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June 2003 Vol. 18, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the June, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Swordfish Attack: Off west Maui on April 15, whale researcher Mark Ferrari was underwater videotaping a frenzying pod of 50 false killer whales. He assumed the pod was attacking schooling fish, but then he realized that a 15-foot broadbill swordfish was the focus of the attack. Fascinated by the teamwork and strategy of the false killer whales (a dolphin species), he continued to film. However, without warning, the swordfish turned on Ferrari, ramming its five-foot bill into his right shoulder beneath the collarbone. The big fish flipped him around and then flung him away. Debbie Ferrari helped her bleeding husband climb aboard their boat and raced to Lahaina where Ferrari was taken to a local hospital. Miraculously, no major arteries or organs were pierced, though nerves were damaged and bones broken. Ferrari has regained some feeling in his upper arm and shoulder and has been able to use his right arm. The only upside is that Ferrari got the attack on his own video and commercial interests are vying to get their hands on it. "I recognize the scientific value of the tape. It is absolutely incredible stuff," he said. "But the story is not about me getting stuck by a (swordfish). Hopefully, we can turn it into a National Geographic special to educate people about the psuedorcas. I'd rather show people the joys of science." (Honolulu Advertiser)

Mako Attack: A New Zealand diver was attacked by a seven-foot mako shark in February as he was about to climb on a dive boat in the Foveaux Strait. Alistair Kerr, 44, was beside the boat waiting when the shark lunged at him three times. A friend onboard watched as the shark tore his arm. Kerr survived. Makos get to be about 13 feet long, can jump as high as 30 feet, and chase prey at 30 miles per hour.

How to Fool a Mako: A New Zealand expert in animal behavior told the New Zealand Herald that divers should wear suits that shout "warning, watch out," instead of wearing black and looking like seals. Dr. Arnold Chamove studies how animals and insects warn others off with their patterns, e.g., the stripes on a bumblebee. He has developed an electrical tape fence, which is striped like a bee; once a horse touches the tape and feels a shock, it recognizes that tape afterwards, and the fence does its job even without a current. So he says divers too should dress like bumblebees. He hopes to test his theory by painting chunks of meat with the appropriate food coloring, tossing them into shark tanks, and seeing whether they will eat them. Would you want this man teaching your kids?

What a diver will do for $50? Nothing: The Diving Equipment and Marketing Association has tried all sorts of ways to get people interested in diving, but seldom with much success. DEMA's latest gimmick is "a new industry-wide marketing program designed to encourage divers to bring their family and friends into their local dive store for beginning diver training and certification." If you refer three people who get certified, they'll pay you $50. Although Tom Ingram, DEMA's Executive Director, says "this program should be an incentive for everyone to encourage their friends to try diving," can you imagine anyone becoming a headhunter to recruit three people to get certified because they'll get fifty lousy bucks? While I'm unclear how any incentive short of offering a trip on the Tahiti Aggressor will do much, may I suggest a modest change? Let DEMA send the $50 to the dive shop, and have the dive shop give the referrer a $100 gift certificate -- after all the shop will make out on the gear it sells the trainees. Now DEMA may have paid their consultant some big bucks to think up their offer, but our advice is always free and we've doubled the reward. Though it's still not enough.

How to commit suicide: John Knight, M.D., writes: "I observed a diver prepared to commit suicide if he fell off the edge of the dive boat. Dressed in a wet suit without its jacket, he was wearing his normal heavy weight belt while sitting on the gunwale of the dive boat but without his scuba gear or fins on. Had he fallen backwards, his only hope of survival would have been immediate release of his weight belt. Unfortunately, few divers drop their weight belts before they die underwater." (Journal of the Underwater Medical Society)

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