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June 1997 Vol. 12, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Ranting about Rants

Readers respond to issues in previous issues

from the June, 1997 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Fred Calhoun's rant in the April issue, in which he objects vehemently to the practice of dive instructors advocating dropping your mask around your neck as opposed to putting it atop one's head, prompted a volley of replies from readers. Stephanie Varix (Naples, Florida) writes that the mask on the forehead indicates a distressed diver. "The reasoning behind it is that if a diver is on the surface and is in distress, the proper technique to get help is to inflate your BC, place your mask on your forehead, and wave an arm over your head for someone on the boat to come and help you. This is not some technique made up by 'cocktail scubas,' but a safety measure.

Karen Uyeda (San Jose, California) writes, "It is obvious that Fred hasn't been diving on the West Coast in surf conditions or thinks that people only dive off boats or in bath water. Get hit with a rogue wave with your mask on your forehead, and your mask is history. I do have a question for Fred, though. How can your regulator get 'ensnared' with the mask strap? If your mask is around your neck, I would hope that you don't have need for the regulator! In our classes, it is emphasized that the only time you should have your mask off while getting in or out of the water is when the water is calm and there is no wave action. If there is a remote possibility that you might need your reg in a hurry, you'd best have your mask on your face and reg in your hand."

Trish Boyer (Lincoln, Delaware) has an answer to the question of whether anyone has lost a mask by wearing it on the forehead. "Yes, my husband and I operate a dive charter business out of Indian River Inlet, Delaware. We see several masks a year go to the bottom when waves knock them off divers' heads. The most common telltale panic signs on the surface are no air in the BC, regulator out of the mouth, and mask on the forehead."

And Larry Taylor (Ypsilanti, Michigan) writes, "Perhaps the best-documented case occurred in the "little Jimmy" incident. In this case, a child and his father fell through the ice near a Lake Michigan shore. A television crew, by chance, was nearby and videotaped the entire incident. Portions of this tape are often shown in public safety-aimed ice-rescue and cold-water near-drowning training programs.

"At one point in the video, two rescue divers were preparing to dive; little Jimmy was still under the ice. The divers were standing in the open water created by the incident. One rescue diver, mask on forehead, turned his head, and his mask fell into the water. At that moment, the search effort was reduced by 50 percent. By the way, that diver did find and save little Jimmy."

I feel that the major issue associated with masks should be more emphasis on teaching novices to handle flooded masks and swimming without the mask, with less concern about where it's worn when not in use. When you get down to brass tacks, where the mask is worn depends on the diver and the environment. After all, losing a mask in the shallow end of the pool is not the same as in a surf zone.

Getting the Dirt Out

The article on strobe lights in our March issue excited comment from Chuck Tribolet (Morgan Hill, California), who objected to the idea of using cotton swabs to clean O-ring grooves: "They get the dirt out but can leave cotton fibers behind. The electronics industry uses lint-free foam swabs. They are like cotton swabs but have a bit of foam 'rubber' (probably some synthetic, really) at the end. The foam doesn't shed lint, and it doesn't fall apart with use like a cotton swab. Radio Shack sells a pack of ten 'mini foam swabs' that are about the size of a typical cotton swab as part number 44-1001. They also sell a ten-pack of a larger swab as part number 44-1094. They are more expensive than cotton swabs, but a lot cheaper than having lint cause a flooded camera."

Shutterbugs Menace Reefs

Reader E. E. (Smithburg, Maryland) agreed with John Wible's rant in the April issue about photographers destroying the reef: "A study by David Medio and Rupert Ormond of Britain's University of York states that photographers, a group that represents only one-fourth of the divers visiting Egypt's Sharm el Sheikh, inflict over two-thirds of the reef damage. There's something about carrying a camera that gives license to damage anything in the name of the priceless photo. I see it all the time. I have often observed it on Aggressor boats, where lip service is given to conservation until it is time to sell a photo course, rent some gear, and do some developing for some diver with 20 logged dives."

Lucky Guess Department

Finally, Eugene Dubay (Gatlinburg, Tennessee) alertly points out how quickly events often overtake predictions: "I just finished reading the April issue of In Depth/Undercurrent and I'm picking myself up off the floor. In your article on how much to tip, you quote In Depth subscriber Ron Ross as saying, 'Next, boat operators will be wanting us to chip in on gas money.' Turn the page, and in your Flotsam & Jetsam column is a Bikini trip on the Thorfinn for $3,895 plus a fuel surcharge of $1,000. Hey, Ron, the Thorfinn was way ahead of you on this idea."

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