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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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October 1997 Vol. 12, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

News on line and in letters

from the October, 1997 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

A FORTUNE FOR TREASURE HUNTING. Mel Fisher’s treasure-hunting company has been fined for destroying over an acre of sea grass off the Florida Coast. Looking for the Spanish galleons that sank in a 1733 hurricane, the treasure hunters used equipment to dig holes in the sea bed. Because the sea grass, which serves as a fish nursery, has not recovered, a U.S. District Court judge has ordered the company to pay $590,000 to restore the area.

MYSTERY REEF. In a remote area west of the Dry Tortugas, a U.S. Geological Survey–sponsored multiagency research team recently came across a unique deep-water coral reef with spectacular coral cover. Only a handful of divers knew of its existence, and they were keeping it a secret. The reef’s size and high (80 percent) coral cover were unexpected, considering its depth of 60–100 feet and its location in the Gulf of Mexico. The discovery overturns conventional thinking that coral reefs are restricted to relatively shallow areas of the Florida Keys.

The reef had been overlooked because it appears flat on depth sounders and is too deep to be seen from the surface. Although extensive coral bleaching, thought to be due in part to El Niño, was visible, the reef’s unique flat, plate-like corals are in excellent condition. Researchers were able to conduct only a preliminary survey of the site because of its depth, its remoteness, and the fact that the sea above it was thick with stinging jellyfish. Speculation is that the reef is very old and exists only because of the unique local conditions — clear water that allows enough light for coral growth and a depth that protects it from storms and the Gulf’s summer and winter surface temperature extremes.

GOING FOR THE TRIPLE CROWN? A diver picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard had been adrift over 24 hours 60 miles off Jacksonville. He had been diving solo, spearfishing, when he surfaced some distance from the boat in 6- to 8-foot seas. No one on the boat spotted him, and the current was too strong for him to swim back to the boat. All he could do was drop his weight belt, speargun, and stringer and wait out the night. Daylight brought better fortune: he was sighted from an aircraft carrier.

It was not his first bout with the sea. The same diver had been rescued by the Coast Guard last year after his boat sank.

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