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May 2000 Vol. 26, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the May, 2000 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

SHARKSKIN SUIT— Speedo has developed a new swimsuit it says will shave 3% off swimmer’s race times. The key is in the fabric, which mimics a shark’s skin. Speedo spokesman Chris Woods said, “The size and shape of a shark means it should be dead in the water, but nature has found a way round that and it is in fact one of the fastest things in the sea. That is due to the way its skin has evolved over the past 400 million years — we have mimicked that.” Speedo credits the shark’s speed to “dermal denticles” or ridges on the shark’s skin that allow water to glide across the surface with little resistance. The suit, which was developed in conjunction with the Natural History Museum and Olympic swimmers, will be cut as a second skin, so that only the head, hands, and feet are uncovered. Though the difference in speed is minimal — 7.5% on the glide and 3% overall — that may be enough. In 31 of 32 swim finals in the last Olympics, there was less than a 3% difference between the first and sixth place finisher.

BACK IN WITH INNER EAR OUT— Inner ear barotrauma, caused by a hemorrhage in the inner ear, a tear of the labyrinthine membrane, or a fistula, have historically led to a recommendation that victims stop diving. Now, several researchers, after studying the injury, say that “although the older literature clearly suggests otherwise, we believe that scuba divers who completely recover from inner (or middle) ear barotrauma may return to diving as long as they exercise caution and care.” (Sheridan MF, Hetherington HH, Hull JJ., Ear Nose Throat Journal, J1999

SANCTUARY — Last month another Caribbean reef was given protected status: the Minister of Fisheries in Belize and fishermen and stakeholders of Glover’s Reef signed an agreement essentially declaring the reef a nofishing zone. (One family that lives on the reef will be allowed to continue subsistence fishing.) The manager of the reserve promised to immediately “mark the zones ... so that when we catch fishermen inside the zone, there is no argument whatsoever.” Manta Resort is located on Glover's.

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