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August 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 24, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the August, 2009 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Want to Dive in India? We have just one reader report about this country’s diving, but The Times of India reports that it’s starting and promoting a dive industry. Bangalore, India’s version of Silicon Valley, just created its first dive club to get people certified in city pools and plan dive trips to places like Goa and the Andaman Islands. PADI’s Project Aware co-sponsored two underwater surveys at Netrani, on India’s west coast, which showed an abundance of tropical reef fish and marine life. Giant clams, humphead wrasse, whale sharks, manta rays and other species were spotted by divers in the area. The surveys also report clear waters and a lack of large-scale trawling.

“We Didn’t Fake It.” We’ve written in depth about Allyson Dalton and Richard Neely, the two divers who spent 19 hours afloat near the Great Barrier Reef after currents swept them away from their liveaboard (see our interview with them in the July 2008 issue). While the Australian government took their side and pressed criminal charges against boat operator OzSail, Dalton and Neely are suing the TV show A Current Affair for defamation. After running an interview with the couple, the show’s producers then gave the perspective of Kylie Irwin, a dive instructor aboard the boat who said OzSail staff had searched for them exhaustively but the two divers didn’t want to be found. He said they must have set the whole thing up because it would have been “physically impossible” for boat crew not to have seen them if they had surfaced within 600 feet of the bat, as they said, and inflated their safety sausages. Dalton and Neely say their reputations have suffered; A Current Affair replies they were just giving both sides of the story.

British Divers Save Australian Desert Bird. The Torbay Sub-Aqua Club was in a boat half a mile off England’s Berry Head when they saw a turquoise bird resembling a parakeet flapping furiously in the water, struggling to stay afloat. As it was very windy, it took three passes by the boat to collect the bird, and the divers doubted he would live. “It couldn’t open its eyes at first,” diver Cathy Jackman told The Times of London. “He was like a floppy, wet rag.” But they took the bird, a bright blue budgerigar, to a nearby animal shelter, where it’s recovering nicely. The Australian desert native is believed to be a pet that escaped from its cage and became disoriented over the ocean.

Black Divers/Archeologists Win National Award. A group of black divers from Tennessee received a Take Pride in America award from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and a tour of the White House last month for their volunteer work in documenting historical shipwrecks. Diving With a Purpose (DWP) has worked with the National Park Service since 2003, meeting for two week-long expeditions every year to research and record the history of shipwrecks found in Florida’s Biscayne National Park. After watching a documentary on the slave ship Guerrero, which sunk in Biscayne in 1827 with dozens of enslaved Africans aboard, DWP founder and retired repairman Kenneth Stewart persuaded four friends to turn their dive trips into archaeological adventures. Now they dive with pencils, rulers and compasses to create site maps and identify wreckage (they’re still looking for the Guerrero). Stewart also leads the Tennessee Aquatic Project, which gets youngsters interested in diving, and he established a scholarship that allows one minority youngster to participate in the Park Service’s dive archeology training sessions.

Rock Star Trades Concert for Reef Cleanup. After a concert was cancelled in Tampa, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry decided to rest by doing a reef cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and his wife joined 85 other divers on July 11 to scoop trash near Lido and Longboat Keys, where they have a second home. Perry helped to retrieve a big chunk of fiberglass, 20 feet of rope and an anchor. He told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that his efforts “makes people realize you can’t just throw stuff off the side of the boat.” The cleanup raised money for the Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Coral Research.

Turning Clergymen Into Dive Guides. Knowing people still get married during a recession, Pro Dive International owner Doug Huberman is using that fact to build business for his Fort Lauderdale dive shop. He wants to offer underwater weddings soon and is looking for pastors, priests and other clergy members willing to take the plunge. Debbi Ballard, an ordained Jewish cantor, is training to perform underwater ceremonies where the groom can smash a light bulb with his flipper and the couple can sip wine out of a sippy cup. She would wear a mask with a microphone to talk to the bride and groom while guests on a boat listen and watch through a video hookup. Local rabbis are befuddled but say an ocean wedding could be legal under Jewish law as long as certain traditions are kept. Huberman plans to charge $1,500 for an underwater wedding package.

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