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February 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 37, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the February, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

This is News? British researchers surveyed 434 divers (67 percent males and 33 percent females, ranging from ages 13 to 70). Seventy-six percent reported regularly consuming alcohol, and 10 percent smoked cigarettes. Twenty-one percent ages 16 to 59 had used one or more recreational drugs, such as cannabis or LSD since learning to dive. Regarding recreational use, 3.5 percent had used them in the last 12 months, and 3 percent in the last month. The researchers note that recreational drugs change metabolic functions, perception of reality, distance and time, thus increasing the risk of an incident while diving.

Tracking Leatherback Turtles. Another group of British researchers now know more about the migration routes of these ancient mariners, which make multiple 10,000-mile round trips between Africa and South America. They tracked 25 females over five years, strapping simple transmitters powered by four lithium camera batteries on their backs; signals were sent to satellites every time turtles came up for air. One took 150 days to swim 4,215 miles; another made the deepest dive of 3,500 feet. Maps of their journeys can found at

A $50,000 Fine for a False Alarm. Diver Colin Smithies from Dunedin, New Zealand, is in big trouble. A massive air and sea search with 40 volunteers was launched for him after he went missing while diving for paua in Titahi Bay. Then two days later, Smithies, 49, strolled into a police station 185 miles from where he was reported missing. Apparently he left Titahi Bay and hitchhiked north, showing up disoriented and distressed. That did not make authorities sympathetic - they charged him $50,000 for wasting police time and gave him a court date.

Saving Whale Sharks: When we did a pitch this past fall for donations to buy electronic buoys to keep commercial ships away from the hundreds of whale sharks that congregate off the Yucatan, 128 generous Undercurrent readers contributed $28,000, spurred on by Elaine Matthews who offered to match $10,000. And she did. There's a diver who puts her money where her heart is.

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