Updated March 22, 2007
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Larry Smith Passes On
[March 29, 2007 Update: A fund for Larry Smith's wife and 9 year old daughter has been established. Details on this fund as well as his life and death available at Wetpixel.com He will be sorely missed by many of us.]
Sadly, America's most revered dive guide died in a Sorong Indonesia hospital earlier this week, presumably due to heart and respiratory failure. Larry Smith, an East Texan who started as a commercial diver servicing power plants, spent many years in the Caribbean before moving on to Indonesia in 1989. He was renowned as the most knowledgeable divemaster in the region, finding critters people didn't even know existed, and making Indonesian diving known as some of the very best in the world.
His first Indonesian stint was on the Tropical Princess in Irian Jaya (Papua)in 1989 . A while later he took over running the Cehili live-aboard operating in the Banda Sea out of Ambon, and then on to the Sea Contacts out of Bali where Komodo and Alor diving began to get noticed. Then on to Kungkungan Bay Resort, putting Lembeh Straits on the map and training other critter dive guides there, then most recently with Adventure Komodo cruises.
Larry suddenly collapsed while aboard the Adventure Komodo, then anchored near Sorong. Crew members originally assumed he had pneumonia and got him to the hospital in Sorong, where he died shortly after. His body was then flown back to Bali where his wife and daughter live. Larry wrote daily on "Larry's Log", and his last posting was on March 15, describing two new dive sites with excellent critter-sighting. Undercurrent readers always raved about their dive trips with Larry in our Chapbook reviews, and he will be sorely missed. Wetpixel.com is compiling a tribute page to Larry and asks divers to send any stories, photos, or video they have of him.
You got to be rolling in dough to afford that kind of trip, however, one of the rarest critters for a diver to encounter underwater is a sailfish. Amos Nachoum has three sail fish trip next year off Isla Mujeres, a small island near Cancun. He takes only four divers and one week is already sold out. You can see his January photos here. If you go, may we suggest an armored codpiece?
Have you ever filed a claim for lost, stolen or damaged diving equipment? Several insurance companies cover dive equipment (DEPP and DAN are two and home owners insurance also covers dive equipment in many cases). We'd like to hear the experiences of divers who have equipment insurance. Did the coverage hold up? Any hassles? Were you satisfied? Let us know and we'll report on dive equipment insurance policies in an upcoming issue. Please let me hear your story. Email me at PublisherBen@undercurrent.org
Three experienced New Jersey divers who had charted a boat from Scuba-Do in Key Largo, Florida, died last Friday. Two who got lost within the wreck were unable to get out, a third finally emerged but died surfacing, while a fourth diver did find his way out and survived. Sadly, their deaths are apparently attributable to stupid errors.They did not have a dive plan. They did not have enough stage tanks placed in appropriate areas. They did not set lines to guide them back out of the wreck. They penetrated an area at 135 feet off limits to divers, where it is easy to disturb the silt and get lost. The three dead divers were Jonathan Walsweer, 38, and Scott Stanley, 55, of Westfield, N.J.; and Kevin Coughlin, 51, of Chatham Borough, N.J. The survivor was Howard Spialter, 52, also of Westfield. According to information he gave investigators, the other three might have survived if they had followed his path out of the wreck, but they chose a different direction. Six people have died while diving the Spiegel Grove, a 1960s-era warship sunk off the Upper Keys in 2002 to create an artificial reef. Already, eight divers have died this year in Florida.
Pelagic Pressure Systems is recalling about 2,800 Oceanic and AERIS digital dive computers due to a decompression hazard. The recall is for Oceanic-brand Atom 2.0 dive computers sold between August 2006 and February 2007, and Aeris-brand Epic dive computers sold between October 2006 through February 2007. Two German divers found that when switching from one gas to another during a dive, their dive computer's display locked up and did not return to the main dive screen showing dive times. That lack of info could cause divers to ascend prematurely and risk the bends. Serial numbers for the specific dive computers to recall are posted on the Oceanic and Aeris Web sites. If you have one of these, take it to an authorized dealer for a free software upgrade. You can also contact Pelagic's customer service department at (888) 854-4960, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now there's a show just for divers. Apple's iTunes store offers downloads of "ScubaVisions TV," a videocast that takes 5- to 10-minute underwater tours of a new dive site every week. Previous episodes of the show, which launched in February, show dives at the Turks and Caicos sites of Shark Hotel, Football Field, and the Southwind and W.E. wrecks. The next shows will head north to Florida and along the Atlantic coast. www.scubavisions.com
The newest addition to our must-read list is A Diver's Guide to Reef Life by Andrea and Antonella Ferrari. This 418-page colorful reference guide has 1,300 excellent color photographs of tropical marine species in reefs worldwide. The authors, married marine photographers, also give tips for better underwater photos. This hardcover book's list price is $55 but if you order this or any of our dive book picks through www.undercurrent.org, you'll get Amazon.com's best price, plus we'll donate the profit to save coral reefs.
While in the Andaman Islands, Duane Silverstein, executive director of Seacology and an Undercurrent reader, had the pleasure of pairing with the most unusual snorkeling buddy ever-Raja, the swimming elephant. The tallest elephant in the islands, Raja hangs with snorkelers at Beach Number near the eco-lodge Barefoot Jungle Resort (www.barefootindia.com) on Havelock Island, a ferry ride away from the Andaman capital of Port Blair. Accompanied by his mahout, Raja enjoys taking the waters, churning his four legs to swim and lifting his trunk above water to breathe. Silverstein's one caution: Go out in the water past the waves before Raja joins you. "As soon as Raja enters the ocean, he instinctively has a bowel movement, and you do not want to be on the shore side of a wave carrying a cannonball-sized elephant dropping."
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