The Latest Dive News
Update on Fiji,
Solomons and Sipadan Situations August 9, 2000
While the coup in Fiji is over and most of the supporters
are under control, it has not been bloodless. Several people have died.
On Tuesday, Fijian rebels killed two soldiers and wounded three others
while they were investigating shots fired at a local ethnic Indian family.Indian
citizens were systematically terrorized in several areas, some were
captured and held hostage. Some had their homes burned to the ground.
When Fijian rebels took over Forbes Island (Laucala) they threw the
manager to the ground and broke his wrist. Two commercial pilots were
held hostage in Savu Savu, and an Air New Zealand flight on the way
to Auckland had to turn around after receiving a bomb threat. Several
resorts have closed their doors; some may never open again. To keep
his resort open, the owner of Turtle Island paid $10,000 to villages
that claimed they still had ownership rights. While the perpetrator,
George Speight, will probably be tried for treason. While divers who
have visited Fiji since the coup report no problems other than driving
past a roadblock or two, tourists have stayed away in droves; 38,000
visited Fiji in June 1999, 12,000 in June 2000. 6900 Fijians have lost
Diving in the Solomon Islands remains shut down as
the turmoil there continues. As evidence of the threat, local men hijacked
a Japanese fishing boat in Marovo Lagoon
Sipadan Update: several of the workers -- including
divemaster Vincent Kwong -- and one of the diver hostages taken in the
raid on Malaysia's Sipadan Island by Philippine terrorists was released.
Fourteen hostages still remain in captivity with no end in sight.
Shark Fights in Tonga
August 7, 2000
In Tonga waters in July, a 69-year-old New Zealand
resident named Christian suffered an attack by what he said was a grey
Galapagos shark. "A big chunk was taken out, plus deep gashes down to
the bone and more on top of the hand. Unfortunately, some flesh is missing...
and there's some gashes and injuries where I tried to fight it off and
hit it with my right hand," he said. After treatment on a New Zealand
naval ship, he learned the good news. Navy divers retrieved his watch,
bitten off his wrist by the shark. "The guys found it in 60 feet of
water. The shark spat it out," the ship's commander reported.
still not good August 7, 2000
Just because a hurricane hasn't hit the Caribbean yet,
don't be fooled. Hurricane forecaster William Gray has cut his early
prediction, but still foresees 11 named storms, seven hurricanes, and
three major hurricanes, thanks to a weakening La Nina. Gray says the
hurricane action will likely begin around August 20 and continue for
the next 60 days.
Florida Divers Adrift
August 7, 2000
A couple of Florida divers survived thirty hours adrift
after their boat broke loose from its mooring on July 19, suffering
no more than dehydration and sunburn. After they failed to return home,
the wife of one called the Coast Guard, which found them late the next
this year? June 28, 2000
Hurricane season in the Caribbean, Mexico and the U.S.,
just got rougher, says hurricane expert William Gray and his colleagues
at Colorado State University. They have increased their prediction for
the season, which runs June 1 though Nov. 30, to twelve named storms,
eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes that will have winds of at
least 110 mph. They are attributing the revision to La Nina, a cooling
weather pattern over Pacific Ocean waters near the equator. Colorado
State's 1999 forecast -- 14 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major
hurricanes -- was one of the more accurate in recent years, as 12 named
storms, eight hurricanes and five major hurricanes were recorded last
year. While the whole of the Caribbean can be affected by hurricanes,
they tend to take routes north of Barbados, through the Bahamas to the
north and the Yucatan peninsula to the west.
American Airlines discount
if you act quickly June 28, 2000
Which, is probably why American Airlines is offering
a 40 percent discount on seven-day-in-advance midweek excursions to
Dominica, Tortola, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten. Hurry, you've only got
a day to decide; you have to purchase your tickets by midnight, June
30 and must complete your travel by September 30
Fiji coup update
June 28, 2000
Failing to reach an agreement with coup leader George
Speigh, a failed businessman, the Fijian military announced Wednesday
that it is prepared to form a government and prepare to rule for two
years. Some resorts, such as Forbes Island, have closed, while others
are barely running. While returning travelers cite few if any problems,
travelers are staying away as the economy slows dramatically.
Sipadan hostages still
in the Philippines June 28, 2000
While Philippine Muslims have released one hostage (Zulkarnain
Blu Hasing, a Malaysian) taken from dive resorts on Sipadan, Malaysia,
in May, twenty (both diving tourists and island staff) remain in custody.
Negotiations continue with the Philippine government. Meanwhile, Sipadan
is open for business.
Big trouble in the
Solomons June 28, 2000
In the Solomon Islands, several divers were "trapped"
for days in their hotels while fighting continued in the streets of
Honiara. It may be months before the islands open to divers. The Aggressor
Fleet has canceled all trips for the remainder of 2000.
Bonaire's hidden crime
June 28, 2000
We have reported about crime against tourists on the
island of Bonaire - and the seeming disinterest by officials to do much
about it - while Bonaire officials and the Bonaire tourist industry
continue to flounder in deep denial about crime. They had better listen
up now as 4000 residents -- about half the island -- took to the streets
Monday, June 26 to demand that someone -- the central government in
Curacao or the Netherlands itself-- do something about the spate of
crimes. The march was spurred by the execution style deaths of two Bonaire
citizens, killed in their home, Sunday June 18. The size of the march
was equivalent to 125 million people marching in Washington. You can
see photos of the march at http://www.nettech.an/CrimeMarch
June 7, 2000
While the diving paradise of Sipadan remains
open and, apparently, well protected, the twenty-one divers and staff
kidnapped from Sipadan several weeks ago are still in custody of Muslim
terrorists in the Philippines. Negotiations continue to be non-productive,
leading some captives to threaten hunger strikes and even suicide. It's
a tragic situation.
Tourists continue to travel to Fiji, ignoring
the coup. International flights land in Nadi, about 90 miles from Suva,
the heart of the coup. In some locales, native Fijians are hassling
Indian citizens, but none of this has spread to tourists. The U.S. and
other nations have issued strongly worded travel advisories, resulting
in a hotel cancellation rate has high as sixty percent. If you're traveling
to Fiji keep in mind what happened during the previous coup more than
a decade ago: the airport was closed for more than a week, stranding
In the Solomon Islands on Monday, June
5, rebels captured the prime minister and set up roadblocks throughout
the capital city of Honiara, home port to the Bilikiki and other live-aboards.
Yesterday we received reports that fighting has broken out around the
airport in Honiara. The governments of several countries, including
the U.S., urge their citizens to avoid the Solomons. While citizens
of foreign countries have not been targeted, it is not a safe place
Papua New Guinea is another dangerous area;
if traveling there and you want to unwind a day or two, bypass Port
Moresby entirely by staying at nearby Loloata Island resort, --where
there's excellent diving. They'll pick you up at the airport and deliver
you after your stay. Any travel agent can arrange it.
If you're planning to dive the Caribbean
this summer, be aware that a monster hurricane season is predicted.
Bonaire, once considered hurricane proof, took a hit from hurricane-generated
waves last year, destroying docks and damaging a large percentage of
shallow coral. The Caymans, Belize, the Turks and Caicos, even Saba
are susceptible to big hits. Keep your eye on the weather map.
Mantas Poached in Mexico's Revillagigedo Archipelago June
Hundreds of sharks and even a few mantas
were poached in early May from the San Benedicto Island in Mexico's
Revillagigedo Archipelago, a marine park 200 miles south of Cabo San
Lucas. Divers aboard two live-aboards, the Solmar V and the Seawatch,
filmed the nets at work underwater and promptly reported the action
to Mexican authorities. While the fishing no doubt affected the marine
life, divers on subsequent visits still report big fish action.
Islands Warning May 19, 2000
If you're thinking about going to the Solomon Islands
anytime soon, or know someone who is, you should be aware of the following
information provided by the US State Dept. We all hope the situation
will not deteriorate further in this truly world-class diving area.
OF STATE Office of the Spokesman
of State advises U.S. citizens to defer travel to Guadalcanal Island
in the Solomon Islands, due to an increase in ethnic unrest. The Solomon
Islands' government has stated that it cannot guarantee the safety of
the capital, Honiara, which is located on the main island of Guadalcanal.
In view of this information, the U.S. Embassy suggests that U.S. citizens
resident in Honiara reassess their personal security and consider the
advisability of temporarily departing the city until the situation improves.
The international airport outside Honiara remains open at this time.
security forces so far have not responded successfully to militant activities
on Guadalcanal. In the past months, there has been an escalation of
armed incidents between militant factions in Honiara and areas adjacent
to the international airport. Armed militant groups maintain roadblocks
outside Honiara and there has been at least one incident in which a
civilian vehicle has come under fire on Guadalcanal Island.
There have been
acts of lawlessness and sporadic armed incidents since 1999 throughout
Guadalcanal. In March 2000, there were confrontations between police
and militants in Honiara. No expatriates were hurt. Violence has not
targeted American citizens, although in one 1999 incident outside Honiara,
several expatriates were detained and threatened before being released
for continued escalation of militant activities remains high in and
around Honiara. However, there is no evidence that conditions on Guadalcanal
have spread to other provinces in the Solomon Islands.
general information on travel to the Solomon Islands, consult the Department's
latest Consular Information Sheet for the Solomon Islands.
Announcement supersedes the March 17, 2000 Public Announcement on the
Solomon Islands and expires on August 18, 2000.
State travel information and publications are available at Internet
U.S. travelers may hear recorded information by calling the Department
of State in Washington, D.C. at 202-647-5225 from their touchtone telephone,
or receive information by automated telefax by dialing 202-647-3000
from their fax machine.
Abductions Update May 11,2000
We just received this word from Clement
of Borneo Divers on Sipadan:
of Borneo Divers all over the world:
I am Clement from
Borneo Divers and a lot of you may have by now heard and read a lot
of news on TV, CNN and papers lately about the unfortunate abduction
of 21 people from Sipadan, the island all of you have been.
The 21 pax included
10 guests from our fellow dive operator resort (PSR) along with 4 of
their staff. Borneo Divers staff Rambo ( as many of you would stilll
remember), 1 from SDC, 4 wildlife rangers and one off duty policeman
were taken forcefully from Sipadan on 23rd April night.
is very difficult for us to stomach for the fact that we (Borneo Divers)
have been there for the last 15 years and nothing close to this have
occured. This is the first ever happened in Sipadan.
HOwever, the Sipadan
is back to normal as far as diving is concerned and the last week end
was the Japanese Golden Week were full with the 80 divers (the restriction
by authority now only allow 80 divers to be on the island and 20 are
allowed to dive from Mabul ).....
The top priority
is the safe return of the hostages for now.
There are a lot
of conflicting news in the media regarding the hostages lately and Let
me update you on Sipadan as of today -5th May 2000.
The 21 hostages
taken from Sipadan are alive and seen on a local video footage as announced
by Nur Misuari. This was aired on TV 3 in Malaysia last night and Misuari
told our Minister in PM Department ( YB Pandikar) that the hideout of
the hostages have been moved from the original hut where CNN captured
the footage 3 days ago.
between the rebels and military was NOT an attack by the Phillipines
but rather a 'chance encounter"...
The rebels claimed
that 2 hostages died ( one by stray bullet and the other by heart attack)
are NOT true. All 21 are alive....
Even their claim
that they have beheaded 2 hostages on the other group of 27 hostages
of school children is not true either as you may have now read in news
that all have been accounted for , although this time in the rescue
4 of them were dead......
For that reason
Malaysia has strongly impressed upon Phillipines NOT to use force and
the important thing is the safe return of the 21 people taken forcefully
Here in Sabah,
we are constantly in touch with Rambo (Borneo Divers staff) wife and
we fully understand the trauma she is going through now. But such confirmation
of the good news was immediately conveyed to her......and we have been
counselling her through visits and phone contact....
At the same time,
I have been in contact with PSR as well. They are fellow operator on
the island and 10 of their guests and 4 of their staff were abducted,
this is real nightmare. We talk few times a day.
For some local
news, the police reported this morning that they have arrested a man
(foreigner) who supplied the 2 jongkongs (boats) to the abductors and
these 2 jongkongs were hurriedly made. Along with that, 9 other people
( all foreigner) were also taken days ago in connection with the abduction.......how
can you bite the hands that feed ????
These are some
of th update I have for you...
May 2, 2000
Diving the paradises of Southeast Asia now has an extreme
danger element added with the abduction of 10 tourist divers and 11
staff from the Malaysian Island of Sipadan, offshore from southeastern
Sabah state on the island of Borneo. The Muslim terrorists have sequestered
the hostages in the hills of Jolo, in the Southern Philippines, but
they are far from safe. Officials aren't clear about the full demands
of the Abu Sayyaf terrorists, but they may include a 2.5 million-dollar
ransom (which has been rejected) and the protection of ancestral fishing
grounds. They have threatened to behead two people if the demands aren't
The hostages were taken by six heavily armed gunmen
in camouflage uniforms on April 25. After robbing other tourists on
the 30-acre island, they traveled by boat to the southern Philippines
about an hour away. Two Americans, James and Mary Murphy (Rochester
New York) escaped the captors by first refusing to swim to their boat
then hiding the in trees. The abducted tourists, who were staying at
Pulau Sipadan resort, were from France, Germany, South Africa, Finland
and Lebanon. The staff abducted include Roland Ullah, Ken Fong Yin Ken,
Kau Yo Loong, and Vincent Kwong.
Two separate groups are fighting for an independent
Islamic Nation in the southern Philippines. The second group holds many
more hostages, including school children, and wants to swap them for
Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 world trade center
bombing in New York.
Before the abduction, Undercurrent reader Ricky Tuss
had been diving Sipadan by boat from the nearby Sea Ventures Dive Resort,
about 300 yards off Mabul. He said "Mabul had a much larger contingent
of police than did Sipadan, so we were safer, but it makes you wonder.
We dived Sipadan the morning after the abduction before we (the guests)
knew of the event. I couldn't understand why there were so few dive
boats nor why the people on the island were staring at us. We did the
last dives allowed before Sipadan was shut down for diving. We had two
Malaysian gun boats guarding us the next night."
Nine Italian divers staying at Abdillah Sipadan Resort,
who were not abducted, dived the day after the aduction and remained
on the island for several days. While there have been a few cancellations,
with increased security the resorts have remained open and busy. On
May 2, 103 Japanese divers passed through Malaysian customs before heading
The U.S. State Department has issued a warning to anyone
traveling in the area, saying they should "review security procedures,
remain vigilant of their surroundings, keep a low profile, and vary
routes and times of required travel. U.S. citizens should register with
the Embassy in Kuala Lumpur: (60) (3) 2168-5000 or KLCONSULAR@STATE.GOV.
The State Department has issued a similar warning for the western part
of Mindanao Island in the Philippines and tells citizens to avoid travel
to the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, in the Sulu Archipelago
in the extreme southwest of the Philippines. That would also include
avoiding liveaboard dive boat travel in the Sulu Sea.
For complete state department travel warnings go to
To keep up to date on the hostage crisis, go to www.energyzone.co.za/strydom
-- Ben Davison
Some Dive Safety Issues
and More April 3, 2000
As a consumer publication, we try to keep you abreast
of news that others often call "negative" and "not supportive of the
But our loyalty is to divers, not the industry. Here
are some serious incidents that caused deaths and that divers need to
keep in mind for their own safety.
We've been writing about how those downcurrents in
Cozumel kill divers. Keep them in mind wherever you travel. In early
March, seven New Zealand sport divers got sucked down to
nearly 300 feet, three died and another was bent. In reviewing accident
data for 25 years, we suspect that downcurrents are the single most
significant undewater safety hazard and divers have to recognize them
early and get out.
Just after we published an indepth article on the dangers
of filling aluminum tanks and possible faults with the tanks, in mid
March a Key Largo Dive shop owner, William Gordon, lost his leg when
an aluminum tank he was filling exploded.
Two-thirds of all shark attacks in the world occur
in North American waters, at least that was the case in 1999. Florida,
recorded 25, five were reported in Hawaii, two each in California, Georgia
and South Carolina, and one in Virginia, Mexico and the Bahamas. Surfers
are the No. 1 shark victims, representing 43 percent of all 1999 attacks.
Swimmers accounted for 38 percent and divers 11 percent. Body surfers,
kayakers, air and sea disaster victims, and those who simply jumped
into the water each accounted for 2 percent. For more info, go to the
shark attack file at www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Sharks/ISAF/ISAF.htm
On a lighter note, it's going to be easier than ever
for East Coasters to get to Grand Cayman. Look for Continental to begin
nonstop flights from Newark before the end of the year.
-- Ben Davison, publisher
And a Cheap Dive Light
March 2, 2000
Thanks to subscriber Tom Daly for a tip that may save
us a few bucks. He reports that he's located an identical light to the
3 "C" cell Pelican dive light, catalog #2000c, and its replacement bulbs
(which retail for $36.95 and $13.95, respectively, at his local dive
shop) at - who would have thunk it - Home Depot. He reports that it's
being marketed there as the HubbelLite Flashlight 3003-C - at half the
cost. Home Depot sells the HubbelLite for $18.95 and its replacement
bulb for $8.97, which, as Daly notes, is "quite a cost savings." We
thank him for divulging a secret he says he's "been saving for fear
that if it got out, the price would go up."
Sea & Sea Strobe Recall
November 24, 1999
Sea & Sea Underwater Photography is recalling about
7,000 strobe lights because of two incidents in which the strobes exploded
due to internal gas buildup. The recall covers all model YS-50 strobes
and any YS-60 or YS-120 strobes whose serial numbers begin with 96 or
94. The serial numbers are printed inside the yellow, black, or orange
plastic housing. Recalled strobes were manufactured between February
1988 and March 1999.
Both strobe explosions occurred after the lights were
flooded, when an internal gas buildup either caused the front and back
sections to be torn apart or ejected the battery cap from the unit.
One exploding strobe caused facial cuts in a Japanese strobe owner,
and a Caribbean repair technician received a chipped tooth. The Consumer
Product Safety Commission requested that consumers stop using the strobes,
and any strobe that displays corrosion or becomes inoperative should
be returned to an authorized Sea & Sea repair center. Sea & Sea will
send consumers a free replacement battery cap that will prevent gas
For more information about the recall or repair center
locations, call Sea & Sea at 800-732-7977 between 9 and 5 PST Monday
June 9, 1999
It hasn't been that many years since you could look
around a dive boat between dives and see divers who were wracking their
brains, desperately trying to recall how to work surface intervals into
repetitive nitrogen times. They didn't want to let on, of course, that
they didn't have a clue about how to go about it, but they were easily
recognizable by their hunched positions as they bent over their tiny
plastic tables, praying for inspiration.
Then, in 1983, Orca Industries introduced the Edge,
and multilevel diving and dive computers were in. I jumped on the bandwagon
immediately. Sure, the unit had a few weak links: the battery compartment
flooded too often and it ate 9-volt batteries the way a kid eats candy,
but it was easy to use, and the increased bottom time made the $675
price tag look reasonable. Hell, it was more than reasonable: it was
wonderful. It changed diving.
Within a few years of the Edge's introduction, technological
developments and a multitude of other manufacturers reduced dive computers'
size from the Edge's hefty 1.6 pounds down to wrist models and console
inserts. The reduction prompted some sardonic postings on online scuba
groups suggesting "One Hundred Things to Do with the Brick (Edge)."
Orca developed a smaller, cheaper version, the Skinny
Dipper, which was plagued by battery problems, then pioneered the Delphi,
an air-integrated unit. Unfortunately, early editions of the Delphi
had some problems with the high-pressure sensors that undercut its marketability.
EIT, Inc., an electronics firm based in Virginia, bought
Orca in the early nineties and retooled the Skinny Dipper into the Marathon
and the Delphi into the Phoenix. They dropped production of the Edge
although they continued to service the units. In recent years they added
the Pilot, a line of dive computers manufactured for them in Finland.
Now, however, it sounds like EIT has discovered what
most of us already knew: the best way to make a small fortune in the
dive business is to start with a large one. The company's made a bottom-line
decision to effectively get out of the scuba market and concentrate
its efforts in the industrial electronics sector.
My hat is off to Karl Huggins, Craig Barshinger, and
all of the others who were involved in developing and bringing the original
Edge to market. Your development marked a turning point in dive technology,
one that revolutionized the way most of us dive today. It's a testimonial
to you that I could sell my Edge today for more than I paid for it 16
years ago. Commercial divers who believe in its tested algorithms and
appreciate its large display will pay top dollar if they find someone
willing to let go of their brick. Sorry to disappoint them, but I'm
hanging on to mine to the bitter end, which now doesn't seem to be that
The Outlook for Orca Products
Here's where you stand if you own the following Orca
EDGE - Edge users can still get service from the Orca
Skinny Dipper - If your Skinny Dipper takes a dive,
there's no upgrade offered: they're all out of warranty. Although some
service is offered at the Service Center, it's limited.
Marathon - If your Marathon is still under warranty,
EIT has a few units on hand and can provide a replacement. For out-of-warranty
units, there's a $140 charge for a replacement.
Delphi - Generally speaking, the Delphi makes a nice
paperweight, although it's possible to obtain some limited service.
Phoenix - Since the last Phoenix units were manufactured
2-1/2 years ago, replacement units are no longer available. Owners can
obtain limited service or upgrade to a Pilot for about $200.
Pilot - Orca will offer Pilot units until midsummer;
then Benemec OY of Finland, the current manufacturer, will market it
in the U.S. under the Orca name. Pilot units still under warranty can
be replaced from U.S. stocks until inventories are depleted; after that,
replacements must come from Finland.
For repairs, contact: Orca Service Center, 2619 Baltimore
Pike, Ste. #2, Oxford, PA 19363. Voice 610-998-1017; fax 610-998-1018.
It's my understanding that the service center is run
by a former EIT employee and is not directly connected with EIT. We've
heard some complaints about slow service and repair problems in recent
months, though all have been resolved. My impression is that the facility
is small and understaffed, so I'd allow plenty of time before a scheduled
dive trip for any repairs to be completed. I'd also suggest addressing
any problems you have as soon as possible, and it wouldn't be a bad
idea to stock up on incidentals like battery door gaskets and those
little screws for the Edge that always seem to get lost.