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March 2004 Vol. 19, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the March, 2004 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Divers Do it Deeper? A British diving instructor set a new world depth record by plunging 1,027 feet. Londoner Mark Ellyatt, 34, made the dive off Phuket in Thailand. Although it took 12 minutes to make his descent, he spent only 60 seconds there. Then it took six hours and 40 minutes to surface. Ellyatt told the London Evening Standard that he had attempted the dive a year ago, but he needed decompression that lasted ten days and then five months' convalescence. "It was murky and there were jellyfish stinging my face and hands. I cut the dive short when I almost had an encounter with one big enough to wrap itself around me." According to Diver Magazine, Ellyat, who previously held the world record for deepest wreck dive with a 168 m dive, is the "selfstyled 'bad boy' of diving." He had been courting controversy since his wreck record, after Mark Andrews, who was about to attempt the record, "famously became jammed in the lift of dive boat Wey Chieftain and was too distressed to continue." Ellyatt, who was there to film the attempt, became bored of waiting and did the dive.

Divers Disappear on Bonaire: Two Atlanta divers, 53-year-old Thomas Ennis, who had more than 140 dives under his belt, and his 30-year-old son, Brandon, left their pick-up truck at Karpata on January 2. When they didn't return to the Lion's Dive Hotel by 11 p.m. that night, two other children of Ennis notified the resort and authorities. The Coast Guard immediately began a search, using boats, a plane, and helicopters, and Saturday they did deep search dives using an underwater scooter. A Cessna searched the open ocean between Bonaire and Curacao. The search was curtailed several days later without a trace of the two divers, other than their truck. Speculation is a stiff current swept them away.

Sealed with a Kiss: A New Zealand man has been unable to walk for two months after a fur seal bit his leg. Shaun Ford told the New Zealand Dominion Post that "I've never had pain like it. I was trying to kick to the surface, but my foot was flapping around. One of my ligaments was hanging about an inch out of my leg." A conservation official said, "They get grumpy, and they bite, especially the bulls. If you enter their circle of comfort, they may react." However, his guess was that Ford was the victim of misguided affection. "Seals bite each other as play. It was probably a playful nip, which isn't really playful to the person who gets it." Last year a diving British scientist was killed by a particularly aggressive leopard seal.

Niue: The Polynesian island of Niue is a paradise for divers from down under, but American divers seldom visit because it is accessible only from New Zealand or Tonga. Sadly, it was devastated by a cyclone in January, entirely destroying the tourist infrastructure, including hotels and guesthouses.

Easy Pickens: If you've been lucky enough to see Nassau groupers by the thousands congregating to mate in January, then you know why fishermen congregate above. Like shooting fish in a barrel. Thankfully, the Bahamas addressed the problem by prohibiting Nassau fishing in January 2004 and a longer period in 2005. Taking, landing, processing, selling, and offering for sale of fresh Nassau grouper will be prohibited during the mating periods. Marc Pothier, of Paradise Villas on Little Cayman, tells us that the Cayman government stopped congregation fishing this year at Little Cayman (which has the only active grouper spawning grounds left in the islands), thanks to local pressure. Belize also moved this year to stop the harvesting of groupers during mating season.

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