Saturday, May 28, 2011

Scuba Diving Programs for Children

There are several different organizations that offer Scuba Diving training and instructions for adult and children: PADI, The Professional Association of Diving Instructors and NAUI the National Association of Underwater Instructors. Besides PADI, YMCA instructional programs include summer diving courses designed for kids. In addition, local scuba diving organizations and resorts offer overnight summer scuba camps. There are even scuba trips and vacations that come complete with scuba training and certification. Make sure that the dive shop, school or course your are taking is affiliated with PADI and NAUI.

How to select a program and instructor?

It is important to shop around and to gather information. Remember that if something seems too good to be true it most likely is. If one program is much cheaper than all of the others don't think that you are getting a bargain -- ask more questions. Make sure the cost includes equipment rentals, books, training materials and fees for open water certification dives. Select a scuba diving class that offers a comprehensive package. Look for an instructor that is caring, patient, enthusiastic and a good communicator.

Questions to ask

How big are the classes?

How many class sessions? How many pool sessions?

How many years has the organization been in business

How long has instructor been teaching?

Have they certified many junior divers?

How many students do they have per instructor? Will there be a dive-master too?

Where will they do their open water dives?

How much does it cost for the course?

What gear do the students need to provide?

Do they have to rent the scuba gear too?

How much are the books?

Ask them to describe their instructional style?

Who would be teaching the course? What are they like?

What is the instructor's level of certification?

How many dives have they done?

Are they licensed and insured?

Are instructors certified in CPR and Rescue Diving?

Ask for references from recently certified students that you can contact.

Seek an instructor that has at least one year of experience and has certified a minimum of 25 students. Seek a class that is taught by a single instructor. It is beneficial if the students are using the same equipment as the instructor during training.

PADI, which is the largest and most widely recognized SCUBA certification agency in the world, offers several programs for kids under 12. PADI’s educational programs provide structured and consistent lessons to divers worldwide. By choosing PADI dive training, kids receive uniform training in basic safety skills which provides all instructors with an accurate assessment of each participants skill level. Uniformity and consistency in training assure the highest level of safety possible.

Scuba requires certification even as a beginner and it allows you to track your progress and advance as far or as little as you would like. All scuba diving starts with Basic Certification. With Basic Open Water Scuba Diving certification you can enjoy many scuba experiences and dive trips. It is not required that you advance beyond basic Open Water however there are many advanced and specialty diving certifications available if you decided to further your experiences. The list of advanced scuba diving certifications is almost endless, specialties in just about every type of diving environment or conditions are available. For example boat diving, altitude diving, cavern diving, night diver, wreck diver or underwater photography.

Whether you choose to advance with dozens of specialty certifications, or just remain a basic Scuba diver, recreational Scuba divining is an excellent hobby

For kids 5-8

SASY is an acronym for Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth. This program trains children as young as five how to safely use scuba equipment while snorkeling. It also familiarizes kids with the breathing equipment for subsequent full Open Water Diver Certification. The session is about one hour and costs about $30 for the session. You can find information on the SASY program at PADI Dive Centers and Resorts

For kids over age 8

PADI's Bubblemaker program is designed for kids aged 8-9. Kids learn to breath underwater using compressed air while completely submerged in a pool. This is a good way for children to experience scuba diving in the pool in less than six feet of water. These sessions are about 2 hours and cost approximately $100.

Seal Team ages 8+

The PADI Seal Team is for young divers who are looking for a fun and action-packed introduction to scuba skills in a pool. Kids learn real scuba skills through a series of exciting "Aquamissions". Young divers become familiar with scuba equipment, and skills for safe diving. Bouyancy control, mask clearing and regulator recovery are taught. Once basic skills are learned divers are introduced to underwater photography, wreck diving, navigation, environmental awareness and more. Five completed courses and your diver will be a SEAL Team member. After completing ten missions, they earn a SEAL Team Master certificate. The following specialist courses are offered: Creature ID, Environmental, Inner Space, Navigation, Night, Safety, Search & Recover Skin Diver, Snapshot and Wreck Specialist

A similar program is the Scuba Rangers, created in 1999 by Scuba Schools International. Like PADI's program the Scuba Rangers were developed to give younger children access to the world of Scuba, and build scuba skills and self esteem in a pool environment.

For Mom and Dad

PADI's Discover Scuba programs allow you and your family to master some basic concepts and scuba skills. The skills you complete during your adventure may earn you credit in the PADI Scuba Diver or Open Water Diver certifications. All you have to do is document your achievement, and bring it to any PADI Dive Center or Resort to continue where you left off.

Older children, 10 - 12 year olds, can receive a Junior Open Water Certification, which will allow them to build experience, improve skills and exploring diving with limitations. They must be with a certified adult to a depth of 40 ft. PADI programs include Junior Open Water Diver (ages 10-14), Junior Advanced Open Water Diver(ages 12-14), Junior Master Scuba Diver (ages 12-14)

At the age of 15 kids holding Junior Open Water Certification can convert it to an Open Water Certification. At this age the diver will no longer have age-related restrictions while scuba diving. Prior to this age it is believed that children do not posses the emotional maturity necessary to deal with potential life threatening dive emergencies.

All PADI courses are "performance based," which means that you only earn your scuba certification when you demonstrate that you have mastered the required skills and knowledge. Therefore the sessions are extremely flexible and the amount of time it takes to complete the course will vary per individual. Basically, most students will complete their initial certification in about twenty-five hours spread over a few weekends.

Certification is extremely important for your safety and it taken very seriously in the industry. For instance, you cannot rent or purchase scuba equipment without certification from one of the recognized Scuba Diving organizations.

Most scuba certifications are good for life. You may however, be required by dive shops or resorts, to take a quick refresher course if you have not dived recently. It is important to record your dives in your diver's logbook and have your buddy or dive leader sign it so that you have an accurate record.

Thanks to All Stars Activities

Kathy Dowsett
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Captain Morgan's Cannons Found?

Diver Joe Lepore steadies a heavy 17th-century cannon as it's lifted by an airbag from the seafloor near the mouth of Panama's Chagres River (see map) in a recently released picture taken in 2010.

The newly recovered cannon is among six believed to have belonged to the fleet of 17th-century buccaneer Capt. Henry Morgan, whom later accounts painted as a bloodthirsty pirate.

In 1671 Captain Morgan's current flagship, Satisfaction, hit a rocky reef and sank as he sailed out of the mouth of the Chagres River en route to sacking the Panama Viejo, now called Panama City.

Three more of Captain Morgan's ships either slammed into the same reef or collided with each other and also went down. But the determined Welsh privateer reassembled what remained of his fleet and continued on to plunder the city. Privateers were private sailors under contract to states—in Captain Morgan's case, Britain.

In 2008 an international team of archaeologists found the ships—and their cannons—that sank on that disastrous day. In 2010 the scientists began bringing cannons and other artifacts to the surface, where they'll be treated to remove organic buildup and then displayed in Panama.

The project was a collaborative effort that included the government of Panama, the Waitt Institute for Discovery, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Texas State University, and the National Geographic Society. (The Waitt Institute sponsors the Waitt Grants Program for the Society, which also owns National Geographic News.)

"Clever" Captain Morgan

A 1680 engraving of Capt. Henry Morgan depicts his ships attacking a Spanish fleet in the background.

Captain Morgan combined successful careers as a privateer and politician. After plundering Spanish settlements in Central America and South America and attacking Spanish ships in the Caribbean Sea, he was knighted by Britain's King Charles in 1674 and appointed lieutenant governor of Jamaica. He also owned a large sugar plantation in Jamaica and apparently enjoyed his final years there.

"He was very clever and articulate, and had a sense of humor," said Waitt Institute Executive Director Dominique Rissolo, who worked on the underwater excavation of Morgan's ships.

The privateer was also known to enjoy "a good libation" and drank himself to death in 1688, Rissolo said.

Crusty Cannon

Beneath the long mass of organic buildup (pictured in 2010) is a small cannon that was likely used on the deck of Captain Morgan's ship Satisfaction.

Artifacts are not transported in this manner—the cannon is in the back of a pickup truck only to demonstrate its small size, the archaeologists said.

The oval object in front of the cannon is one of Satisfaction's ballast stones, which were moved or removed to enhance stability in the water. The encrustations cemented the stone to the cannon during years underwater.
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Thanks to National Geographic

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, May 23, 2011

Scuba Diving Study for Veterans with Paralysis

Scuba diving in MauritiusImage via Wikipedia

There’s a new research study on scuba diving and people with disabilities. The pilot study will take place in the Cayman Islands; and will conduct trials on 10 veterans with paralysis. The goal is to measure the neurological, psychological and pulmonary effects of scuba diving. The research process will include testing, evaluation, and data gathering to scientifically measure the efficacy of scuba diving as an activity-based therapy that benefits people with disabilities.

The scuba pilot study for disabled veterans was started by medical professionals from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Various research professionals, such as brain mappers, neuro-psychiatrists and other specialists are taking part in the study.

“The researchers are looking at the psychological and neurological effects of scuba. I don’t know what the outcomes will be, but as far as the psychological [aspects are concerned], I know it is going to be successful. Any kind of sport, scuba or recreational thing is always going to have good effects" — says former Navy SEAL Al Kovak, vice president of Paralysed Veterans of America.

The scuba diving study was inspired by Cody Unser. Cody became paralyzed at age 12 from the chest down due to a rare illness, called Transverse Myelitis. It is a neurological disorder caused by inflammation across both sides of one level, or segment, of the spinal cord. Cody and her family started, Cody’s Great Scuba Adventures in 2002. Cody has also created a not-for-profit corporation aimed at raising research funds to fight paralysis and to build awareness of Transverse Myelitis.

The Department of Tourism, in association with the Cody Unser foundation, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Red Sail Sports and St. Matthew’s University are involved in helping the team of spinal cord injury researchers, veterans, paralympic athletes and Cody Unser herself to learn more about the benefits of scuba diving.

Thanks to Jenny Carlton of NCPAD

Kathy Dowsett
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Benefits Of Scuba Diving

Scuba DivingImage by John (giannis) Kotsifas via Flickr

Scuba diving is a wonderful sport with many benefits to your physical and mental health.


If you're going to scuba dive, you need to pass a physical examination before you can be certified, and as you dive your fitness will improve and you will develop good muscle tone and strong lungs.

When I decided to do scuba diving training around 20 years ago, the requirements for starting the course were much tougher than they are today, and you had to be really fit to pass the physical. I prepared for the physical exam by cycling to the swimming pool every afternoon (about 20 km/12.5 miles), swimming 100 laps, and then cycling home. I got fit in no time.

I'm glad that I had to get into shape before the course, because I am quite small and found the gear quite heavy at first. This is fine on a boat dive, but many times dives from the shore entailed going down a cliff, doing the dive, and then climbing back up the cliff when I was already tired. If I hadn't been fit, I couldn't have done that, and I had some great dives around reefs close to shore.


Scuba diving means you need to learn to be a reliable buddy for other divers. You also have to learn to be responsible for yourself and to look after your own safety. You will learn to stay calm at all times, and that helps you in challenging situations on land, as well as in the sea.

Especially when you are learning and going on your first dives, you will also need courage. I remember my very first boat dive off Cronulla, a suburb of Sydney, Australia. I was one of the first in the water and grabbed the anchor chain, and looked down. The water was crystal clear, and I got a sudden fear of heights! Down at the bottom and looking up, it seemed a long way to the surface.

You need courage on night dives too, especially your first one. On my first night dive, there were the shadowy shapes of grey nurse sharks circling us, presumably attracted by the lights. It was no place for the faint-hearted.

Once you're more experienced, you will find scuba diving physically and mentally relaxing, and you will be so fascinated by what you are seeing that the time will just fly. It takes you completely out of yourself, and you become absorbed by the world around you. Your cares just drift away.


Scuba divers are a great bunch of people. They are fit, healthy, adventurous and brave, and you will make friends among them. You will find a sense of community among divers. Being a scuba diver also means you will always have something interesting to talk about.

Scuba divers see evidence of pollution and environmental degradation that landlubbers do not see, and tend to become more environmentally aware on land because of that.


Scuba diving can challenge you to expand your skills and try new things. There is always another scuba course to do, and always something new to learn, whether it be about scuba diving itself or about the underwater world.

Scuba diving broadens your horizons, and changes your world view, because you are exposed every dive to a part of this world that few people get to know. It's a great sport, with many benefits.

Thanks to Lin Edwards

Kathy Dowsett
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Scuba diver sets new depth record exploring New Zealand cave

An Australian scuba diver set a new record for depth recently while exploring a remote underground river cave in New Zealand. He, and his teammates, braved dark passageways, icy cold water, and treacherous conditions in an effort to find the elusive source of the Pearse River.

Diver Craig Challan descended to a depth of 194 meters or roughly 636 feet, as he cautiously made his way along the submerged cavern. That depth marked a record, but still didn't finish the exploration of the cave, nor did it lead to the discovery of the river's source. But it did show that explorers can go to even greater depths than previously thought possible.

In the video below, brought to us by National Geographic, who helped partially fund the expedition, you can see what the divers had to deal with while exploring the cave. As they dove they were looking for new lifeforms, while mapping the cave itself, in waters that hovered around 43ºF. All the while they had to deal with the potential for decompression syndrome, better known as the Bends.

In order to avoid that painful condition, they built a series of underwater bases where they would spend hours at a time, waiting for their bodies to adapt to the changes in depth. Watching the video I was reminded of the series of camps that are built on mountains like Everest, where climbers wait to acclimatize before moving up. This works in reverse, but is similar in concept.

Thanks to Kraig Becker

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, May 9, 2011

Capt. Kidd Shipwreck Site to Be Dedicated 'Living Museum of the Sea'

Kidd on the Deck of the Adventure Galley: illu...Image via Wikipedia

Nearly three years after the discovery of the shipwreck Quedagh Merchant, abandoned by the scandalous 17th century pirate Captain William Kidd, the underwater site will be dedicated as a "Living Museum of the Sea" by Indiana University, IU researcher and archeologist Charles Beeker, and the government of the Dominican Republic.

The dedication as an official underwater museum will take place off the shore of Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic on May 23, the 310th anniversary of Kidd's hanging in London for his 'crimes of piracy.'

The dedication will note both underwater and above-ground interpretive plaques. The underwater plaques will help guide divers around the Kidd site as well as relics and rare corals at two other shipwreck sites.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded IU $200,000 to turn the Captain Kidd shipwreck site and two nearby existing underwater preserves into no-take, no-anchor "Living Museums of the Sea," where cultural discoveries will protect precious corals and other threatened biodiversity in the surrounding reef systems, under the supervision and support of the Dominican Republic's Oficina Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural Subacuático (ONPCS). USAID has since extended its support by a year, increasing the funding award to $300,000.

The Underwater Science team from the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER), led by Beeker, has been working to preserve, analyze and document the Kidd shipwreck since its surprising discovery, which made headlines around the world. This unique museum, resting in less than 10 feet of water just 70 feet from shore, will give divers the opportunity to see the 17th century ship remains, including several anchors, along with dozens of cannons, which rest on the ocean's floor and serve as home to coral and sea creatures. Above water, several more traditional museums will benefit from artifacts that are on loan to IU by the Dominican Republic government for the purpose of study and research.

"As this ongoing multidisciplinary research continues," Beeker said, "interest in the project has grown and new partnerships are developing, including the Peace Corps assigning their volunteers to the project, and the Consorcio Dominicano de Competitividad Turistica promoting the project as a sustainable tourism destination."

As the interest in eco-tourism and unique vacation destinations continues to grow, this Living Museum of the Sea is predicted to be a sought-after destination for those seeking underwater adventures combined with significant 17th century maritime history representative of the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean.

Beeker said it was remarkable that the wreck had remained undiscovered all these years given its location, just 70 feet off the coast of Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic, and because it has been actively sought by treasure hunters.

"Since the site's discovery, we have worked with government officials, Indiana University partners and museums to preserve this site, the artifacts contained there and to use it all for research and scientific study," said Beeker, a pioneer in underwater museums and preserves. "We have diligently protected this site, and now we are able to share the importance of the Armenian-owned 1699 Quedagh Merchant (which was captured by Kidd off the west coast of India) with students at Indiana University as well as with the public at exhibits at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis and the British Museum of Docklands London."

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis helped bring one of the most fascinating underwater mysteries in years to visitors in its new permanent exhibit, National Geographic Treasures of the Earth. Charles Beeker was authorized by Dominican Republic authorities to bring the only cannon recovered from the shipwreck to The Children's Museum for five years of study and conservation. The Children's Museum and Beeker received a $1 million grant from Eli Lilly & Company Foundation to support this project and to search for and recover artifacts from other historically significant ships that are believed to be in the Caribbean, with this including the ongoing search for the Lost Fleet of Christopher Columbus.

The Museum of London Docklands has an exhibition featuring the story of Captain Kidd. The museum will have a special event in coordination with the underwater museum dedication, honoring the 310th anniversary of Kidd's execution.

Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, said the popular museum and IU have similar interests, to bring fascinating discoveries to the public.

"Our intent was to develop the most authentic experience possible -- to bring real archaeological sites, real science, real artifacts and real experts to our visitors. These extraordinary experiences truly have the power to inspire and transform the lives of children through family learning," he said. "We're eager to explore future opportunities with IU's team of experts in the search for other historically significant ships in the Caribbean."

Other significant artifacts to be displayed at The Children's Museum include Ming dynasty plates and statues, diamond and gold jewelry, gold & silver coins, cannonballs and other antiquities, which have been preserved for centuries in the Caribbean waters.

Historians differ on whether Kidd was actually a pirate or a privateer -- someone who captured pirates. After his conviction of piracy and murder charges in a sensational London trial, he was left to hang over the River Thames for two years as a warning to other pirates.

Historians write that Kidd captured the Quedagh Merchant, loaded with valuable satins and silks, gold, silver and other East Indian merchandise, but left the ship in the Caribbean as he sailed to New York on a less conspicuous sloop to clear his name of the criminal charges.

Anthropologist Geoffrey Conrad, director of IU Bloomington's Mathers Museum of World Cultures, said the men Kidd entrusted with his ship reportedly looted it, and then set it ablaze and adrift down the Rio Dulce. Conrad said the location of the wreckage and the formation and size of the canons, which had been used as ballast, are consistent with historical records of the ship. They also found pieces of several anchors under the cannons.

"All the evidence that we find underwater is consistent with what we know from historical documentation, which is extensive," Conrad said. "Through rigorous archeological investigations, we have conclusively proven that this is the Captain Kidd shipwreck."

The IU research in the Dominican Republic typically involves professors and graduate students from various IU Bloomington schools and departments, including the School of HPER, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and the departments of anthropology, biology, geological sciences and mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences.

"The archeological work being done by IU in the Dominican Republic affords us tremendous entrée for wider areas of collaboration," said School of HPER Interim Dean Mo R. Torabi.

Since the discovery, Beeker has met with and given presentations to research experts in London, Armenia and Washington, D.C., and the interest continues to spread because of the complex trading and exploration channels that existed in the 17th century.

For more than 20 years, Beeker and his students have conducted underwater research projects on submerged ships, cargo and other cultural and biological resources throughout the United States and the Caribbean. Many of his research projects have resulted in the establishment of state or federal underwater parks and preserves, and have led to a number of site nominations to the National Register of Historic Places.

Beeker, who has been conducting research in the Dominican Republic for nearly 20 years, was asked to examine the shipwreck in 2007 while on another research mission involving the search for Christopher Columbus' lost ships. Beeker and Conrad have been exploring the era when the New and Old Worlds first met, focusing on the area of La Isabela Bay, the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement established by Columbus in 1494.

Thanks to Science Daily

Kathy Dowsett

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Diving in Newfoundland and Labrador

Gros Morne National Park, Western Newfoundland...Image via Wikipedia


Just off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, the meeting of the cool Labrador Current and the warm Gulf Stream creates an abundance of marine life that attracts thousands of whales, and provides rich nesting grounds for millions of seabirds. That, along with the clear and cool water, 10,000-year-old icebergs, and 500-year-old shipwreck history, makes this place a diver's paradise.


There are an estimated 8,000 shipwrecks on the sea floor around Newfoundland and Labrador. While many of the submerged vessels succumbed to perilous ice and storms, four were victims of German U-boats during World War II. Of those, the SS Lord Strathcona, located in Conception Bay near Bell Island, is just 89 feet from the surface and the most accessible. With visibility here at 80 to 100 feet, torpedo holes and other features are easy to see.

Marine Life

For divers who come for the diverse marine life, a completely different kind of experience awaits. In Western Newfoundland, near Gros Morne National Park, you'll find one area where both northern and southern sea species reach the limits of their range, making for a particularly abundant environment. Here you can view all sorts of shellfish and other sea life clinging to an underwater cliff, and practice underwater photography skills.

During the early spring and summer, you'll also find whales and icebergs crossing paths along these shores. Contact Ocean Quest AdventuresOcean Quest Adventures and arrange to snorkel alongside one of the thousands of humpbacks, or get up close to a giant iceberg drifting down Iceberg Alley on the northeast coast.

Thanks to Newfoundland and Labrador site

Kathy Dowsett
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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Divers find 'oldest shipwreck in the Caribbean'...and treasure that could be worth MILLIONS

Silver coins and jade figurines from 1500s discovered off Dominican Republic.

A chance encounter with a fisherman has led one team of treasure hunters to discover what they believe is the oldest shipwreck in the Caribbean.

And after only diving the site - located off the Dominican Republic coast - a handful of times, the team at Deep Blue Marine has unearthed some serious treasure.

At the last count Captain Billy Rawson and his crew had uncovered 700 silver coins that could be worth millions, jade figurines and even a mirrored stone that was possibly used in Shamanic rituals.

Everything was in pretty good condition, despite dating back to the 1500s.

'We only started diving last autumn and haven't gone down that much because it's been the winter,' said Randy Champion, vice president of the Utah-based company.

'We have just scratched the surface,' he added. 'All of the stuff we've found is just from mucking about really.'

Although the team haven't officially confirmed which ship they are diving, Mr Champion said they had a pretty fair idea - but were keeping quiet for now.

If it's the ship we think it is, she probably went down in a hurricane,' Mr Champion said.

'We have looked at the prevailing currents and wind directions in archives and found a cannon and ballast stone on the wreck that was all going in the wrong direction.

'That suggests it was probably a hurricane as winds go counter clockwise.'

The Blue Water Marine team believe this ship was heading back to Spain with a haul of newly minted coins.

There were almost certainly a few dignitaries on board hitching a lift, and they wouldn't have made the journey all the way back to Spain with just 700 coins.

'There are thousands and thousands down there,' Mr Champion added.

Most of the coins don't have dates on, so the team have been busy cleaning them up and trawling through reference books to identify them.

'These coins could be worth just $1,000,' Mr Champion said. 'But then one similar to ours sold for $132,000 the other day.

'They could be worth millions. But they aren't worth anything unless someone buys them.'

One set of coins could be worth $1 million on its own. The crew won't know whether they have it until the clean up operation is complete.

The pre-Columbian carved jade figurines, all approximately 2in to 3in high, could be 500 years older than the wreck itself.

Mr Champion said some had holes in the back side suggesting they could have been part of a head piece.

This also suggests the crew of the 1500s ship probably weren't altogether that straight laced and almost certainly stole a lot of their booty.

'They had to satisfy the king's request, but would have taken other things too,' said Mr Champion.

The crew also found what were thought to be mirrors made out of iron pyrite, but Mr Champion isn't convinced.

'Mirrors weren't common at the time,' he said. 'They could have been used in a Shaman-type ritual.'

But he insists that they don't dive the site just for the money.

'We're not just looking for things that glitter and things that are real pretty,' he said. 'We're trying to find out what happened to this ship.'

Deep Blue Marine are contracted by the Dominican Republic to search and uncover treasure from the wreck. They then split the proceeds 50/50.

They had been surveying 42 miles of coastline with high-tech equipment in an effort to find the wreck.

But they got lucky after the chance encounter with a local fisherman who sold them an old coin he had found while diving.

To their astonishment the team discovered it was one of the oldest coins ever minted and knew they had found what they were looking for.

'We said to this guy: "If you show us where you found the coin you can come and work for us",' said Mr Champion.

The team are planning another dive in two weeks but it is a grueling process as the wreck is covered in sand and coral.

It takes them 12 hours to sail around the island to the dive site. They then drop anchor and take smaller boats out to dive from.

It's a 6am start and the team often don't return until 8pm. They can be out there for weeks at a time.

And it's not without its dangers. 'There are just as many pirates right now as there were then,' Mr Champion said.

The crew have been fired upon by the Dominican Republic's Navy - 'a case of mistaken identity' - and have even been pillaged by a gang of thieves who boarded their boat in the middle of the night.

They made off with thousand of dollars worth of diving equipment - despite an armed guard, provided by the government, being on board.

Sharks too are always in the back of their minds, Mr Champion said, as are the treacherous diving conditions, waves and being crushed by rocks.

'It's better than being stuck at a desk,' Mr Champion added.

And it's certainly worth it when the crew strikes gold - or, in this case, silver.

Thanks to the Daily Guardian

Kathy Dowsett

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Through Unique Eyes, Box Jellyfish Look out to the World Above the Water

box jellyfish, tiny but dangerousImage via Wikipedia

Box jellyfish may seem like rather simple creatures, but in fact their visual system is anything but. They've got no fewer than 24 eyes of four different kinds. Now, researchers reporting online on April 28 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, have evidence revealing that four of those eyes always peer up out of the water, regardless of the way the rest of the animal is oriented. What's more, it appears that those eyes allow the jellies to navigate their way around the mangrove swamps in which they live.

It is a surprise that a jellyfish -- an animal normally considered to be lacking both brain and advanced behavior -- is able to perform visually guided navigation, which is not a trivial behavioral task," said Anders Garm of the University of Copenhagen. "This shows that the behavioral abilities of simple animals, like jellyfish, may be underestimated."

In fact, scientists have known for more than a century that box jellyfish had a unique array of eyes. It was known that they could rely on vision to respond to light, avoid obstacles, and control their rate of swimming. But box jellyfish generally live in shallow waters with plenty of obstacles. The species Garm's team studied, Tripedalia cystophora, lives between the prop roots in Caribbean mangrove swamps, where they stay close to the surface to catch and eat copepods that gather in high densities in light shafts formed by openings in the mangrove canopy. They are never found out in the open, where they might risk starvation. That means they must stay within a rather restricted area, less than two meters wide. And it now appears that they have eyes that help them do this.

The researchers examined the function of one of two types of "upper lens eyes," already known to form images, to work out just what those eyes can see and how well. It turns out that those four eyes cover precisely the visual field needed to see through the water's surface up into the world above. The researchers calculated that the jellies should be able to detect the mangrove canopy from a distance of at least eight meters. Behavioral experiments of the jellies in the field supported those conclusions, revealing that the jellyfish can use those eyes to navigate based on their view of the canopy alone. When the canopy was obscured from view, they could no longer get around.

"We have shown that the box jellyfish can use vision to navigate in their habitat, and we now want to understand how their simple nervous system supports such advanced behaviors," Garm said. They also want to know if other box jellyfish species do the same thing in the places where they live.

Overall, this new understanding of the upper lens eyes points to a more general strategy for managing complex sensory tasks without a big brain. "Instead of having a single pair of general-purpose eyes like most other animals, box jellyfish have several different types of eyes used for special purposes," Garm said. "This means that each individual eye type is dedicated to support only a limited number of behaviors. The eyes can then be built to collect precisely the information needed, minimizing the need for further processing in a big brain. The automatic orientation of the upper lens eyes to constantly look through the water surface is a clear example of this."

Thanks to Science Daily

Kathy Dowsett
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