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March 1999 Vol. 25, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Bleached Maldives

from the March, 1999 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Divers who showed up in the Maldives within a month after reading our travel correspondent’s comments in the August, 1998, issue of Undercurrent were caught wondering if they had visited the same place they’d just read about. In a short month’s time, the warming waters of El Niño had devastated the country’s hard corals. Rosemary Heil (Oakland CA), who was there in September (just after our reviewer), estimated that as many as 90 percent of the hard corals had been bleached out.

In January, Undercurrent reader Peter Louwerse (Switzerland) traveled to Baa Atoll northwest of Male, an area that until recently was only accessible by live-aboard. He found water that had reached temperatures as high as 27° C. (80.6° F.) and masses of dead coral. All was not doom and gloom, however: the massive schools of fish, turtles, dolphins, and reef sharks that are the Maldives’ main drawing card were still in abundant supply.

Other areas that have been hit hard with coral bleaching in past El Niño years have managed to recover within a few years. Let’s hope that this current devastation will reverse itself as well. In the meantime, we will try to track the recovery of the Maldives and the other reefs around the world to keep you updated.

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