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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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January 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 45, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the January, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Komodo Park Fees on the Rise. If you want to visit Komodo and see the dragons, be prepared to pay a whopping $500 for the privilege. The administration is planning to raise the Komodo National Park's entrance fee for divers, currently $12 per day, as part of their effort to boost the conservation area's prestige. They are also considering whether tourist ships entering the area should pay $50,000, which would mean that only people with deep pockets can visit. Is that the end of liveaboard diving at Cannibal Rock?

Misinformation about Burst Eardrums. It seems former British Navy diver David Sisman was using poetic license when he told people he had Teflon eardrums. We mentioned his assertion in our November article about burst eardrums, but Paul Neis, an otolaryngologist, wrote to say that eardrums are always reconstructed with human tissue. (We'd ask Sisman to reply but he has been dead for 20 years.) Neis tells us that the article was also probably referring to exostoses, commonly seen in cold-water swimmers, rather than adenoids, originally mentioned by subscriber Robert Levine (Englishtown, NJ) after he burst an eardrum while diving with a head cold.

Don't Book a Shark Dive on the Sharkwater Right Now. The website reports that Mexican authorities, responding to a complaint about unlicensed trips to do cage diving with great whites at Guadalupe Island, boarded the MY Sharkwater early last month to make a surprise inspection. The research vessel is owned and operated by Fins Attached, a nonprofit based in Colorado Springs, CO, and it allegedly offered both cage diving and submarine trips for $5,000 per person. Without the required permits, the Sharkwater and its unlucky passengers were ordered back to Ensenada, where it must remain until the legal situation is resolved.

A Siladen Correction. In editing our travel stories, we ask writers for their final approval before we go to press, but in editing the October 2018 piece on Siladen, Indonesia, we failed and erred by implying the entire resort could be smoky due to trash fires outside their grounds. That's not true. Our sentence should say, "Too bad they couldn't do anything about the smudgy smoke from fires just outside the far end of the resort that could pose a hazard to guests with lung issues in the one or two villas at that extreme end." We apologize for our error.

Queensland Gets That Sinking Feeling. It cost $3.9 million to prepare and sink the HMAS Tobruk, the Australian Navy's first heavy-lift ship, 15 miles off the Queensland coast. Intended as a world-class diving attraction, the sinking of the Tobruk followed a five-year campaign by the local dive industry and paid for by the state government. Unfortunately, the 416-foot vessel ended up on its starboard side, rendering useless much of the preparatory work to make penetration safe for divers. So the Queensland government is now spending another half-million dollars on a marketing campaign to promote diving on the portside-up Tobruk.

Fatal Shark Attack in the Sea of Cortez. Nahum Verdugo Aguilera, 35, was part of a group diving for shellfish from a fishing panga near the Mexican resort city of Puerto Penasco on December 18. After doing a duck step off the boat, Aguilera was seen floating at the surface shortly after. When two companions tried to get him back into the boat, they saw that his right thigh was lacerated, and his entire left leg and part of his abdomen were missing, and they realized he had been attacked by a shark. Seems like Aguilera jumped from the boat straight onto either a large tiger or great white shark, which had reacted instinctively by biting him. Because of the extent of his injuries, Aguilera was thought to have died quickly.

Roatan's Island of Floating Trash. The infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch has a sibling. A fivemile- wide sea of plastic is floating off the Honduran island of Roatan, near the town of Omoa, and includes broken footballs, soda bottles, toothbrushes and shoes. It's not just trash from Roatan -- Omoa's mayor says much of the stuff is clearly from neighboring Guatemala. If you're headed to the Bay Islands soon, let us know if this new "island" starts impacting diving there.

Goodbye, Bob Halstead. Born in the U.K. in 1944, Halstead was a physics teacher who took a teaching post in the Bahamas, where he fell in love with diving and gradually swapped careers to scuba full-time. In 1977, he fitted out his first dive boat in Papua New Guinea, followed by the liveaboard MV Telita in 1984, which became home to him and his first wife, Dinah. He wrote numerous books and dive guides, and won many awards for underwater photography, even being credited with first describing a specimen of rhinopias. Halstead was one of the dive industry's most prolific journalists, and continued to be after he moved to Cairns, Australia in 1996 with his second wife, violinist Kirtley Leigh, with whom he shared passions for both scuba and music. He passed on December 18 after a long illness.

Double Deaths in a Tulum Cenote. Two highly qualified German cave divers were found drowned approximately 4,000 feet from the entrance of Gran Cenote Kalimba in Tulum on November 21. It seems they underestimated how long it would take to get back to where they left their stage cylinders. Kalimba had a similar double cave diver fatality in 2004. Officers from Tulum's Civil Protection office shut down the cenote, which had been operating illegally since 2014, when it was officially closed after a swimmer died there.

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