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January 2002 Vol. 28, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the January, 2002 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

A new form of freediving?: I never know where I’m going to find an item for Undercurrent, but here’s one that came from my June trip on a Peruvian tributary of the Amazon. While I was fishing for piranhas — I caught one, my Indian guide caught a dozen — our guide told me that last year he had a guest wearing a mask and snorkel, who took a Pogo stick into the water and jumped up and down for hours on end, submerging, coming up for air, then going down again. So far, our guide had been inscrutable, so I had no reason to doubt him. But why in the world would anyone do that, I asked? My guide, who had never even heard of a pogo stick until then, had not a clue. Then, I found an August 16 article on the Internet from the Glasgow Scotland Herald, by John McEachran, who explained that the latest craze to hit the Scottish streets is the pogo stick. He said that the pogo stick distance record is held by Ashrita Furman of New York, who hopped up and down the foothills of Mount Fuji in Japan for 11.53 miles in 8 hours 21 minutes. And then he reported, “Furman also holds possibly the most bizarre record for pogo hopping. He bounced 3,647 times in the Amazon River in water eight-and-ahalf feet deep using a mask and snorkel to breathe.” Well, I’m sure he had more than that on. I would have been wearing a cast iron swimsuit with all those piranhas in the water.

Are the Oceanic Vortex fins fast ?: Ten members of an Australian underwater hockey club ran speed tests, measuring their own fins against the Vortex . Five swam faster with the Vortex, five didn’t. When you eyeball the results, the Vortex seemed to help the slower swimmers slightly, (say an average of 2%-3 %) and slightly slow down the faster swimmers. While the Vortex might not get you anywhere fast, nearly all the swimmers said it made their kicking seem easier and they could maintain the kick longer. Dive Log Australasia, July 2001.

Lobster talk: If you’ve heard a lobster “scream” before you put it in a pot of boiling water, you’re probably not imagining it. People grappling with spiny lobsters above and under water have gotten an earful of their harsh rasping sounds. “It’s very abrasive,” says researcher Sheila Patek of Duke University. A lobster’s scraper or plectrum — a pink protrusion at the base of each antenna — is not hard like most of the animal’s carapace, but has a more leather-like texture. After using underwater microphones and high-speed videos to catch the Caribbean lobster making noise, Patek could see that sound comes only when the lobster draws its plectrum in a stick-slip motion across the ridges, much like a violin bow pulling across a string, she says. The process enables a lobster to scratch out alarms and protests even at molting time, when its body is soft and most vulnerable. Clawed lobsters make noise, too, but they rely on a swiftly vibrating muscle in their heads. Science News.

Hepatitis C:We received this note from one of our long time subscribers, who asked to remain anonymous: “After returning from diving in Fiji I had a physical exam. My doctor discovered Hepatitis C. I just completed 18 months of aggressive interferon and ribavirin and am now negative and I’m lucky. I can dive again. How ever, in researching Hepatitis C, I have been in touch with many divers who contracted it while abroad, often when they got medical or dental treatment in a country that does not have the same medical standards as in the U.S. A friend who dived regularly in the Philippines got medical treatment there and is awaiting a liver transplant. He felt fine until he collapsed, was rushed to the ER and diagnosed with Hepatitis C at endstage liver disease. Any diver who received medical treatment overseas, especially in lesser developed countries, received blood in USA before 1992, injected or snorted drugs even once or had tattoos or needle sticks working in the medical profession should be tested.”

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