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October 1997 Vol. 23, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Editorial Notebook

Lights, mantas, volcanoes, hurricanes

from the October, 1997 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The Eyes Have It

Our recent coverage of Diver magazine’s (United Kingdom) review of dive lights continues to flick a lot of subscribers’ switches. Jerry Loveless (Long Island) says he just had to respond to Jeff Milman’s August letter about our July article “Lighten Up.” Jeff had found an “incredibly bright” helmetmounted light that made it possible to see “25 feet in every direction you turn your head.”

One of Jerry’s pet peeves is the diver who carries along the million-candlepower lamp and blinds everyone else on the dive. “Having it mounted on your head makes it even more likely that you’re going to turn your head and blind someone.”

Jeff Milman (the guy with the bright light on his head) thinks that Jerry has a good point, which is why he prefers to dive solo. “However, as you know, several operations do not permit solo diving. With a group of divers, I tell them about the bright light and warn them not to look directly at me; I use only my backup light for descents, ascents, and to approach a wall or critter lair; I either trail the group or branch off in a different direction (with my buddy in tow if need be), so that when I fire up the headlight, no one is around to get blinded. So far, after about a dozen such group night dives with the headlight, no one has punched out my lights when I reboarded, so I believe that my attempts so far to mitigate damage to fellow divers have been sufficient. The oddest complaint I’ve received on the headlight is that I must be scaring the fish half to death and decreasing their life spans. If this were the case, I would be forced to give it up.” (Any marine biologist care to comment on this one?)

Making Contact

Regarding my comment about carrying an Ikelite PCa in my dive bag and Ikelite’s suggestion that if the light is bumped hard and goes out, simply bend the contacts back, Eugene Dubay (Pigeon Ford, Tennessee) writes: “What’s wrong with this picture? How can you possibly tote a light that if it’s bumped too hard will stop working? After paying a premium price, why should you have to bend weak contacts back or jury rig to make a brand new light work?

“Having [a light]
mounted on your head
makes it even more
likely that you’re going
to turn your head and
blind someone.”

“Time and again I have seen these lights fail, once in a dramatic fashion. During a deep penetration dive on the San Fran Maru in Truk, the last diver out started looking around when both her main and backup lights failed. It was then she noticed that the rest of the group was gone and it was BLACK. Our guide found her in time, okay but shaken up. It took two days to get her back in the water.

“During the last six years I have had (and still do) a Princeton Tec 4000 and 400. My only maintenance has been plastic fatigue on the inside switch. A call to Princeton Tech produced a new switch assembly and a backup — free, no questions.”

The Princeton Tec lights also did well in Diver’s light tests, and I’m interested to hear that the service you received was good. Excellent service is one of the primary reasons I use Ikelite — they have one of the best service reputations in the dive industry. The other reason, however, is that I too have had my beat-up Mini C for a long time and it has served me well, and I like the small, bright beam of the PCa. On my next night dive, I want to test the Mini C with its new bulb (same as in the PC). I’ll try to take along a Princeton Tec as well.

J. Q.

Dive Freedom vs. Dive Safety

Dive Makai’s Lisa Choquette and Tom Shockley brought up a good point about a letter we printed in the July issue. Readers Barbara Reid and Aaron Lowell wrote of their operation: “The real trouble began after a great dive over a lava canyon in the South area. . . . Tom tried to take us into a cave. The surge was so bad and we were thrown around so much that at one point I thought I was going to go out the blowhole.”

Tom and Lisa concur, it was a surgy day: “We warned the whole group it was going to be surgy, exactly how surgy we couldn’t predict. We offered anyone who was not comfortable with the idea of diving a surgy shoreline tube the option of doing an outside reef dive with me. Three people decided to go with me; Barbara and Aaron decided to try the tubes with Tom (they entered the tube, found it too surgy, came out, and did a reef dive), and apparently found the experience not to their liking.”

The question Dive Makai poses is “How do you balance safety with diver freedom? We try to give experienced divers the freedom they want. We do require computers, but divers are free to do their own thing as long as they let us know they choose not to stay with the group. Barbara and Aaron opted to do the tubes instead of staying out on the reef with me. That was their educated choice. Four people (myself included) said, ‘No thanks — not for me!’”

In the Current:

Local Circus Rides

North Carolina’s offshore waters have always been known for good wreck diving and for huge sand tiger sharks. But divers there were recently treated to something new: manta rides.

Divers on three vessels, the Outrageous V and Outrageous VI from Discovery Diving in Beaufort and the Seawife IV from Morehead City, were visiting the wreck of the Ashkabab in 60 feet of water at the end of Cape Lookout Shoals, when either three or four (depending on which divers you talked to) Atlantic manta rays appeared. One acted as though he had just escaped from the circus. He allowed many of the divers to ride, cruising them slowly out away from the wreck and then arcing back in to drop them off and pick up another batch.

“Hell, I paid over $4,000
to go to Micronesia to
see manta rays, and now,
on a $75 dive less than
three hours from my
house, I’ve seen more
mantas than I did then.”

An old, gray diver was heard to remark: “Hell, I paid over $4,000 a few years back to go to Micronesia to see manta rays, and now, on a $75 dive less than three hours from my house, I’ve seen more mantas than I did then.”

I Shall Return

In August 1994, two large volcanoes overlooking the harbor in Rabaul, New Britain, PNG, erupted. The airport was destroyed and the harbor was filled with ash, effectively cutting off easy access to the diving there. This fall a new airport (they did not try to rebuild the old one) will open Rabaul to diving once again. Peter Hughes Diving plans on moving one of its PNG live-aboards there for at least part of the year.

Ill-Wind Insurance

The Bahamans Hotel Association has announced a hurricane cancellation policy that allow guests who are prevented from traveling due to a hurricane to receive a full refund or use their deposits or payments toward a future stay.

Out of the Current:

Rise and Fall Show

Industry infighting heats up as PADI drops out of the Fall Show. Bob Grey, who was more or less ousted from his longtime position of running the industry’s annual January DEMA (Diving Equipment Marketing Association) show, returned with the idea of running his own show in the fall. PADI had decided to support Grey by buying booth space at his show, but has now sent out a letter stating it has dropped out of the show. According to John Cronin, PADI’s CEO, “the Fall Show is now rising as a potentially divisive factor in our industry, made all the more distressing because it is being promoted with scare tactics based on misleading, false, and distorted statistics.”

Bucking the Odds

This is not what they mean by sport diving: While leading a group in Cozumel, a 33-year-old Columbia, South Carolina, divestore owner decided to go for a 400-foot-plus record depth on air last month. He died, along with another diver who had agreed to be a support diver.

If This Is Belize, It Must Be Honduras

Divers who thought they were headed for Belize aboard the Rembrandt van Rijn in August were told upon arrival in Belize City that their itinerary had been unexpectedly changed to Honduras. Later, in the middle of a dive in the Bay Islands of Honduras, everyone was ordered out of the water. The Zodiac raced back to the boat, dive gear was quickly stowed, and dripping wetsuits were hidden in the divers’ cabins. Honduran immigration officials boarded the boat and negotiated with the captain in the salon.”

Rima Deeb, director of sales and marketing for the Rembrandt van Rijn, told me that they reserve the right to change itineraries when necessary. “That particular sailing did not have enough passengers on it, so operations decided to go ahead and keep it in Belize as it would be too costly to go to Honduras with so few passengers. At the last minute, since the passengers on that sailing, with the exception of one, had all booked a Honduras trip, operations went ahead and approved the trip to Honduras.” As for divers being yanked out of the water because of Honduran immigration officials, she had no information and could not offer an explanation.

Reef Wreckers

Bill Lockhart (Plantation, Florida) made a dive trip to the Cay Sal Banks, Bahamas, aboard the Sea Fever. His attraction to Cay Sal was that it’s so far away, it’s still pristine. Bill rates the diving high, a five for the Caribbean. His troubles came from other divers on board and the boat’s response, or rather lack of response, to their actions. “We had a Swiss couple, professional photographers, who lay on, grabbed, and kicked the reefs to get their shots.

“Another professional photographer and three amateurs who took the utmost care not to damage the reef got photos of the pair wrecking the reef, and they were even caught on the trip dive video. Despite two cautions by the divemaster, and several of the other divers asking them to be careful, they contemptuously persisted. This sickening sight diminished the pleasure of all of us, as we were forced to watch them destroy the reef on every dive.

“The captain declined to take any action, or even say anything to them, saying it was not against Bahamian law to destroy coral reefs this way — it only prohibits taking dead or live coral out of the water.

“This was the reef-wrecking photographers’ second trip on the Sea Fever. It was my 14th trip on the boat, and I won’t return.”

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