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November 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 33, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Part II: The Ups and Downs of Ocean Currents

how to enjoy diving -- and avoid getting lost -- in them

from the November, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Different dive destinations have different types of currents. Protected as it is by Cuba, the Leeward Islands and Windward Islands, the Caribbean has few places with really strong currents. Maybe you've encountered wind-driven currents in Cozumel or Belize, but these pale into insignificance when compared with those driven by ocean tides.

Florida has a strong current, usually streaming south to north along its Atlantic coast, that is strong component of the Gulf Stream. Generally, these currents are constant in direction, if not strength, and you can enjoy taking advantage of drifting in them without getting lost or sucked under.

These Dive Sites Definitely Pull You In

You'll find very strong currents in the channels of tropical lagoons, where a very small difference in tidal height can make a huge difference to the torrent of water that pushes in and out. One notable destination includes the three channels of Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean, where Cousteau once got his ship Calypso stuck in the flow of the main channel.

Then there are the passes of the Tua Motus in French Polynesia, where vast numbers of reef sharks aggregate in the fast-flowing water. Rangiroa has the second-largest lagoon in the world (Kwajalein in Micronesia holds the top rank). It has two broad channels, one being the Tiputa Pass, famous for a standing wave where dolphins regularly frolic when the tide is rising. Here, divers can get down and hook in with their reef hooks, being careful to latch on to secure substrate, and watch the show. When it's time to call the dive, divers release their hooks and allow themselves to be washed into the lagoon, ascending carefully as they do. These dives are only done safely on a rising tide when the flow goes into the lagoon. Nobody wants to get flushed out into the open ocean....


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