Updated June 3, 2008
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Open Water Redux
By now you’ve heard about Richard Neely, a Brit, and his American friend, Allyson Dalton, who got separated from the catamaran Pacific Star on May 23 and spent 19 hours floating on the Great Barrier Reef waters. Unlike Open Water divers Tom and Eileen Lonergan, Neely and Dalyon were found alive and unharmed, but they’re taking flack from the Australian and British press for everything from blaming the dive boat operator Oz Sail for their getting lost, to faking their disappearance so they can sell their story and become wealthy celebrities. And like the Open Water story, the Aussie scuba industry went on the offensive, blamed the divers, said it was staged. Look at our Open Water story from March 1998 Undercurrent and you’ll see how faked deaths were suggested for the Lonergans – bizarre suicide, one of their tanks found on a beach as proof the disappearance was planned. We’ll have more details in our July issue, and what’s happening to Aussie demands that Neely and Dalton repay the $400,000 search costs.
Get a seven-month trial subscription to Undercurrent for only $29.95, and in addition to your seven issues delivered by U.S. mail, you’ll receive the all-new 2009 Travelin’ Divers’ Chapbook as soon as it’s off the press. In the June issue, you’ll find out about:
Editor Jack Jackson gathered a group of wreck diving enthusiasts, including notables like Bob Halstead and Scottish diving pioneer Lawson Hood, to write about their favorite wreck dives. They’re grouped by the regional waters they lie in, from the major graveyards of Truk and Scapa Flow to overlooked wrecks in New Zealand and South Africa. These are accessible wrecks and need to be your next dive itinerary. To order the 160-page, full-color book at Amazon.com’s best price, go to Undercurrent and scroll down to “Editor’s Picks.” Undercurrent will direct all proceeds from book sales to protect coral reefs.
Due to the unpredictability of the national airline Air Marshalls, and the rapid rise in fuel prices, Bikini Atoll Divers have had to close their diving operation, which visits some of the greatest wrecks in the world. They will decide in August whether they can afford to reopen next year.
Timothy Mowry of Traverse City, Michigan died while doing what’s known as a helmet dive in George Town’s Royal Water Port on May 26. Helmet diving lets people with no diving certification or swimming ability walk the ocean floor at shallow depths after being lowered on a line from the boat, literally wearing a helmet with a breathing apparatus, and supervised by dive crew. Despite good weather and water conditions, Mowry, 68, got into trouble while on an underwater trek with Sea Trek Cayman Islands. Boat crew said he was unconscious when pulled from the water, and never revived despite CPR.
2008 is International Year of the Reef and to celebrate, four Maui dive shops and 42 volunteer divers and snorkelers retrieved more than three miles of tangled fishing line and 600 pounds of lead weights, hooks and steel leaders near McGregor Point in just one day. On May 10, armed with wire cutters and burlap bags, the divers did two 50-minute dives and combed an area of 200 square feet, collecting everything from glass bottles to cell phones. Meanwhile, a major reef cleanup in Florida is not going so quickly. The infamous artificial reef of two million scrap tires that broke free near Broward County will cost the state $3.4 million to clean up. Army and Navy divers are retrieving 2,600 tires a day but at that rate, clearing the main tire field will still take 17 years to complete.
The culprit seems to be carbon monoxide poisoning, due to contaminated air from one of the Maldives liveaboard’s two compressors, that killed a Russian diver, injured eight others and hospitalized two dive instructors. Roman Kudarov, 36, died May 22 after a morning dive. The problem began when divers experienced headaches. A dive guide requested a filter change on the compressors but on the next day, one of the divers surfaced to find most of the group semi-conscious or unconscious. The single bottle of oxygen available on the dive dhoni did not work, though there was a functioning bottle on the main boat. We’ve had complaints about poor maintenance on the sister boat Baani Explorer, so steer clear of these craft until our full report in the July issue.
For years, Marge Frisch would hear stories and see photos of Grand Cayman diving from her daughter, Linda. Finally in mid-May, she went diving for the first time – at the age of 81. Frisch took lessons in her hometown of Sun City Center, Florida, and completed her first openwater dive at Stingray City on May 18. Her divemaster, Absolute Divers owner Mark Sahagian, said she acted like a diver decades younger. “Once we got her ears cleared, she was like a fish in the water, immediately taking to the stingrays.”
Part I from our May issue, about readers’ thoughts on who and how much to tip, is also available to read for free at Undercurrent. In the June issue, we ask dive operations worldwide what they advise their customers and how they handle tips among crew, and we determine how to handle tipping in Third World Countries, where a 15 percent tip of a $3,000 liveaboard trip can be more than a local’s monthly salary. Subscribers and Online Members can read our findings in this month’s “Tipping on Dive Trips: Part II,”
Ben Davison, editor/publisher
Note: Undercurrent is a not-for-profit organization. Our travel writers never announce their purpose, are unknown to the destination, and receive no complimentary services or compensation from the dive operators or resort.
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