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May 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 30, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the May, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Leonardo DiCaprio's New Eco-Resort in Belize. The actor and avid environmentalist first visited Belize in 2005 for a dive trip and fell in love. Now he plans to build an eco-conscious resort on Blackadore Caye, a 104-acre island that's a 15-minute boat ride from San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. DiCaprio is partnering with a New York real estate firm to build 68 guest villas and 48 private houses according to the Living Building Challenge, a very tough green-building standard. Besides setting aside 45 percent of the island for conservation, DiCaprio wants to support a manatee conservation area, replant mangroves and build an artificial reef to slow erosion. Guests will have to follow a strict set of eco-guidelines (no plastic water bottles) and go through an ecology orientation program on arrival. Hotel room prices haven't been announced, but the private homes' price tags range from $5 million to $15 million.

Yes, You Still Can Dive Naval Shipwrecks. There was a big hoopla last spring when a Federal Register notice was published about giving permission for divers to access "sunken military vessels." The dive industry was concerned that changes to the Sunken Military Craft Act of 2004 had the potential to prohibit sport diving on former military ships, such as the Spiegel Grove off Key Largo and the Vandenberg off Key West. Fear not, divers, the U.S. Navy won't stand in your way. In response to a concerned query by the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association, J.B. Thomas, Jr., of the Naval History and Heritage Command, said it does not intend to restrict access to military craft purposefully sunk to create artificial reefs. Because ownership of those retired ships was signed over to local governments, they're exempt from any prohibition. "The diving and snorkeling communities have served as effective ambassadors for the protection and preservation of underwater resources, including sunken military craft," Thomas wrote. However, no touching or taking: By law, divers can't remove any artifacts from the naval wrecks.

Even Empty Tanks Are Lethal Weapons. Subscriber Sheila Meadows (Hollywood Beach, FL) wrote in to tell us she just read our 2011 article "Scuba Tanks as Lethal Weapons" (about a filled scuba tank that fell over and blew up in the garage, severely injuring two people), and how the timing was uncanny. "On March 27th, I went to storage with my diver husband and he had seven tanks standing unsecured right in front. We pulled a chair out and BAM! One of his largest tanks fell onto my left foot, crushing and splitting open my third toe. The force was so bad, it tore the nail off and split the toe down through my shoe. My bones on the tip were crushed into confetti. I had emergency surgery and bone removed. Still recovering. I sent that article to my husband just now and will be sure that he secures those tanks forever more. Empty tanks are no joke!"

Scuba Divers as Drug Mules. Oh, those drug cartels will try anything to get their wares across the U.S.-Mexico border, even having their mules wear scuba gear and swim through sewage canals to get to the other side. The Mexican army discovered a new route on April 26 in Mexicali, a tunnel that began in the garage of a house and led to the All-American canal. Traffickers would don scuba gear, fin through the muck, then climb down into another tunnel (230 feet in length, four feet high and four feet wide, with lighting and ventilation) that led to a house in Calexico, CA. Border Patrol agents intercepted four men trying to cross the canal with 69 pounds of methamphetamine worth $694,000. On the Mexican side, police caught the fourth man, a 27-year-old from Honduras, in the canal with a wetsuit and scuba gear. He was carrying 25 packages of an unnamed synthetic drug.

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