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March 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 45, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the March, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Kate Winslet Holds Her Breath for Avatar 2. The Oscar-winning actress has left many moviegoers breathless in her films, but it turns out Winslet has quite the pair of lungs. Director James Cameron says Winslet was the perfect pick for doing underwater scenes in his Avatar sequel (scheduled for release in December 2020). At her peak, she could hold her breath for an amazing seven-and-a-half minutes -- not only during actual filming, but during training too. Winslet was regularly doing two- or three-minute scenes underwater while both acting and swimming. Proof enough she deserves another Oscar.

Key West Bans Popular Sunscreens. City Council members in the Florida town voted 6-1 in early February to ban sales of sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals shown to damage coral (see last month's story, "Reef Safe's Sunscreen Isn't Safe"). "There are thousands of sunscreens out there, and we have one reef," says Key West Mayor Teri Johnston. "And we have an opportunity to do one small thing to protect that." Key West follows the lead of Hawaii, which passed legislation last summer banning such products from being sold statewide. The U.S. National Park Service issued a statement after the Key West vote, recommending people buy skincare products containing titanium oxide or zinc oxide, which are considered natural alternatives to the two banned chemicals.

Contamination Correction. In last month's article, "Why Divers Die: Part II," about the hazards of contaminated air supplies, we erroneously wrote "carbon dioxide" when we meant "carbon monoxide." Of course, both gases are poisonous, but CO is the byproduct of combustion engines. Thanks to Daniel Vale, a.k.a. Deep Sea Dan (Bowmanville, Ontario), for spotting this error.

A Pretty Weird Poop Story. Scientists often get excited about the animal excrement they find. But one research team also got a surprise when they found a USB memory stick inside the frozen poop of a leopard seal on New Zealand's Oreti Beach. The poop was in good condition, so they decided to search for the owner with the help of social media and news outlets. That's how Amanda Nally, a selfproclaimed seal enthusiast, was shocked to see some of her footage of playful sea lion pups in nearby Porpoise Bay appear on the nightly news. The story gets even more bizarre --- turns out the memory stick was found enmeshed in feathers and bones, indicating it had been inside a seabird the leopard seal had preyed upon. Nally says she must have dropped the memory stick while beach walking.

Some New Dive Computers to Consider. Tired of that tank-banger failing to attract your buddy? A new diving computer still at prototype stage will allow divers to get each other's attention underwater by sending ultrasonic 'pings' that vibrate the wrist-worn unit. Team Oceans, a Swedish startup, has a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to get their Oceans S1 Supersonic dive computer into production. Meanwhile Suunto's rechargeable D5 gas-integrated computer watch with color OLED display will launch this month and is priced between $849 and $899. The justreleased Scubapro Galileo HUD (short for "Headup Display") is gas-integrated with a transmitter and heart-rate monitor, fits on most Scubapro twolens masks, and retails for around $1,700.

Be a Good Dive Buddy -- Buy Trip Insurance. Here's a story illustrating why you shouldn't put your friends out by skimping on the travel insurance. When Andrew Littler, a British truck driver from Leicestershire, England, went on vacation to the Canary Islands last month, he failed to take out travel insurance. Sadly, Littler suffered cardiac arrest while learning to scuba, so his friends had to cough up the $5,000 needed to fly his body home.

Good News for Blue Heron Bridge Fans. Following protests over excessive fish collecting by aquarium collectors at this bridge near Palm Beach Shores, FL (we wrote about this in our January issue), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ratified the banning of harvesting or possession of tropical aquarium species from the iconic macro-lovers' dive site, effective April 1. It's a triumph for members of the Blue Heron Bridge Dive Club, which brought the aquarium fish-collecting controversy to light, and a good example of how social media can be used to protect the environment.

Chilled, Exhausted But Triumphant. William Trubridge, the Kiwi who currently holds the record for the deepest single-breath dive, has achieved another first: swimming underwater, like a dolphin, across New Zealand's treacherous Cook Strait. On February 15, Trubridge swam for 9 hours and 15 minutes, wearing a monofin, across the 20-mile -wide channel separating New Zealand's two main islands. His Suunto D6i Novo dive computer recorded him resurfacing an incredible 943 times to gasp another breath before swimming under the surface again into unpredictable currents and bracing 57-degree water temperatures. Emerging exhausted and hypothermic, Trubridge, who swam to raise awareness for the endangered Hector's and Maui's dolphins, says, "It was like being in a washing machine at times, but I still feel like I got off lightly. I'm feeling a lot of relief and jubilation to have made it."

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