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February 1999 Vol. 14, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam 

from the February, 1999 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

GOING FOR THE GOLD. Divers might have a little more interest in the summer Olympics in forthcoming years. In the year 2000 Australian Summer Olympics, the traditional torch relay will include an underwater route along the Great Barrier Reef. Organizers don’t say how it will be done, only that it will be. Fin swimming is proposed for the Athens Olympics in 2004, but don’t expect the speedy Force Fin to score a marketing coup. Fin swimmers stick both feet in a single rubber-and-fiberglass “mono fin” up to 32 inches wide, clasp their hands together in front, and propel through the water with undulating thrusts. World-class fin swimmers, some using snorkels, can move about 30 percent faster than their conventional counterparts. If you can’t wait for the Olympics to compete, consider the World Bog Snorkeling Championship coming up this August 30 in Wales. The record for the mucksoup, 120-yard course is 1:44. We wouldn’t expect Force Fins to score well here, either.

WE WANT MORE GOLD. In the last issue, we reported that a week after the Royal Caribbean Cruise line gave $500,000 to conservation organizations, it was fined $8 million for dumping at sea in what we speculated was sort of a coveryour- butt move. As we went to press, we learned that they’d declared a quarterly dividend of nine cents per share, quite a bundle given the 161 million shares outstanding. A week later a Royal Caribbean cruise liner ran aground and destroyed a reef off St. Martin. Note to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line: how about at least doubling last year’s pittance to environmental groups?

GOLD LOST, FOUND, REPLACED. The irrepressible Mel Fisher, the former owner of Mel’s Aqua Shop in Redondo Beach CA who discovered millions in gold and treasure off the Florida coast in 1986, died in December from cancer. After searching fifteen years, he and his crew discovered the bulk of the treasure of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha, which sunk in a hurricane in 1622 with its cargo of $400 million in gold, silver, and gems. The affable Fisher became one of Key West’s most famous residents, greeting customers in his store and carousing till the very end. While he made hundreds of his investors wealthy with his discovery, in November his company pleaded no contest to charges of selling fake coins and agreed to reimburse the buyers $70,000.

DISCOURAGING TALE OF ALUMINUM. A Luxfer aluminum tank exploded while being filled in New Zealand in early November, severing a man’s leg above the knee. The government banned the filling of the tanks for several days until a Luxfer engineer flew to New Zealand to check on the problem. After review, the government decided Luxfer cylinders could be used, but noted that owners should have them checked regularly and be especially alert for leaks or weaknesses near the necks.

BOAT IGUANAS. Ever wonder how those Caribbean islands initially got their critter population? Hurricane Luis, which roared through in 1995, gave us some hard evidence. Anguilla was iguana-free until 1995, when 15 arrived on a raft of matted trees. Luis blew down a hillside on Guadeloupe, 300 kilometers away, washing a colony of 15 iguanas into the water. Anguilla residents saw the critters clamor ashore. Scientists followed their survival, and Nature reports that at least one remains alive today.

LOBSTERS ON A TREADMILL. Wouldn’t you think that the faster a lobster walks the faster his little heart beats? Researchers at the University of Calgary in Alberta thought so, too, but were nonplused after putting several crustaceans through their paces from a gentle stroll at 1.7 meters per minute to a brisk 8 meterper- minute stride. In the August 25 Journal of Experimental Biology, the lobstermeisters said, “When the exercise started, lobster heart rates jumped almost instantaneously, but the size of the increase seemed to have nothing to do with exercise speed. During treadmill sessions, lobster hearts thumped at 80 to 90 beats per minute at all walking speeds tested. Ventilating, an underwater equivalent of breathing, reached 175 to 180 times per minute regardless of the lobster’s speed.... The reason for this phenomenon remains unexplained.”

Our apologies to reader and correspondent Beverly Tisnower, whose name we got wrong in the last issue. We’ve seen so many good reports from Beverly that we should have known better.

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