute fared better than those ascending at 60 ft/min. In a 1949 U.S. Navy study of 201 no-stop air dives, subjects either rested after diving or exercised by lifting 25 lb. weights with their arms and legs. The DCS incidence was 22% with rest and 47% with exercise. The conclusion: DCS incidence can be reduced by slow ascent and by minimizing exercise after diving.

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