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February 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 45, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Our Shocked and Appalled Readers

last month’s stories that made you write letters to us

from the February, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Our January issue had two articles that shocked readers so much, they took to pen and keyboard to write us and express their feelings.

"Wreck Diving for Beginners" summarized an article in United Airlines' Hemispheres magazine, in which writer Jim Shepard joyfully described taking his two inexperienced children, ages 15 and 20, on dives inside the constricted, unlit spaces of the WWII wrecks in Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon -- prior to that adventure, they'd only made four dives each, to a maximum depth of 40 feet.

In "Big Trouble at Blue Heron Bridge," tempers flared high after online reports that Moody Gardens, an aquarium in Galveston, TX, sent a group of professional divers to the Bridge, a popular dive site in Riviera Beach, FL, with collecting devices, a truck full of holding tanks, and legal permits to collect 4,300 animals during the span of a week last October.

We were appalled at these actions -- and so were you, as these letters to the editor show.

Wreck Diving for Beginners

Can a diver's certification be revoked? Too bad, because in this case, the author's should be. What an idiot. I've been through the exact places he described, particularly the staircases that disappear decks deep into blackness. I got snagged briefly as I started to go down one, and I had to stop and make a concerted effort to gather my thoughts in order to free myself. I've got thousands of dives under my belt and many wreck dives, but if that was my reaction, I can't image how a young novice diver would feel or react should that happen. Not only does this guy endanger all their lives, he potentially harms his kids' love of the sport should they encounter a situation that they're ill-equipped to handle . . . and where was the dive operator in all this?

-- Lenny Zwik, Austin, TX

I looked up the Shepard article -- he's a certifiable moron. Since United Airlines also flies to Cancun and New York, maybe they'll commission him to take family vacations to dive the cave systems of the Yucatan or the Andrea Doria. I just hope we don't see their names in a future "Why Divers Die" article.

-- Kendall Raine, Malibu, CA

The story of the novice diver father taking his novice diver children to dive the wrecks of Truk is truly a head-scratcher. That particular parent would qualify for the hall of fame of irresponsible parents. You take newbie diver children to Bonaire, not Truk. Many of the dives are best accomplished with deco stops and the tech training required.

I have had the privilege of diving at Truk in 2005 and 2015, and I hope to return in 2019. Both of my prior visits were on the liveaboard Truk Odyssey, which is all about safety, safety, safety. One thing I do know is, the crew would never take or allow novices like those kids to make some of the dives described in the article.

-- Neil Saari, Menomonee Falls, WI

Mr. Shepard is one lucky guy. I've dived in Truk. The opportunity for catastrophe for a novice diver, let along for his inexperienced children, is significant. I am especially disappointed that the dive operator would be OK with such young rookies diving what clearly is at minimum an advanced diver site.

-- Edward Noga, Akron, OH

Big Trouble at Florida's Blue Heron Bridge

The Blue Heron Bridge was a wonderful find when we started diving there with our cameras. We got more photos per minute than on most of our around-the-world experiences. Not only that, there were a large range of "exotics" that made every dive exciting. Last summer, we went back, and I didn't take one shot. Perhaps the "research collectors" can replace all the marine life they selfishly borrowed for themselves. We have no interest in going back anytime soon. I imagine it will take decades for the area to come back, if at all.

-- Marshall Harris, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Friends have raved to me in recent years about the great number of fish species in shallow areas around Blue Heron Bridge. One couple spends winters on Bonaire and was still greatly impressed with diving the Bridge for a month. To think that collectors were permitted to take so many fish there is incomprehensible to me. Keep up the loud protests!

-- David F Colvard, Raleigh, NC

I was appalled to hear that somebody at Texas A&M University claimed to be doing "research" by collecting fish at Blue Heron Bridge. Moody Gardens is a private institution that has a variety of aquaria for public display. Oddly enough, when I visited, almost none of them had fishes native to the Galveston area. There have been people from Texas A&M University at Galveston working on game fishes, sharks or big fishes -- but not colorful tropical fishes.

If one intends to do honest "research" on live fishes or other vertebrates through Texas A&M, s/he is supposed to fill out an animal-use protocol and file it with the University's Laboratory Animal Care Committee. This protocol lists the species to be kept, how many fish will be used, information on how and where they will be housed, and what one intends to do with them -- display, experimentation, breeding, etc., with a justification. Collectors are supposed to have an appropriate fishing license or collecting permit.

If someone is doing fieldwork that could disturb the public, it is considered good form to do it in a less-frequented place, not out in front of everyone at a popular dive site. A protocol is required for field studies, as well as laboratory use or display through the University. If somebody was being paid to collect fishes for Moody Gardens, then this work was not part of university research.

-- Mary Wicksten, Bryan, TX (Faculty of Texas A&M
University College Station)

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