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February 2007 Vol. 33, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam and Jetsam

from the February, 2007 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Take A Swim With Raja: While in the Andaman Islands, Undercurrent reader Duane Silverstein (the executive director of Seacology) recently had the pleasure of pairing with the most unusual snorkeling buddy ever—Raja, the swimming elephant. The tallest elephant in the islands, Raja hangs with snorkelers at Beach Number 7 near the eco-lodge Barefoot Jungle Resort ( on Havelock Island, a ferry ride away from the Andaman capital of Port Blair. Accompanied by his mahout, Raja enjoys taking to the water, churning his four legs to swim and lifting his trunk above water to breathe. The best dive sites are a distance away, but the beach (Time recently named it the best in Asia) and Raja are well worth the trip, says Silverstein. His one caution: Go out in the water past the waves before the elephant joins you. “As soon as Raja enters the ocean he instinctively has a bowel movement, and you do not want to be on the shore side of a wave carrying a cannonball-sized elephant dropping.”

The Caribbean skies: BWIA, the longtroubled carrier of Trinidad and Tobago, died December 31 and was reborn on New Year’s Day as Caribbean Airlines. The airline is a fraction of its former self. . . .Caribbean Star and LIAT are talking merger. Starting February 1, passengers will be able to book one ticket for flights on both carriers. A full merger will probably follow in several months, together with a sharp reduction in flights on routes where the two carriers currently compete. Air Jamaica remains a troubled airline— get travel insurance.

Big Fuss in Little Cayman. The Cayman Islands’ Marine Conservation Board decided to announce a major decision during off-season last September— removal of 11 of the 22 dive moorings in Little Cayman’s Bloody Bay Marine Park to better protect the reef. The island’s dive operators protested the Board’s decision and suggested alternatives, such as limiting the number of divers per site, setting a daily off-limits “rest period,” and extending the western boundary of the park. That latter suggestion had Little Cayman’s fishermen up in arms as it would limit their fishing access, and now they are fighting back by petitioning to create ‘fishing zones’ around Little Cayman. Marc Pothier, manager of Paradise Villas, said the Board seems to be backtracking from its original stance, realizing what effect it would have on tourism dollars. “Pulling out 50 percent of the moorings would be insane,” he said. “Half of our annual business is from return guests and if this happened, that would greatly affect their decision to return.” The Board plans to discuss options with all parties involved, and all moorings are still in place in the marine park.

Scuba-Diving Bank Robber Sentenced to Prison. He nearly made a James Bondstyle getaway after his botched bank heist, but Charles Coma is heading to jail instead. A federal judge in Tacoma, Washington sentenced him to 16 years behind bars for his 2004 holdup of a Key Bank branch in Olympia, in which he apparently planned to escape via Puget Sound. The 38-year-old Coma stole $6,000 at gunpoint and then fled the scene with police in hot pursuit. He crashed through a gate at an industrial area on the waterfront and headed for the chilly water, carrying the money and a set of scuba tanks. He was tackled just steps from the water and found to be wearing a wetsuit under his clothing. At the time, Coma had been on supervised release after being convicted four years earlier for another bank robbery.

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