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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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April 1999 Vol. 14, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam 

from the April, 1999 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

DIVERS IN THE SKY: It’s terrific when nice guys make the big time, especially when they’re divers and Undercurrent subscribers. When diving in Montserrat in 1995, I met a fine fellow and his girlfriend, who’s since become his wife. Over a meal, I learned that he worked for NASA training astronauts to dive and experience weightlessness. I let on that I wrote Undercurrent. What do you know: he was a subscriber who read my words carefully. “How nice,” I said. He told me he’d done a little writing, too, including a short piece on his childhood rocket-building in West Virginia that he thought he might turn into a full-length book. He did. Turned it into a movie too. It’s called “October Sky,” and it’s about a kid named Homer Hickam, the very guy I met in Montserrat. Good guy; good diver; great writer; great film.

MORE FOGGY FILM: An increasing number of U.S. airports have beefed up security by adding CTX- 5000 devices, which combine xrays and modern scan technology. Though the machines score well at detecting explosives in luggage, they’re bad news for photographers since they leave a cloudy half-inch band across unprocessed film. The FAA suggests putting film in carry-on bags and requesting that the bags be hand-inspected.

SEA MONSTER ESCAPES: It’s been a few hundred years since sailors lived in fear of sea monsters, but two Florida boaters almost became believers last February when an underwater creature dragged their 16-foot boat by its anchor line for nearly two hours over a distance of about 1-1/2 miles. They tried putting their 90-horsepower engine in reverse to stop themselves from being pulled out to sea, but their efforts were to no avail. Finally they summoned a Coast Guard rescue vessel, and the crew transferred the motorboat’s anchor line to the Coast Guard craft. After the 41-foot vessel had pulled on the anchor line for several minutes, an 18-foot wide manta ray weighing at least 300 pounds surfaced. The ray eventually freed itself and swam away.

OPENING PANDORA'S BOX: Divers hit pay dirt while excavating the wreck of the 24-gun British frigate HMS Pandora, which was sent from England in 1790 in search of mutineers from the Bounty but sank off the Queensland coast. Divers found two cannons, a swivel gun, a cluster of dinner plates, hemp rope believed to be spare rigging, and a ground-glass bottle stopper believed to have belonged to the ship’s surgeon. Earlier excavations of the site turned up some interesting implements, including an ivory syringe with wooden plunger that researchers believe was used to inject mercurybased anti-venereal disease compounds into sailors’ urethras.

WE'RE STILL HERE: Due to a mix-up at the post office, some of Undercurrent’s mail was marked “return to sender.” Our subscriber mail is valuable to us, so if you had a letter you sent to Undercurrent returned, we’d appreciate your resubmitting it. Our address for reader submissions and letters to the editor remains P. O. Box 90215, Austin, TX 78709. We apologize for any inconvenience.

TRAVEL DISCOUNT TIP: While I was looking at Peter Hughes’ web site, I found a couple of discounts you have to ask for to receive. Divers 59 and over can get a 10% discount, as do airline employees, travel agents and active dive instructors. For more information, see

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