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May 2001 Vol. 16, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the May, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Still Diving at 70? Ronald P.Garry, M.D., with the Harvard Division on Aging, is surveying the effects of diving on divers 70 and older and would like you to fill out a questionnaire, which will take about 20 minutes. One goal is to learn how the aging process may affect one’s ability to dive. He also wants to characterize your attitude as well as other divers’ attitudes toward you. To get a questionnaire, contact Dr. Garry at 28 Evergreen Ave . , Waltham, MA 02453, fax him at 419-791-4571 or e-mail him at All responses will be kept confidential and the results will be published in Undercurrent.

Clueless : Costa Rica’s full-page ad in Sport Diver magazine said, “ Take a diver, add oxygen and fins, place in Pacific or Caribbean waters, marinate, serve on a living coral reef. Costa Rica, no artificial ingredients.” Now, I can imagine a copywriter not knowing what a diver breathes, but wouldn’t you think that someone at PADI -— they publish the mag — might catch it. After all, they list six editors in the masthead.

Buddy Blast: We published a brief piece indicating that the loudest diver alert horn produced is the Buddy Blast, even surpassing Dive Alert. We failed to tell how to order it. It’s a British product available at or telephone 44 (0)1227 750700, fax +44 (0)1227 750178 .

Dried sushi:At first, US custom officers thought they had stumbled upon a shipment of heroin. The suspicious package they intercepted en route from Japan to a private address in the US, contained several vials of a white crystalline powder. But on-the-spot tests revealed that it was no narcotic. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California found it was tetrodotoxin (TTX) — one of the deadliest poisons on Earth, 10,000 times more lethal than cyanide. In East Asia, it regularly kills diners who have braved the sushi delicacy of pufferfish, known as fugu. Within 25 minutes after exposure it begins to paralyze its victims, leaving the brain fully aware of what’s happening. Death usually results, within hours, from suffocation or heart failure. There is no antidote. Still, if luckless patients can hang on for 24 hours, they usually recover. Some people have speculated that the shipment was headed for terrorists. (New Scientist, January 20, 2001.)

With certification for near-toddlers, why not? In Beverly Hills, the Reef Seeker, PADI dive store newsletter says they are offering a new certification for those who don’t like cold or saltwater but want to “enjoy all the wonders of breathing underwater.” It’s called “pool diver.” Steve Harve , LA Times columnist, said that the Wilshire Blvd. store has a two-step certification: Grads of the first phase are limited to diving in the shallow part of a swimming pool, while more advanced students can obtain a “deep end diver” classification. While the story did appear in the April edition of the Reef Seeker, why is it that one might sense an element of truth here?

Deaf but not Dumb: The primary strategy in Florida to prevent boats from hitting manatees is to have the boat slow down so the manatee, once it hears the boat, can get out of the way. It hasn’t worked well, evidenced by more than 1,000 manatees killed by boats in the past 25 years. Manatees, which can move fast if they have to, haven’t learned to associate boat noise with danger. Why? Dr. Edmund R. Gerstein from Florida Atlantic University says it’s because the animals cannot hear approaching boats. They are deaf to low-frequency sounds like the noise of a boat’s engine. The slower the boat speed, the farther the sound is below the animal’s hearing threshold ... Furthermore, low-frequency sounds travel poorly near the water’s surface where both boat and beast are going about their business. This puts the manatee at a double disadvantage. To solve the manatee’s hearing problem, Gerstein and his colleagues have designed a hull-mounted device that emits a narrow beam of sound. At 120 decibels the sound would travel about 160 yards ahead of a moving boat. Gerstein says manatees are intelligent and would quickly learn to associate the sound with danger and move out of the oncoming boat’s path. (Boat/U.S.magazine, January 2001.)

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