January 21, 2003
Versus Divers in Cayman
Water sports operators in the Cayman Islands killed two tiger sharks at Stingray City in September. The killings were prompted by appearances of a 9 ft. hammerhead at the site, where large groups of semi-tame southern stingrays congregate. Snorkeling operators were afraid that a large shark would discourage tourists from visiting the site, so they tried to capture it, but didn’t, while killing two tiger sharks as accidental bycatch.
Their actions were condemned by Tim Austin, of the Cayman Department of the Environment."The sharks were taken by members of the fishing community and water sports operators,” Austin told the British magazine, DIVE. This episode has generated a lot of outrage, but he said Cayman authorities could not prosecute because sharks are not a protected species in Cayman waters and the Sandbar is not in a 'no-take' zone. Underwater photographer Doug Perrine said it was particularly ironic that the killings came just after the Cayman government passed a law banning the feeding of sharks.
Smart divers know that the best diving on Grand Cayman is on the East End, where the reefs are unspoiled and you can be sure that they leave sharks alone so divers can photograph them. I started diving here twenty years ago and it’s the only part of Cayman I care to revisit and dive. It’s peaceful and away from the traffic and craziness of the West End. Out here, you can’t beat the prices of the Cayman Diving Lodge a cozy, 12-room all-inclusive dedicated dive resort. Jim Andrews, the Managing Director, is offering Undercurrent readers and friends ten percent off their all inclusive packages, which are priced on their website (http://www.divelodge.com), Packages include 2-3 tanks, ALL meals, lodging and airport transfers. (Blackout dates for the special are the months of March, April and June and December 21-31 and you can’t get the discount on other specials). When you sign up, inform the office that Undercurrent sent you to get your ten percent off. For information and reservations call (800) TLC DIVE or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t let the unfortunate title fool you, but The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sharks is an intelligent volume, chock full of good science about how sharks hunt and feed, their life cycle and behavior. Undercurrent subscriber Mary Peachin has traveled the world diving with sharks, and has put it all together in this interesting, well written book – how makos switch from being cold to warm blooded in a flash, the truth about shark immune systems, tagging and tracking, overfishing, all in all a great book for any diver. 334 pages, $13.27. And while you’re at it, here’s another book, much different from Peachin’s, and equally as useful The Shark Watchers Handbook, by Mark Carwardine and Ken Watterson, besides a discussion on shark photography and the information on behavior, overfishing, etc., devotes fifty pages to the details of identifying twenty-four species that divers might see –oceanic whitetip, silky, Galapagos, bronze whaler, tiger shark– and then present details and maps of 264 locations worldwide where you can pretty much be assured to see your favorites. It’s a remarkably complete effort for people in search of sharks. Hardbound, 288 pages, $17.47 on Amazon. -- get them both for $30.47. Order from our site through Amazon and a good hunk of the profits will go to the Coral Reef Alliance and help save sharks.
In our January issue we published a piece detailing internecine warfare between DAN’s board and Executive Director Peter Bennett, then concluded that Bennett had been given a golden parachute to leave DAN and the board refuses to reveal it, though it is funded in part by volunteer donations from members. You can read that story here. After our story appeared, a well-researched and highly critical 9000 word story on Bennett and DAN appeared in the Independent, a Durham, NC, weekly newspaper. Reporter Jennifer Strom provided details about the self dealing charges against Bennett in the law suits, quotes many board members who criticize Bennett for serving his own self interest, not DAN’s, and cites Bennett’s request for a $400,000 retirement gift. Strom gives ample reason for Dr. Bennett to step down immediately so DAN can restore donor confidence and get on with its important work. Go read it at http://www.indyweek.com/durham/2003-01-15/cover.html.
A Tropic Air flight from Belize City to Ambergris Caye landed in the drink on December 27, leaving eight Texas residents and the pilot clinging to the floating fuselage for well over an hour, before the rescue boats arrived. In a driving rainstorm, the plane crashed in shallow water so close to San Pedro that passengers could see the lights. The injuries were minor. Survivor Lance Dreyer told ABC news that "we want to get a message out to the people who fly on these smaller airlines, you need to check and see where the emergency exits are and if the airlines have life jackets. To this day, I still do not know where those life jackets were on that airplane." One good note: anyone who travels third world aircraft knows that luggage often gets left behind, and that was the case for one family, who got dry clothes once they hooked up with their lost luggage.
Jim Church, the legendary author and photographer, passed away at his home in Miami Lakes, Florida, on December 31. Mike Haber and Mike Mesgleski, who worked with Jim for years, wrote a New Year's Eve missive to his friends. "Of all the accolades that Jim has received throughout his life, the one that meant the most to him was simply "teacher". . . . There are very few among us who have not been influenced by Jim's writing or by his hands on instruction. Many of today's professionals started with a camera in one hand and Jim's articles and books in the other. It would be fitting on this last night of 2002 that we all lift a glass in the direction of the nearest ocean and shout a toast to the wonderful spirit that was Jim Church. For those of us who have had the honor and privilege of knowing and loving the man, he will be missed more than words can express. For all of us, the world will be a little sadder and emptier in 2003." In keeping with Jim's wishes, donations may be made in Jim's name to the Catholic Hospice, 14100 Palmetto Frontage Road, Suite 370, Miami Lakes, Fl, 33016, or to your favorite charity.
Gaz Cooper reports that George Bevier, who with his wife Carol, have owned the Rum Point Inn in Placencia, Belize, for 25 years, has passed away. An educated man with many fine stories to tell, he made the Rum Point Inn a unique, southern Belize refuge, one of my favorite getaway spots.
Well, it's really a codeshare, so you'll fly Air Jamaica through Montego Bay, but it will still make travel to those two dive destinations easier for some people and allows the use of Delta frequent flyer miles. Flights are available immediately. Delta recently added Provo as a destination, as well.
First, a warning about this superb collection of articles edited by Peter Sale. The articles are scientific and unless you truly want to know more about the fish you see when diving, the book will never leave your bookshelf. That said, if you're serious about understanding behavior, reproduction, management, and other issues, there is no finer volume. A few of the nineteen chapters: Rarity in Coral Reef Communities, the Sensory World of Coral Reef Fishes, Energetic and Fish Diversity on Coral Reefs, Ecological issues and the Trades in Live Reef Fishes. So, if you want truly to understand what you see to enhance your slide presentations, your conversation on the next liveaboard, or to better understand the next reef community you visit, spring for this 560-page hardbound volume. If you own a resort or liveaboard, it clearly does belong in your library. Order at Amazon.com through us, where you'll get the best price and a good hunk of the profits will go to preserve coral reefs.
but still want to bone up for your next trip? Then, depending on where you're headed, these are the books to pick. Indo Pacific Coral Reef Field Guide, by Gerald R. Allen and Roger Steene, Fishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific, by Gerald R. Allen and D. Ross Robertson; Reef Fish/Creature/Coral Identification: Florida Caribbean Bahamas, by Paul Humann and Ned Deloach.. Or, to learn what those fish are really doing underwater, a great read is Watching Fishes: Understanding Coral Reef Fish Behavior by Roberta Wilson and James Q. Wilson. All available through our Books section with a good hunk of the profit going to the Coral Reef Alliance.
The most dangerous jellyfish for divers is the tiny irukandji, which causes intense pain, anxiety, and a rapid, possibly dangerous, rise in blood pressure. It's found largely off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, though it has occasionally stung people in the Indian Ocean. In mid-December, a 22-year-old American woman was stung on the face while diving and was flown to the mainland for treatment. Last summer, two tourists died and more than 120 people were hospitalized in Queensland after being stung by the thumbnail-sized creatures. If you're headed to these waters, ask your divemaster for full descriptions to help you avoid trouble.
If you're looking for a way to get some decent Caribbean diving, while having the kids in good hands for snorkeling, diving, and learning about the sea, consider the Kids Sea Camp in Curacao. It offers kids from ages 4-15 the opportunity to be in Curacao's Sea Aquarium all week, feeding and learning about the marine life. Kids 4 and up learn to snorkel. There's a PADI Seal Team for the kids 8 and up and Jr. Certification for kids 10 and up. It's sponsored by the PADI Diving Society, which contributes prizes. There's a treasure hunt, the kids go to an Ostrich farm, and mom and dad go diving. Accommodations are in one bedroom villas at the new Royal Resort and diving is with Ocean Encounters, which is well regarded by Undercurrent readers. Prices start at $999/person/double occupancy (the first kid is $425). If you tell them Undercurrent sent you look for ten percent off. June 28-July 5 and July 5-July 12. Check it out at www.kidsseacamp.com
Television is awash with ordinary underwater coral reef programs, but here's a chance for a unique glimpse of Antarctica by photographer and filmmaker Norbert Wu. Under Antarctic Ice will premier on most public television stations on Sunday, January 12, at 8 p.m. as part of the Nature series. The Washington Post will be hosting a live webchat with Norbert Wu and Rob Robbins, the scientific diving officer at McMurdo Station, the U.S. Antarctic Program's largest base in Antarctica. It will begin on January 13, at 2PM EST (note new time announced -- DSE). To tune in, go to www.washingtonpost.com and click on the Live Online tab along the top of the page.
Here's an important item by Barry Clegg (Minneapolis) that we ran in our October issue printed issue. "Theft from cars in Bonaire is way out of hand. Local thieves wait till you go under and plunder your car. It's worse now than last year. The car rental companies tell you to leave no valuables in your car and leave it unlocked, for fear that the thieves would break glass if you leave the doors locked. We followed that advice and had things stolen three times (old cheap Timex watches, a couple of grubby wet pairs of shorts, grubby T-shirts, and a baseball cap -- not exactly a treasure trove). I intentionally wadded up my shorts and T?shirt and tossed them on the car floor in the dirt. The thieves took them anyway. One group lost two cameras and four dive lights. The powers that be in Bonaire need to hear the message. They are killing the golden goose. It wouldn't take too many busts to cut this problem back but the local authorities are indifferent. The next time I go, I will buy the collision damage waiver on the rental car and lock the doors. If someone smashes the window, the rental car company will pay the damages. If the rental car companies have to pay for enough broken windows, maybe they will put pressure on the police to crack down". [Editor's note: one reader reported that a window replacement cost $587; with a $500 deductible you might still be out-of-pocket].
460 plus pages, was mailed on December 10 to all print subscribers of record. Look for reviews of hundreds of liveaboards and dive operations, including new finds -- and real dogs. New subscribers will also receive a copy when they order. Soon it will be posted on the website for Online Members also.
-- Ben Davison, editor/publisher
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