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April 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 31, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the April, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Think You Can Hold Your Breath? With the longest breath-hold in history, Spanish national Aleix Segura has beaten all comers on the 2nd March with a new Guinness World Record for static apnea with oxygen of 24 minutes and 3 seconds. (Static apnea is when the participant lies facedown at the surface on a single breath.) The new record was made, with a high level of health insurance and wide media coverage, during the 17th Mediterranean Diving in Cornellà, Barcelona, in an indoor heated swimming pool.

Florida, It's About Time: Meghan Balling, of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Coral Reef Protection Program, says that reef systems in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin counties are suffering "death by a thousand cuts." Many controversial proposals by an umbrella working group known as Our Florida Reefs could change accepted behavior of scuba divers. One is to ban spearfishing on scuba. (Already rebreathers are banned.) Another is that during lobster mini-season in July, the limit will be six of these crustaceans per day. Moreover, there they may limit where boats can anchor. (Source: Broward Palm Beach New Times)

Drones Get Underwater. Last year a drone dangerously buzzed a pilot flying into London's Heathrow in an A380 airliner. Drones are flying everywhere and not always welcomed. A quad copter (a four-prop drone) being developed by Oakland University can fly, land and float on water and then dive down to see what's below. The prototype Loon Copter uses a floodable buoyancy chamber, and when it surfaces, it is pumped out so that it can retake to the air. Georgia Tech has its GTQCormorant and Rutgers University is developing the Navigator. Looks like we divers may get more of a buzz is the future! Source: Project Loon Copter -- UAE Drones for Good Award.

American Wartime Aircraft Wreck. The island of Malta, sitting as it does at the epicenter of the Mediterranean, saw a huge amount of action during WWII. King George VI even awarded the whole island the George Cross Medal for holding out so valiantly against Axis attacks. It's no surprise that the waters around it are littered with wartime wrecks, and the latest to be discovered in only one hundred feet of water is that of a Lockheed P-2 Neptune (P2V in the US Navy) patrol aircraft and submarine hunter. Its wreckage was featured in the 1958 movie starring Laurence Harvey, The Silent Enemy, but its location became forgotten until it was recently stumbled across. There are other aircraft wrecks, but most are at depths beyond the range of leisure divers.

Sea Shepherd Dive. Sea Shepherd, surely the most proactive marine conservation organization, invites divers to join Sea Shepherd Dive, where it can act as a buffer for divers who witness activities like shark finning or fish poaching but otherwise would fail to report them for fear of repercussions. Sea Shepherd will then contact local, regional or national authorities to notify them of the suspected criminal activity. Sea Shepherd Dive is joining forces with like-minded, environmentally conscious dive centers to create a global reporting network that "will enable Sea Shepherd to have eyes on the ground in far-flung destinations where wildlife crimes, habitat destruction, and over-exploitation are occurring daily," says Sea Shepherd Dive Director, Gary Stokes. They will also provide divers with a list of responsible dive operators that adhere to the Sea Shepherd Code of Conduct. (www.seashepherdglobal.org/dive/dive-with-us.html)

Vasco da Gama's 500-year-old Wreck Found. Divers in Oman believe they have discovered the remains of the 500-year-old wreck of the Esmeralda, one of the vessels in a fleet commanded by Vasco da Gama. The Portuguese ship was lost in 1503 enroute to India. Artifacts so far recovered include the ship's bell and part of a navigational tool called an astrolabe. Divers also discovered a rare silver coin called an Indio; only one other exists. The team of divers working on the wreck site said it's the sort of thing you only read about in a Hollywood story.

So Why all the Recent Dive Deaths in New Zealand? Poor diving practices and poor fitness are being blamed, with nine deaths in the past four months. That's more than six times what an equivalent U.S. population would have in a year. (New Zealand has only 4.5 million people.) Maybe the Kiwis are not all as supremely fit as members of the All Blacks all-conquering rugby team would lead us to believe. In Wellington, Dive and Ski HQ training manager, Claire Murphy, blamed it on poor diving practices and said divers might "start off with a buddy, but there're buddy procedures you should follow -- maybe they're not kicking in early enough, maybe there's not enough communication with the buddy before and during the dive. So it's not working well." (Source: Radio New Zealand)

Sister ship to the Titanic. The RMS Republic, loaded with wealthy passengers bound for the Mediterranean, was lost off the coast of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, on January 23, 1909, after being hit by an Italian steamship, which had lost its way in dense fog. Only six people died, but the cargo included 150,000 US 'double eagle' gold coins -- worth more than $1 billion in today's market. Now, salvage rights to the ship, resting at 270 feet, have been secured, and New Yorker Martin Bayerle is convinced he'll pull off the world's largest-ever treasure recovery.

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