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August 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 29, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the August, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Smart Divers Sign Up for This Program. Before he left for a Red Sea liveaboard trip last month, Undercurrent reader George Constantino (Anchorage, AK) signed up with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service offered by the U.S. State Department to let Americans traveling abroad inform the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate about details of their trip. The benefits: You get info from the embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, and it can contact you in case of an emergency, whether a natural disaster there or a family emergency back home. "It was comforting to know what was happening in the country before we arrived, and that someone in the State Department knew our travel itinerary," says Constantine. And with more civil strife in global headlines these days, it's wise for travelin' divers to let U.S authorities know where they're headed overseas. Sign up for STEP at https://step.state.gov/step.

Do You Have DON and Don't Know It? One diving malady seldom discussed is dysbaric osteonecrosis (DON), which is caused in divers by a reduction in blood flow due to a nitrogen embolism blocking the blood vessels. This may result in major damage to bone structures in the shoulders and hips -- and if one develops it, the symptoms are so subtle, even invisible, the person often wouldn't know. A recent study examined Japanese divers who visited the hospital between 1981 and 2012 to be evaluated for DON. It was seen most in those who dived to maximum depths of 66 to 95 feet, with average depths between 33 to 62 feet. Doc Vikingo has written a full story about DON; read it at our blog ( www.undercurrent.org/blog ).

When Lightning Strikes the Water. Southern California got a rare summer thunderstorm last month, and it led to one person dead and seven others hospitalized after a lightning bolt hit the water near the pier at Venice Beach, electrifying it and zapping swimmers and surfers in the area. While 75 percent of fatalities by lightning strikes in the U.S. are in open fields or near trees, 12 percent happen in or near water, so potentially, lightning is the biggest weather danger for divers. This brings to mind the July 2007 death of diver Stephen Wilson, who died when lightning hit his tank. Despite a severe thunderstorm warning in effect, he went boat diving with friends near Miami. Wilson resurfaced 30 feet from the boat when the lightning bolt struck his tank and knocked him unconscious. He was pronounced dead from electrocution minutes later. So when there's a thunderstorm brewing near the water, think twice before diving.

Seahorses Only Look Cute. They growl when they're angry, says a new study in the Journal of Zoology. Researchers from Brazil's Universidade Federal de Pernambuco put a hydrophone in an aquarium tank to record seahorses during feeding, courtship and handling by humans. The seahorses emitted happy-sounding clicks as they fed, and males and females both clicked away during courtship. But when a human held a seahorse near the hydrophone, the equipment picked up a very angry "growl," accompanied by body vibrations. Researchers believe the actions are escape mechanisms to startle predators.

"For a Lobster, a Life." Florida's lobster mini-season got off to a deadly start in Pompano Beach, and it claimed a talented young man with so much potential. Around 8:30 a.m. on July 31, authorities got a call about an an unconscious diver named Joseph Grosso who had been lobster diving on a commercial dive boat. The group had just got back into the boat from a dive when Grosso, 22, decided to go back into 40 feet of water alone. The crew realized Grosso had not resurfaced and began searching for him, but he was found unresponsive. After CPR and life support-efforts, Grosso was pronounced dead at the hospital. Just the day before, Grosso, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, had been added to the University of Miami's football roster as a linebacker, and he was planning to start law school. His stepfather, Philip Franchina, wants divers to learn from Grosso's death, saying, "He went down [alone] to get one more lobster and at the end of the day, for a lobster, a life."

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