Updated November 20, 2008
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The U.S.S. Oriskany in Pensacola, Florida
It’s a great wreck dive, though a bit deep for sport divers. The flight deck is at 135 feet -- or it was, that is. But after Hurricane Gustav pushed through the Gulf of Mexico, the sunken ship dropped about 10 feet deeper. Now dive operators are worried that the drop to 145 feet will give pause to divers wanting to stay within the 130 foot “safe diving limits.” On the other hand, some believe the wreck will be safer because fewer people will be tempted to drop 15 feet past 130 just to touch the flight deck.
Due to a group cancellation, Reef & Rainforest is offering a 40% discount on a few remaining budget, deluxe and single cabins. Join Mark Strickland, a professional photographer and pioneer of Thailand and Burma diving, who will help you hone your photography skills and offer excellent information on marine species. Dates: January 22 to 31, 2009, 9 nights total. Discounted rates: Single & Deluxe: $1,668; Budget: $1,188. Reef & Rainforest can get you the best airfares and also help with frequent-flyer miles. For info: http://www.reefrainforest.com/photo_expeditions.php?key=138
While cabins on this terrific liveaboard fill up years in advance, Reef & Rainforest has space available for diving Chuuk Lagoon wrecks during prime time; February 8-15, 2009. Click here for info: http://www.reefrainforest.com/p_scuba_diving_liveaboard_truk_odyssey_micronesia_115_396.html
Now photographers at all levels can compete in the big photo competition hosted by DivePhotoGuide.com and Wetpixel, which they call the "Super Bowl of international underwater imagery competitions." They've introduced a Novice category in the Our World Underwater competition; $45,000 in prizes includes camera gear and dive trips to Papua New Guinea, Socorro Island, and the Solomons. For more advanced photographers, there's the DEEP Indonesia underwater photography competition, with $30,000 in gear and Indonesia dive trips. The entry deadline for both is January 15. For more information, go to http://www.underwatercompetition.com/Competitions
Get those kids and grandkids interested in reefs and the oceans. Shark Encounters has great details about and close-ups of various shark types, while the 10-book series Undersea Encounters gives great marine-biology facts about crabs, dolphins, seahorses, sea predators and more. Order them at Undercurrent to get the best price from Amazon. When you go through our website to Amazon, our profits from anything you buy will go to save coral reefs.
Scores of Undercurrent articles, including resort and liveaboard reviews and stories about diver safety, are available for free on our website. You can read them by going to Undercurrent and clicking on “Past Issues”. While you’re there, sign up for an online membership and get each issue of Undercurrent online.
We’ve received reports from rankled divers recently about hidden charges showing up on their bills. They include charges for Nitrox when they thought it was included, charges for unmade dives, a refusal to refund a prepaid charge for a dive not made, fuel surcharge, hotel add-ons, all sorts of unfair and unfriendly charges. We’re working on an article and if you have such an experience, please share it with us. Email me at PublisherBenD@undercurrent.org.
There has been nearly a dozen incidents this year of divers getting lost at sea. This time, it was in Fiji, where Thomas Holz, 40, of Berlin, Germany spent 12 hours battling currents in the Somosomo Strait overnight and swam six miles before reaching land. On October 26, Holz and three other divers went with Bubble Divers for a late-afternoon dive on Rainbow Reef at Vanua Levu. Running out of air after 25 minutes, he ascended at about 5 p.m. The divemaster told him to wait at the surface while he fetched other divers below but currents were too strong for Holz to reach the boat 100 feet away, then nightfall prevented him from seeing it. The dive boat searched until 9 p.m., then resumed in the morning. Holz told the Fiji Times that he held onto his tank and swam slowly, skipping Vanua Levu for fear he'd wash up in an isolated place and aiming for more populated, although farther away, Taveuni. "In the early morning, I felt the seabed and screamed out for help before I collapsed on the shore." More about this in our January issue.
On Cayman Brac, politician Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, described extensive damage to the majority of homes, businesses and churches. In many areas of the island, the water was knee deep. Diving legend Bob Soto, said "This is the worst hurricane I have ever seen ...There is not one leaf left on the trees on The Bluff.” On Little Cayman early reports are that more than a dozen homes lost their roofs and one apartment complex caved in completely. While scores of people had to be rescued, nobody died on any of the islands. Grand Cayman had little damage or flooding. Supply boats are on their way to the sister islands. There is no word yet on dive resorts on the sister islands, but if you have travel plans make contact with your resort before you go.
Mitch Rolling, who owns Blue Water Divers on Grand Turk, has told us that, "All three dive shops are completely operational, many dive boats received no damage at all. We have all had divers in since the storm, and the wall is in great shape . . . As for hotels, the Osprey Beach Hotel's beach rooms never closed (they have their own big in-house generator) and fortunately were not damaged. The Osprey Beach bar and restaurant is fully open . . .The Salt Raker was damaged, and has not been open since . . . Manta House, right next door to Salt Raker, was not damaged badly, and is open. The Bohio on Pillory Beach lost the roof on its rooms. They are closed, but repairs are underway. . . .There are several local restaurants open and serving food. Obviously, there is still a great deal of cleanup work that needs to be done but a tremendous amount has been achieved already. We are grateful for the many sources who have already provided much assistance. . . .There is no reason why a diver or visitor can't come to Grand Turk and enjoy a nice holiday." Rolling's comments about Salt Caye : "We are quickly getting back on our feet and all businesses will be operational by December 1. The dive shop is open now and some of the private homes are open for rentals. Tradewinds won't be open till mid-November but will be newly remodeled, thanks or no thanks to Ike. Fortunately, there was little wave action, so very little damage to the reef." Provo had little, if any, damage and hardly missed a beat after the blow.
We're all for communing with nature during a dive, but for those who get bored during decompression stops, there's the iDive 300. Put your iPod in the waterproof case, good down to 300 feet, attach the over-the-ear speakers to your mask strap or under your hood, and watch movies or listen to music while you're making the way to the surface. List price is $350. www.h2oaudio.com/shop/product.php?productid=63
In last month's e-mail newsletter, we announced the Cayman Islands had plans to sink this decommissioned U.S. Navy ship as an artificial reef. The Department of Tourism, recognizing that development has killed many of the reefs off Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach, has announced that the Kittiwake will be sunk in June 2009 at the northern end of Seven Mile Beach. Gotta satisfy the divers who don't want to head off to better Cayman diving.
Some good news: Rabbitfish can help save the Great Barrier Reef from destruction. Some bad news: Robert DeNiro is a partial owner of a restaurant chain serving endangered bluefin tuna to diners without their knowledge. Read those reports for free, plus other updates, such as the Coral Triangle's takeover by starfish; why an invasive species has turned the Thousand Islands into a diver's paradise; how one dolphin is teaching others to walk on their tails; and more. Go to Undercurrent and scroll down to "The October Issue."
This 512-page book filled with hundreds of current reviews of dive resorts and liveaboards throughout the world goes in the mail January 15 to Undercurrent subscribers. Nonsubscribers can order a copy for $16.95 plus shipping at
United Airfares Drop Until March 11:* Boston-Honolulu for $572 roundtrip; New York-Kona for $674; Washington/Dulles-Lihue for $670, Chicago-Maui for just $398 roundtrip. Information: www.united.com/page/article/1,,51106,00.html. There are plenty of hotel bargains too.
In this new book, edited by Chris Santella, a bevy of well-known divers wax about 50 top dive destinations, most of which are on everyone's list: the Galapagos, Fiji's Bligh Waters, Cocos Island, Cayman, British Colombia . The descriptions are brief and to the point, the perfect book to stimulate your fantasies. 224 pages, hardbound, $24.95 list. Click here (www.undercurrent.org) to order through Undercurrent and you'll get Amazon's best price -- and our profits will go to save coral reefs.
Ben Davison, editor/publisher
Note: Undercurrent is a registered 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization donating funds to help preserve coral reefs. Our travel writers never announce their purpose, are unknown to the destination, and receive no complimentary services or compensation from the dive operators or resort.
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