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May 2020    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 35, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the May, 2020 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Despite the Virus Lockdown the British Coastguard Service caught a scuba diver spearfishing under Brighton's Palace Pier on the south coast of England on Easter weekend. A spokesman for the Service told how both the police and the coastguards issued strong words of advice: "Please stay at home, protect us and other emergency services, and avoid overloading the national health service."

Bog Snorkeling in South Wales might take a hit from the lockdown if it continues into August. It sounds like some type of twisted military punishment, but every year crowds flock to watch, and contestants come from all over the world to participate in a race of more than 300 yards against the clock under the surface of a bog , an area of a wetland that accumulates peat, a deposit of dead plant material -- often sphagnum mosses. Conventional swimming strokes are not allowed and they do it for fun. It's now planned to be part of a bog snorkeling triathlon.

Bioprinted Coral Great at Growing Algae. Corals serve as a host to algae, which in turn produces sugars that the corals consume. Now scientists have created 3D-printed coral that's even more algae-friendly than its natural equivalent, which could help address the problem of coral bleaching. Researchers at Cambridge University and the University of California San Diego say each piece of the printed coral incorporates a skeleton that supports what's described as "coral-like tissue."

The Biggest Jellyfish Ever. Scientists from the Schmidt Ocean Institute on research vessel Falkor off Western Australia spotted a giant Apolemia on the video from their ROV, deep in the Ningaloo Canyons. The pilot estimated the ribbon-like creature was about 154 feet long, the longest living animal recorded by the scientific world. Apolemia are siphonophore, deep-sea predators related to jellyfish and corals, composed of thousands of individual clone bodies working together as a team.

Emirates Starts Testing Passengers. The middle-east airline headquartered in Dubai, UAE, has begun testing passengers for COVID-19. The quick blood tests are conducted in the group check-in area of Dubai International Airport, and results are said to be available within 10 minutes. Emirates passengers are also required to wear their own masks when at the airport and onboard the aircraft. Is this the future of air travel?

Extinction Looms for Megafauna. In a study published in Science Advances, researchers at the University of Swansea, UK, looked at how the extinction of large marine species would impact the ecological roles of ocean ecosystems. They found that sharks, especially great white sharks, and whale sharks were likely candidates for extinction within the next 100 years, and 18 percent of all marine megafauna were in danger.

Lack of Advertising Killing Diving Magazines. The publishers of Wreck Diver magazine have announced that the publication has gone temporarily dormant thanks to the absence of advertising revenue to sustain it, and the UK's Diver magazine has become a digital-only publication for the same reason.

Photos Submitted to the World Shootout are normally required to be taken in the current year but this year, rules are different, and the contest has become: Pictures of Your Underwater Life. It's time to review what you've achieved, since competition is for the best images you have shot in past years. More than 100 underwater photographers have entered within 24 hours of the competition being announced. Entry is free. www.worldshootout.org

Free Underwater Photography Lessons Online. Among several pros offering online classes, Frenchman Guy Chaumette and partner Anita will launch a free series of lessons and practical tips for both photography and video on YouTube. It's the Liquid Motion & Underwater Photo & Film Academy. https://tinyurl.com/y96anodb

Face Masks from Recycled Ocean Plastic. PADI has partnered with sportswear company Rash'R to make face masks out of plastic recovered from the ocean. Each mask is sold with five replacement filters (at $20.40). These PADI masks are a sustainable alternative to the N95 respirator masks reserved for front line workers. Children's masks are available too. So far, 1,300 pounds of ocean plastic have been recycled into masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Planet Plastic. Scientists have discovered the highest levels of microplastics ever recorded deep on the seafloor near Italy in the Mediterranean. This aggregation of 1.9 million elements is likely to include fibers from clothing and other synthetic textiles and fragments from larger items broken down over time. Drift deposits of fine silt can be tens of miles long and hundreds of feet high, and these microplastics accumulate with them. It's calculated that up to 12 million tons of plastic enters the oceans each year, mostly through rivers. Beach plastic might be a very small fraction of the waste out there.

Cancun Opening for Tourism. The Quintana Roo Tourism Promotion Council has announced that Cancun is reopening for travel. Its director, Darío Flota Ocampo, has stated that Air Canada, Air Transat, Delta Airlines, Copa Airlines, Air Europa, Sunwing, Southwest and Aeroméxico have already confirmed they will begin landing in early June. He reiterated that the recovery strategy will first focus on re-establishing direct air connectivity as soon as possible at the international airports of Cancun, Cozumel and Chetumal.

Facetiming Eels. It seems that it's not only humans that are getting a bit anxious during lockdown. Since Tokyo's Sumida Aquarium has been closed to the public, its 300 garden eels have become very shy and burrow down at the sight of the staff, just as they would in the ocean. They've forgotten about people. So, the aquarium arranged five iPads around their tank so that people could Facetime them during a three-day event in early May.

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