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February 1999 Vol. 25, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Editor's Notes

on DEMA, travel, and trouble

from the February, 1999 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Editor's NotesBy the time you read this, I’ll have returned from DEMA, held this year in the mugging capital of the world, New Orleans, where locals in the know have fashioned tee-shirts to explain the problem: it’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity. DEMA has been floundering around over the last couple of years and is once again in the midst of electing board members, a topic that may be worth writing about after the show. But, if critics are unhappy with DEMA’s job of promoting our sport, perhaps PADI’s new promo will attract the intellectual crowd to scuba: turn a friend onto diving and earn a chance to appear on an episode of Baywatch. Yes, it's true.

DEMA did finally end a fouryear- long feud with ADEX, the annual Asian Dive Expo. They decided to work together instead of staging competing shows in Asia (Singapore in 1999 and probably Thailand in 2000).

You may as well count on reading about what’s new, different, and weird at DEMA on these pages, as who knows what other dive rags will still be around next month. Dive publications have long been a transitory lot, first appearing in droves, then disappearing, reappearing, and merging in an endless list of names and formats from Underwater USA to Fisheye View. That tradition continued in ’98, when Florida-based World Publications bought Dive Travel and second-tier publications Sport Diver and Dive Travel became one and same, beginning with the September/October 1998 issue. On the next level up, the huge British publisher Emap PLC bought the recently-sold Petersen Companies Inc., publishers of Skin Diver, Motor Trend, Teen, Sport, and other specialty mags, for a cool $1.2 billion in cash.

In turn, Petersen stepped in and swallowed Scuba Times, one of the few dive pubs that has been around for awhile, on the eve of its 20th year of publication. Editor Fred Garth told me he was sorry to let it go, but they made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, which must have been what Ken Loyst thought as well when he sold Petersen Discover Diving a few months earlier. Now we get to watch Skin Diver and Rodale’s Scuba Diving duke it out for the heavyweight championship.

So we’ve lost publications, but perhaps we’ve gained a new Caribbean dive destination. Haiti and the U.S are squabbling over ownership of an obscure twosquare- mile island off Haiti’s western coast. An American scientific team authorized by the U. S. Department of the Interior spent two weeks on tiny Navassa this summer and came back with reports of “extremely healthy coral reefs with remarkable animal life including several endemic species.” It’s hard to imagine a prolific reef just forty miles off the coast, especially if you’ve had the opportunity to view the decimated reefs around Haiti, but if the Interior Department says it’s there, I’m willing to go. So how do we get there?

After El Niño? When Undercurrent reader Bill Meridith returned from his Dec. ’97/Jan. ’98 Cocos trip, he wrote that it was “a fair trip, but not a great one. I only saw hammers once, when I saw two together at Dos Amigos Pequeña. I saw silkies twice and no silvertips. Even the whitetips were fewer in number and less active. Only saw one mobula ray, a few marble rays, and no Pacific mantas and no sailfish. Water temperatures were around 85 - too warm.” It was El Niño.

But Bill, who just came back from a return trip to Cocos, now writes “what a difference a year (and La Niña) makes! . . . on our first dive of the trip, which was on the south end of Manuelita, I saw several hammers as soon as we got in the water.

“Thank you La Niña! The highlight of my trip was when a blue marlin came to within five feet of me underwater and stared at me. The hammerheads were out in large schools (many hundreds) as were the countless other sharks, along with the other usual suspects — Pacific mantas (but not mobulas), many, many marble rays, lots of eagle rays, yellow fin tuna, schools of skipjack tuna, huge schools of jacks, wahoo on almost every dive, and on and on. I saw almost everything there is to see at Cocos except a whale shark.”

I can tell you where the whale sharks were: they were over at Wolf and Darwin in the Galapagos, where one of our travel correspondents saw 14 of the beasts in the water during this same December/January time period. We’ll tell you more next month, but El Niño is over and La Niña is here.

After Hurricane El Mitcho — Given how powerful Mitch was, damage reports from resort owners in Honduras have been very positive, with most resorts claiming little damage to their facilities or to the reefs. Subscriber Mike Tell (Grapevine TX) reports from his visit to CoCo View just two weeks after the big blow: “CoCo View was virtually unscathed by the hurricane — minor damage to reefs — seafans destroyed at some locations and no seahorses were to be found. Visibility was a little below normal (50' to 80'). Tegucigalpa Airport operations were normal with little evidence of how bad conditions were on the mainland.” B

ecky Kennedy (Athens TN), who was also at CoCo View in November, was apprehensive about going so soon after the storm, but writes that “much to our delight the resort was in great shape. They had lost a couple of feet of sand in front of the clubhouse and their gazebo at the end of the pier. The diving was a mixed experience with some low visibility, but the coral was in good shape, but with some recent bleaching.”

Honduras is having a hard time convincing divers that they were not blown away, and incredible bargains are being offered in order to attract divers back.

The wind has not been blowing high on St. Vincent, but evidently the smoke has. St. Vincent’s new Marijuana Farmers movement, which claims to have 800 members, sent a letter of protest to President Clinton demanding compensation for lost marijuana plants. It seems that the U.S. sends help down for the fall harvest and destroys the farmers’ cash crops. Similar operations in recent years destroyed millions of plants in Trinidad, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Dominica, and Antigua. But with an estimated 12,350 acres in production, St. Vincent is the eastern Caribbean’s largest marijuana producer. I’m not telling you this so you’ll know where to score but rather to warn divers who are also serious hikers not to get off the beaten path much in these areas, as crop-protection efforts there included such tactics as placing booby traps and the like.

Peter Hughes is moving some boats around this year. He’s picked up the Antares down in Los Roques, an area whose diving impressed Ben Davison during his December 1994 trip. If anyone beats us down there to see how Peter’s running the show, let me know. His Wind Dancer pulled out of the Bay Islands, departing even before Mitch paid the area a visit. It’s moved instead to Grand Turk, where the overall quality of the diving merits the choice of a liveaboard. (The Sea Dancer will continue to operate out of Provo.) The Egyptian Moon Dancer, which dives the Red Sea, will no longer be a part of Peter Hughes Diving but is supposed to continue operation under the name of M/V Oyster.

I’ve also got a few hot leads on some new dive travel that I’ll be checking out, and I’ll let you know about them next month.

— John Q. Trigger

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