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April 2004 Vol. 30, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the April, 2004 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Deadly Jellys: Scientists have found a new deadly jellyfish off Australia's tropical northeast coast. Researchers had previously thought the thumbnail-sized Irukandji jellyfish was responsible for the deaths of an American and a Briton in 2001, when 160 other swimmers were also treated in hospitals because of jellyfish stings. But a James Cook University expert said another, yet unnamed, jellyfish had been linked to Irukandji syndrome, which causes severe pain, anxiety, a potentially fatal rise in blood pressure, and cerebral hemorrhaging. The jellyfish species are believed to be related to the deadly box jellyfish that infests northern waters in summer months. More on the Irukandji at

Sea Urchins: Let's not forget them. Taiwanese doctors report a case of a woman diver who stepped on one while beach diving in Palau. She felt immediate and intense pain. After having the spine removed and her foot painted with Betadine, she later developed fever, chills, nausea, and persistent serous discharge and tenderness. Seven days later she was admitted to the hospital for toxic hepatitis. (Wu ML, et. al., Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taiwan)

Closures: St. George's Lodge on Belize is closing in May. After 25 years, proprietor Fred Good is hanging up his fins and heading to greener pastures. He is looking for a buyer for the lodge (priced at $1.8 million with his dive business), his house, and other parcels of land. Contact him at ... The venerable Turk's Head Hotel on Grand Turk is closed, and along with its closure goes the best restaurant on the island. ... A fire destroyed the restaurant, bar, and office of the Arawak Inn on Grand Turk Island last fall; management now provides a van for guests to drive into town for dining, which is a hassle, although the Inn's 15 rooms include kitchens.

A Thousand Deaths: A freefloating net from a trawler drifted into water near Port Salerno, FL, in February. "Hundreds to a thousand" sharks and fish and one loggerhead sea turtle were found dead in a 500-yard ghost net, which had drifted from its original location five miles east of the St. Lucie Inlet near the Six Mile Reef. Divers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found the net 10 feet below the surface and stretching down to the ocean floor 80 feet deep. "It was graveyard- ish, almost," Tom Moore said. "Everything was so badly decomposed. It was surreal." Investigators are looking for the source of the net and a possible violation of the Endangered Species Act.

The Bible of Diving Medicine: Bennett and Elliott's Physiology and Medicine of Diving has, for 30 years, been the primary underwater medicine publication used by physicians and researchers in underwater medicine. This new fifth edition, published last year, is the first revision in a decade. Featuring 30 chapters by doctors and other scientists, this 779-page book focuses on the physiological basis of safe diving, the pathogenesis of diving illnesses, and the clinical diagnosis and management of related disorders. Diving methods, pressure effects, decompression, and long-term effects receive particular attention, but ventilation, thermal considerations, drowning, accident investigation, and diving equipment are also discussed. Edited by Alf Brubakk and Tom Neuman, the book has 45 international experts contributing. $149. Purchase at bookpicks.shtml and part of the profits go to support the Coral Reef Alliance.

Rebreather Deaths: Dr. David Swatzky reports that rebreather deaths, unlike those among open-circuit scuba divers, are usually caused by hyperoxia, hypoxia, or electronic equipment malfunction. Most often that death has been traced to diver error. Rebreathers remove carbon dioxide and add oxygen to the breathing mixture. Rebreather deaths include myocardial infarction, arterial gas embolism, rare decompression illness, running out of breathing mixture, and getting trapped. None of these deaths is the fault of the rebreather. Hyperoxia deaths are from using the wrong gas mix, failure of the solenoid in the open position, or failure of the oxygen sensor. Hypoxic deaths are from the wrong flow rate used, gas turned off, tank empty, failed electronics, or failed solenoid. After studying 25 documented fatalities, Dr. Swatzky concluded that some fatalities are due to stupidity, some are from lack of experience, and some are the same as open-circuit air scuba diving. Prevention is to train, train, train. (Great Lakes Chapter of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, 23rd Annual Meeting, Burlington, Ontario)

From the Aggressor: Matthew Arnold of the Aggressor Fleet says "In your February issue you state, 'Many dive resorts and live-aboards encourage divers to book directly with them, so they can save travel agent commissions.' To the contrary, Aggressor Fleet lists our dealers (dive shops) online, encouraging divers to book through their local shops. We have increased both travel agency and dealer commissions to encourage dive travel. ... Always purchase cancellation insurance and only deal with reputable agents and operators."

No Insurance for Divers? Many divers have insurance policies that exclude coverage for diving accidents or set depth limits. The U.S. Senate is considering legislation to bar health insurers and health plans from denying benefits to plan enrollees who suffer injury while diving, skiing, or engaging in other legal recreation or transportation activities. The legislation (the HIPAA Recreational Injury Technical Correction Act, S. 423) is sponsored by Sens. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) and Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.).

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