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September 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 26, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the September, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

You Talkin' to Me? I Don't Think So. Scuba Diving magazine sent an e-mail questionnaire to its subscribers in August, allegedly asking about the way one travels, and offering a chance to win one of five $50 credit cards. But it soom became a shill for Mexican interests, probably the government, designed to get opinions about Mexican travel, whether one thinks it's safe, and where one might prefer to buy property. It ended wth the usual "what is your income" questions, which these days typically ends with "$250,000 and above," up from $100,000 not too many years ago. Well, the folks at Scuba Diving added nine more categories, concluding wiith "$3.4 million to $4 million," and the grand finale, "over $4 million." Of course, they requested one's name, address, phone and e-mail address, so the lucky winners could receive their $50 credit cards.

You Should Be So Lucky. Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin pulled on a wetsuit last month, his third time ever, and went diving at an ancient Greek site in the Black Sea. According to state news reports, Putin descended just seven feet and "luckily" discovered two ancient urns - - in full presence of the media - - because the water was so clear. Television footage showed two moss-covered vases with ear-like handles sitting neatly next to each other on top of the sandy bottom as Putin swam into view. Novaya Gazeta wrote that Putin "immediately found two amphorae that had been waiting for him since the 6th century A.D. He was lucky. In the same place over the past two years, archeologists managed to find only a few pottery shards."

Ouch. John Goldfich of Devon, England, was fishing for mackerel on the beach with friends when he felt a big bite on his line. Reeling in his catch, Goldfinch's delight turned to shock when his hook surfaced 50 feet offshore and had a hapless scuba diver on the end. To add injury to insult, the diver's wetsuit had been hooked between his legs. Goldfinch, 61, said, "My mates were fallling about laughing. I said, 'Sorry, mate, I didn't see you there.' The diver just said it was very murky down there. His girlfriend then surfaced, helped him remove my tackle from his 'tackle,' then nonchalantly handed the hook back to me and apologized." But seriously, Goldfinch says there's a lesson to be learned: "I didn't see the diver because he didn't have a safety buoy, which they're supposed to when underwater."

Snorkelling after Hurricanes. Undercurrent reader Helaine Lerner of New York City had this question for us: "How long after a hurricane does it usually take for the water to completely clear for snorkelling? A month? Several months?" Well, Helaine, it depends on runoff from the island, but in some cases, it takes as little as a week to get somewhat back to normal. The flatter the island, the better off you are. And of course, the weaker the hit, the better off you are. Unfortunately, there are no longer many places left where the water will ever be completely clear, thanks to overreaching development everywhere.

The S**t Hits the Keys. Researchers from Rollins College and the University of Georgia have identified human sewage as the source of the coral-killing pathogen that causes white pox disease in Caribbean elkhorn coral around the Florida Keys. Once the most common coral in the Caribbean, elkhorn is now on the U.S.'s list of endangered species. The research team collected human samples from a Key West wastewater treatment plant, and samples from other animals, like deer and seagulls. While white pox-causing bacterium was found in all animals, only the strain from human sewage matched that of diseased corals. Says lead researcher Kathryn Sutherland, "It's definitive evidence that humans are the source of pathogens that cause this devestating disease of corals." The good news is that the entire Florida Keys is in the process of upgrading its wastewater treatment plants, and scientists believe that action will eliminate the source of the killer bacterium.

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