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May 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 33, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the May, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Penn State Gets Wimpy. Members of the 98-year-old "Outing Club" can no longer go scuba diving or engage in several other outdoor activities like hiking. They can play rugby, field hockey, and even football, but no scuba diving. Officials say scuba diving is "above the university's threshold of acceptable risk" for students. But, the risk is not getting bent. It seems that the death knell stems from the Club frequently visiting locations with poor cell phone coverage. "Student safety in any activity is our primary focus," a Penn State spokeswoman told The Post-Gazette.

Undercurrent Travel and Weather Planner. We have updated the Seasonal Planner section of the Undercurrent website to reflect the change in popularity of many resorts and the alternative climatic conditions. www.undercurrent.org/UCnow/WorldIndx.php Go to the section devoted to the area you are interested in and click on the destination on the map or simply identify it from a handy list. www.undercurrent.org/members/UCnow/WorldIndx.php

Killed by a Bali Dive Boat. An Austrian diver, Kerstin Korinek (35), was killed on April 23rd while surfacing with a surface marker buoy and was struck, can you believe, by a dive boat from Lembongan Dive Adventure near the island of Nusa Lembongan. Retrieved by the crew of her own boat, Serendipity, she had a serious head wound and was rushed to a Bali hospital, where she was later declared dead.

Inflating Your Surface Marker Buoy in Cold Water. Don't use your regulator or octopus if the temperature is less than 46°F/8°C, says Martin Woodward, who operates Stoney Cove, a popular inland dive site in the UK. In such cold water, he notes, modern high performance regulators may free-flow, so many manufacturers now caution against it.

Where Have the Californian Seastars Gone? The giant spiny sea star and the ochre sea star were once ubiquitous around Catalina Island, but The Catalina Islander reports that these and some other species have recently disappeared from much of California's ocean -- and nobody knows why. Scientists have been busy trying to find the cause of this tragic event, without success. One thing we can be sure of: Mother Nature is sending a message.

Wrecks Wear Out. Wrecks sunk to benefit divers as well as local fishermen form natural habitats where fish congregate. However, wrecks deteriorate, and wooden wrecks deteriorate the fastest. The wrecks that were purposefully sunk at Tioman Island Marine Park in Malaysia more than 20 years ago no longer attract divers because they have deteriorated so badly. Now Reef Check Malaysia has sunk another old wooden fishing boat neat Pulau Renggis, with more to come.

Don't Flame Your Mask. Last month, we reported that a few Hollis masks had shattered when a diver hit the water, and now we believe we have found the culprit: not the mask, but the diver. During manufacturing, a silicone release agent is deposited on the glass, and a diver needs to remove it by polishing the inside surface to prevent the mask from fogging up. Some divers think they can burn off that silicone deposit with a cigarette lighter, but this weakens the tempered glass and can result in a frameless single face-plate mask shattering on impact with the water. This is especially so if the strap is pulled so tight it stresses the weakened glass. The proper way to remove the film is to polish the glass with a gentle abrasive such as old-fashioned white toothpaste. This applies to all masks.

Born to Dive. The Bajau people of Malaysia and Indonesia are known for their breath-hold diving skills and live 60 percent of their time hunting underwater. A recent study at UC Berkeley, reported in Cell, suggests that their prodigious diving abilities may result from evolved genetic traits that have given them larger spleens, which act as an emergency reserve of red oxygenated blood cells that are released into the bloodstream.

A New Smartphone App to Save Florida's Reefs. If you're an underwater photographer, you can collect data to help save Florida's reefs by monitoring the health of coral clusters that the Coral Restoration Foundation has been growing in offshore nurseries. The app will teach you how to spot the differences between living and dead corals and identify whether corals have grown or fused together. You simply take photos and transfer them to your phone before submitting them with information about the site. www.coralrestoration.org/citizen-scientist

American Freediving Federation. Freediving is growing in popularity with younger people. The recently launched AFF is part of CMAS, which comprises 130 diving federations, and continues the legacy started by Frenchman Jacques Cousteau. It offers its members education, support and resources, while aiming increase a greater visibility and understanding of the sport. Contact them at www.usfreedivingfederation.org

Good News For Groupers. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission held seminars in Florida throughout last October to hear concerns and comments from the public who took a stand to protect Goliath groupers from fishermen in a limited open season. Undercurrent is pleased to report that this April 26th, the FFWC decided to keep protection in place.

ISIS Affects Tobago Scuba Diving. Tobago is off-the-menu for American and British divers. Governments of both nations have issued security alerts that ISIS terrorists are soon likely to carry out attacks. More than 100 Trinidad and Tobago citizens left to join ISIS and are now returning. A terror attack planned for annual Trinidad's Carnival was thwarted in February. On April 29, British Airways told Owen Bantin (Hull, UK) nephew of Undercurrent's Senior Editor, if he proceeded with his holiday booking, he should stay within the confines of his resort.

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