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November 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 33, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the November, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Palau Bans Sunscreen. President Tommy Remengesau signed the Responsible Tourism Education Act, which makes Palau the first country to ban sunscreen products containing all 10 of the chemicals most threatening to coral reefs and marine life. Similar bans are pending in Hawaii and Bonaire. Among other initiatives, Palau now asks all visitors to sign a pledge to protect the environment that is stamped in their passports.

Use Lube for That Leaky Mask. Are you still dealing with water getting into your face mask during dives? One way to get a better seal over what might be crinkly skin or a moustache is to apply a coating of K-Y jelly, a water-based, watersoluble personal lubricant, to the edge of the mask's skirt. Unlike petroleum-based lubricants, it won't damage the silicone and washes away when you take your mask off.

The First Recorded Death by a Sea Snake. Sea snakes are abundant in the Indo-Pacific oceans, so they're not an unusual sight for divers. They're not harmless, but no one has ever died from one of their bites, until last month. The victim: Harry Evans, a 23-year-old British backpacker working on a fishing boat 400 miles off the coast of Darwin, Australia. If approached by a sea snake while diving, don't make any sudden moves. At the same time, don't panic -- just carry on swimming, and it will do the same.

They Said She Was Too Young. Despite being underwater in the Red Sea for 55 hours, the claim by 14-year-old Egyptian diver Ashraf Fawzy to have carried out the longest openwater dive by a female will not be recognized by Guinness World Records because she is not an adult. Her father, a naval officer, plans to file a lawsuit. The current record is held by Australian Cristi Quill, who spent 51 hours and 25 minutes underwater off the California coast in 2015.

A Big Dive in Belize. Next month, the billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson intends to join a team that will explore the darkest depths of Belize's Blue Hole using the Aquatica Stingray SR500, a deep exploration submarine with military-grade sonar, to map the sinkholes in the vast underwater interior. Harvey Fleming, the expedition leader, says they don't really know what they'll find at the 420-foot depths, but the UNESCO site is believed to hold clues to the mystery of how the Mayan civilization collapsed 1,000 years ago. The team will also include Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques.

Don't Wait for the Blinking Light. When your dive computer's battery is on its last legs, it will probably wait until it's immersed in the waters you're diving to finally tell you it needs replacing. Better to be safe than sorry: If the battery is at the two-year mark or has had heavy use, get it replaced before you go on a trip. The biggest part of the bill will be pressure-testing your computer to ensure the depth sensor is accurate and the seals watertight. Better than risking doing it yourself . . . or having your computer go kaput during a dive.

Return of the GoPro. When an Australian couple lost a rented GoPro camera on the Great Barrier Reef in 2017, presumably they had to pay for it. But American diver John Darrin found it where it lay, 12 months later. He retrieved the files from its SD card and posted the pictures on Reddit and Facebook in the hope of locating their rightful owners. Steven Gibson and Eva Vazne said they couldn't believe it and had lost hope of ever seeing their vacation pictures. Hopefully, they got a refund.

The First PADI Medal of Valor. It's to be awarded this month at the DEMA show in Las Vegas to cave divers Rick Stanton, John Volanthen, Richard Harris, Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewel. Their joint efforts in the rescue of the Thailand soccer team from a flooded cave earlier this summer inspired PADI to establish the new award and to formally recognize one of the greatest moments in dive history.

Your Dive Photos Can Help Scientists. The Sealife Collection Initiative is a collaborative website run by 300 taxonomists that will classify and display photos and videos of all marine species worldwide.To do that, it relies on divers like you who register online (membership is free) and upload your photos and video to its database, the World Register of Marine Species (https://sealifecollection.org).

A Seal is the Suspect in This Shark Attack. A seal swimming around people freediving for lobsters could be why 13-year-old Keane Hayes was attacked by an 11-foot great white shark near Encinitas, California in September. Seals are one of the great white's favorite foods. Lifeguards provided life support to Hayes, who suffered massive injuries to his upper torso, until he was flown by helicopter to a trauma center. Doctors say he's expected to make a full recovery.

Yet Another Attempt at Artificial Gills. It has been 12 years since Undercurrent first explained why there would never be enough oxygen dissolved in the water for people to breathe via artificial gills. And in May 2016, we reported how this failed idea resulted in investors being refunded their money. But creative minds just won't stop trying. Concerned about rising sea levels, designer Jun Kamei is working on the Amphibio, a 3D-printed vest and mask that purports to let the user breathe underwater. If you see a crowdfunding appeal for it, don't bite.

Can Fish Smell Anymore? Not so much, and that's making them easier prey. New research in Nature Climate Change reinforces the conclusions of a previous study from Britain's Exeter University that increasing acidity in the oceans, caused by carbon dioxide dissolving in the waters, is harming fishes' sense of smell. By studying sea bass, researchers at universities in England and Portugal showed how acidified water affects molecules bound to olfactory receptors in the fish's nose, making them less able to respond when encountering the smell of a predator.

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