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March 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 31, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the March, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Not So Fast, Eric: Last fall, when 64-year-old Eric Sanford jumped off his cruising catamaran with mask and snorkel to check his anchor off St. Kitts, he spotted a half-buried cannon from a long-forgotten naval battle. Sanford took the GPS co-ordinates and sailed away. Later he published an offer on eBay, saying for a price, he will disclose the whereabouts of the cannon. "I found the spot, now you go and get it," his eBay post read. "It could be worth millions!" However, the St. Kitts government pointed out it owns any artifacts found in its waters, and the eBay auction did not appear to have captured the imagination of any serious bidders either.

Why Not Try Adele? A Discovery Channel Shark Week crew searching for great white sharks in South Australia was bemused when Matt Waller, proprietor of Adventure Bay Charters in Port Lincoln, suggested playing heavy metal rock music through hydrophones to attract the animals. To their surprise, two large specimens soon appeared to the strains of Darkest Hour, a heavy metal American band pushing their mouths close to the underwater speakers. Waller had developed this technique, inspired by stories of music altering shark behavior at Isla Guadalupe. Various theories abound but without any science to back them up, perhaps the sharks simply enjoy the beat. At least, the music is not Yanni, which Florida dolphins seem to like, as we reported in January.

Scuba Smuggler Sentenced: A Mexican scuba diver who tried to smuggle $1.77 million worth of cocaine into the U.S. through a canal near Calexico has been sentenced to four years and six months in custody. Evelio Padilla Zepeda was arrested April 25 after Border Patrol agents found him in a wetsuit and located scuba gear and 55 pounds of cocaine contained in 25 shrink-wrapped packages. An investigation led agents to discover an underwater tunnel that started at a home in Mexicali and exited into the canal. The entrance to the tunnel was covered by rocks. The dry part of the tunnel included a rail system.

Do Marine Reserves Do the Job? A new study has found that these protected areas are typically failing to protect the evolutionary diversity of the world's coral and fish. Scientists from the James Cook University of Queensland and the Université de Montpellier (France) found that the network of marine protected areas covered less than two percent of the known corals and less than 18 percent than that of fish. "We tend to put marine protected areas, to a greater or lesser extent, where humans want them and not where they are needed . . . . The Atlantic Ocean is crying out for greater protection of its corals, while in the Pacific it was fish that required attention. Ninety percent of the world's coral reefs doesn't have adequate protection. The trouble is, a lot of declines in reefs are happening even in marine protected areas."

Diver Magazine in Hot Water: When the February edition of the UK's Diver Magazine extolled the virtues of diving in the Danish Faroe Islands, it angered the UK's conservation community because the author, Jo Caird, was an apologist for the traditional drive hunts and bloody deaths of hundreds of pilot whales. Robert Read of Sea Shepherd protested that she used incorrect statements and that the vessel she used for diving plays a prominent role in driving whales to their slaughter. This provoked a furor among Facebook's diving audience when Read's letter was posted on-line, resulting in posts by some well-known names in the diving community, all condemning Diver Magazine for supporting the Faroe Islanders.

Is There a Relationship between Bends and Farts? Nature.com reports on research into colonic fermentation that, in experiments, promotes decompression sickness in rats. Scientists have speculated that gut microbiota might influence the occurrence of DCS. Bacterial fermentation of undigested sugars in the large intestine generates hydrogen, which exacerbates the risk, so if you're going diving, it might be prudent to avoid foods that cause you to break wind, not only to keep your roommate happy, but also to keep you out of the hyperbaric chamber. [de Maistre, S. et al. Colonic Fermentation Promotes Decompression Sickness in Rats. Sci. Rep. 6, 20379; doi: 10.1038/srep20379 (2016).]

It's Not Just Sea World That's Bad for Big Animals. In early January, Okinawa Japan's Churaumi Aquarium put a great white shark in its exhibit called "The Sea of Dangerous Sharks," but the great white died three days later. In nature, great white sharks never encounter walls or the confines of a tank, where they will often refuse to eat. The aquarium said the fish's biology was little understood, and that, in the name of science, it hoped to learn from the captive shark. California's Monterey Aquarium has tried unsuccessfully several times to put a great white in its tank, the last time in 2013; it was released back into the ocean after nine days and died within minutes. The question is: are our public aquariums driven by profit, or science? The answer is that Monterey Aquarium is a legitimate research organization. Many others are not.

Scubapro Computer Recall. Scubapro is recalling 1,486 of its Galileo SOL and Luna dive computers that have been sold in the U.S. since May 7, 2015, after learning about a problem from a small number of users who have experienced screen freezes. No injuries due to this have been reported. If you're an owner, read more at www.scubapro.com/en-US/USA/galileo-sol-luna-recall.aspx, which tells which specific serial numbers are affected.

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