Thursday, April 28, 2011


Lake HuronImage via Wikipedia

The Great Lakes, due to their size and nasty winter storms, house a good number of unfortunate ships in their depths. Remember the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (Gordon Lightfoot) in Lake Superior. Well, Lake Huron is no exception. And with the establishment of Fathom Five National Marine Park over 20 years ago, the wrecks are protected. Also with the absence of the boring worms found in salt water, these wooden wrecks have held up very well.

There are over 20 preserved Schooners, Steamers and Barges buried beneath the waves - . some dating back as early as 1852. For the divers interested in underwater geology, there is the famous flowerpot formations and underwater caves that are seen within the park. Further out - towards Manitoulin Island, can be found a submerged waterfall that marks some of the past history of the lakes during the Ice Age.

In 110 feet of water off Echo Island lie the remains of the Barque Arabia. The masts lie broken and scattered but the bowsprit still reaches gracefully forward. Severe fall weather has left ships like the 213 foot steamer, W.L. Wetmore, laying 30 feet under the water's surface. Whether diving or snorkeling, the remains of the Wetmore provide excellent recreational opportunities. Swim over the massive timbers and explore the huge boiler which reaches within 10 feet of the lake's surface. Then follow the trail of chain that leads to the anchor now resting among the rocks and debris off Russel Island.

One of the more interesting wrecks occurred when the 216 foot steamer Forest City was navigating in heavy fog on June 5, 1904. The intended course was between Flowerpot and Bears Rump Islands, but due to the fog she came to a brutally abrupt halt when the forward bow contacted the cliff on the northeast shore of Bears Rump. With the ship stuck fast the crew was rescued by the tug Joe Milton and for several weeks every effort was made to salvage the ship. Filling with water she finally tore lose from the bow plating stuck in the rocks and slid beneath the waves. The Forest City lies in 60 feet to 150 feet of water with the stern still intact. The bow plating is still jammed in the rocks.

Explore an area where submerged forests, canyons and underwater waterfalls date back to a time before modern man. View the remains of ancient coral in this once tropical sea or watch the modern inhabitants, crawfish, bass and sculpin as they go about their daily business.

Another "hotspot" for scuba diving is within the Bruce Peninsula National Park. Located just one kilometre from the day-parking area, is the beautiful Indian Head Cove and the infamous ‘Grotto’, where visitors will discover a huge cave formation with a deep pool of Georgian Bay water as its floor. The Grotto, is a popular site to see underwater caves, boulder fields and other geological wonders.

Some of the other locations around the Bruce Peninsula that offer great scuba diving experiences include Wiarton, boasting at least three shore dives and a petrified forest off the coast, Dyer’s Bay featuring an enclosed bay and Cabot Head offering a contemplative diver a peaceful and less crowded place to dive.

Thanks to The Bruce Peninsula Blogspot

Kathy Dowsett
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dental Problems For Scuba Divers

PEMBROKE PINES, FL - JANUARY 12:  A tooth char...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The Impacts Of Scuba Diving On Teeth

The teeth and mouth are impacted when underwater on a scuba dive. These problems need to be addressed for enjoyable and safe scuba diving.

For scuba divers, problems can occur with dentures, fillings in teeth, and holding the regulator in the mouth for long periods of time.

Dentures And Scuba Diving

Wearing dentures is a dental problem for scuba divers. The denture may get dislodged if the regulator or snorkel is bumped during a scuba dive.

The action of holding the regulator in the mouth can force the denture against the mouthpiece, possibly dislodging the denture. This can be made worse if the movement of the head while scuba diving forces against the denture.

Should the scuba diver with a denture need to vomit, either underwater or on the dive boat from seasickness, problems can occur if the denture is forced out of place.

A dislodged denture can be the starting event for a dangerous situation to unfold, as the regulator mouthpiece and an unsecured denture all fight for space in the mouth. Not a good situation when 20 or so metres under the surface.

The solution is to remain calm, take a breath, remove the regulator and re-install the denture. Sounds easy, but can be quite problematic as the diver will be stressed.

Problems With Teeth Fillings On A Scuba Dive

Recurrent decay in a previously filled tooth can lead to problems when scuba diving. This could occur if there is decayed material inside a filling cavity with a small entry hole. On descent, the change in pressure could force some of the decay material to block the entry hole which could lead to pain on the ascent.

Problems With Decayed Teeth While Scuba Diving

Potential problems can occur for scuba divers when diving with teeth that are decayed. The decay inside a tooth is a weak spot and the resultant change in pressure on descent and ascent could cause the tooth to break. The solution for this problem is for scuba divers to have regular dental check-ups and have teeth filled when needed.

Regulator Mouth

The term “Regulator Mouth” is a common problem for scuba divers, usually encountered during an enjoyable dive trip to an exotic location with lots of scuba dives taking place. It is an aching feeling in the jaw hinge (mandibular joint) and associated muscles, and is caused by clamping down on the regulator mouthpiece for long periods of time. The muscles in the jaw are not used to this type of action and tire quickly.

The pain usually disappears a few days after the diving has finished, but can be annoying while on a scuba holiday.

This malady usually strikes a diver who doesn’t dive regularly and suddenly does a number of dives in quick succession.

The best way to address this problem is to relax the jaw when underwater and don’t clamp down too hard on the regulator mouthpiece.

The other solution is to do more scuba diving! This gets the jaw used to chomping down on a regulator mouthpiece for a few hours a day. If only all problems were this easy.

Other Dental Problems For Scuba Divers

Another mouth problem for scuba divers is abrasions from a poor fitting regulator mouthpiece. The solution is to use a mouthpiece of a softer material. Or trim off any sharp or annoying bits of the mouthpiece to prevent them chafing.

Pressure change, on both descent and ascent has a major impact on the teeth. Careful management of the problem is required to prevent dental problems for scuba divers.

thanks to Suite 101 and Bruce Iliff

Kathy Dowsett

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Monday, April 25, 2011

New York City - Diving in the City that Never Sleeps

On a nice summer weekend on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, you might expect to see a few joggers, a line for bagels and lox at Barney Greengrass, or maybe the guy who delivers the Times. It's no wonder I always get a few odd looks from the doormen who see me pushing a luggage cart filled with steel 120s, a dry suit, and a camera big enough for its own car seat down the sidewalk in the early morning.

New Yorkers are very familiar with our city's wildlife – the pigeons that have evolved the reflexes of a cab driver to work in heavy traffic, and the squirrels who hunt for discarded pretzels in Central Park. You would think we would understand that nature doesn't stop at Battery Park. But when I mention to any non-diver (or a typical Caribbean diver) that I like to dive locally, I usually get the same response: "You must be crazy. What is there to see? And even if there was anything, how can you see it through all that gunk?"

Even when I show them a few of the images on my iPhone, it's still hard for them to believe the Big Apple is sitting on the edge of a vibrant, thriving ecosystem in relatively clear water. The reason for this is the water most of us see on a daily basis is in the Hudson and East rivers. And while a public safety diver might be rightly proud of his ability to find a discarded shell casing in a silt bottom by feel alone, I prefer to leave those challenging river dives to the professionals.

Unless we dive, fish or boat, we might forget about the New York Bight, the triangle of relatively shallow ocean just past the five mile wide channel between Breezy Point in Queens and Sandy Hook in New Jersey, where Lower New York Bay empties into the Atlantic. This area is well appreciated by the local diving community for its thousands of shipwrecks; the Bight has been a major shipping channel for 500 years. But even in these circles, the focus tends to be on wrecks, exploration and artifacts. Marine life does occasionally figure into the dive plans on the local boats, but typically just those species that taste good with butter sauce!

While there aren't a lot of tourists from Bonaire or Sharm el-Sheikh coming to the Jersey Shore to experience our marine biodiversity, it doesn't take long to realize there is plenty to see here for the dedicated fish-spotter. Unlike wide angle photography, good close up images can be obtained with relatively inexpensive gear. By shooting subjects just a few inches from your lens port, and by bringing your own light with you, you can get images just as good as any from the Caribbean. Macro photographs aren't really affected by the limited ambient light, the lack of long distance visibility, and the presence of particulate matter that can cause backscatter.

Shipwrecks are densely populated communities of life that dot the floor of the seabed. The countless nooks and crannies of any sort of structure serve as the perfect habitat for the small creatures that form the basis of a much larger food chain. This is the concept behind the artificial reef programs, in which ships and other structures are sunk to provide shelter for small invertebrates and growing fish larvae. The small organisms attract larger fish who hunt them; making shipwrecks attractive to both divers and fishing boats alike. Indeed, one of the main entanglement hazards around our wrecks is monofilament fishing line or even nets. For this reason, be sure to bring at least two cutting devices to any such dive – a knife and a set of shears is best.

You can also find healthy marine life in the New York area without the need to wake up at 3 a.m. to schlep out to Long Island or New Jersey for a boat ride. There are a number of beach dives within reasonable driving distance. While the visibility is rarely as good as it is on the offshore wrecks, this is less of a problem if your goal is to find the little critters that inhabit the rocky structures scattered within a few yards of the shoreline. Since macro photography is far less dependant on visibility than is wide angle, you can enjoy a productive hunt for hours in relatively cloudy water if you know where to look and bring a good strobe.

One of my favorite beach dives (and the one closest to Manhattan) is Beach 8th street, in Far Rockaway, Queens, near JFK airport. Divers have been coming here for years, sharing the waters with the locals who fish from the pier. In addition to native species such as Black Sea Bass, Summer Flounder, Starfish, Mussels and Crabs, in the summer months you can find a number tropical fish who ride the Gulf Stream north along the Atlantic Coast. I have seen plenty of Spotfin Butterfly fish, as well as juvenile Snowy Grouper and Horned Blennies in this area.

While these waters offer terrific dives, several cautions must be observed. First, since the closing of the "Almost Paradise" facility in 2003, divers park on the street and enter the beach through a hole in the fence. This restaurant and diver hangout used to offer parking, beach access, rest rooms and hot showers for a price. Now the diving is free, but make sure to use the bathroom before you arrive – facilities at a nearby public park or housing complex may not be available.

Furthermore, the East Rockaway inlet is a tidal zone connecting the ocean to the Middle Bay waters that separate Long Beach from Long Island. That means diving is, for the most part, only possible at slack high tide when the swift current stops moving for an hour or so and the water is at its deepest, twice a day. In the past, some adventuresome divers would ride the current east to the Atlantic Beach Bridge and back by timing their entry just before the reversal; this clearly added another element of risk to diving in an active ship channel! These days, however, diving in the area around the bridge is not allowed due to heightened security after 9/11.

There are two high slacks a day, with tidal data published in many places online. Look at your work schedule and the tide tables, and figure out your best shot taking into consideration the time of day and traffic. Even then, on more than one occasion, I have driven my gear out to the inlet, just to scrub the dive because of poor visibility. While the visibility can be quite good, it is also very variable and there is no easy way of predicting it ahead of time.

The water is about 35-40 feet deep in mid channel, and the bottom slopes down from the water's edge on either side of the 300 yard wide inlet. Dive flags can alert boat traffic to your presence, but care should be taken to avoid surfacing anywhere but the shallow water near the beach and pier on the north shore. Navigation is easy as long as you are diving without current; just follow the slope to the north to get home. Because of the fishing activity in the area, make sure you have equipment to cut any potentially entangling fishing lines, as mentioned above.

Beach 8th street is clearly not a Caribbean resort, where easy diving is a stroll away and 24 hours a day. But it more than makes up for this by being available for the price of an air fill and a bridge toll, as well as the chance to fit a dive into a busy schedule after a day's work.

I end my local diving days by unloading my car outside my apartment, filling up the luggage cart with tanks, back plate and regulators, draping my dry suit over the bar. My neighbors sometimes ask me where I have been with all that gear. I reply "I just went out for a dip; it was such a nice day."

Thanks to Michael Rothschild
Guest Writer, Dive News Network

Kathy Dowsett

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Stunning video footage used in fight to save Bahama's sharks

NOAA agent counting confiscated shark fins.Image via Wikipedia

Regardless of how people feel about sharks, or underwater feeding operations that lure sharks in for the benefit of scuba-diving tourists, they're bound to appreciate the spectacular footage in the accompanying video, produced by Joe Romeiro.

It features renowned dive master Cristina Zenato at the center of a feeding session at Grand Bahama Island, and builds to a climax moment when Zenato takes a large shark into her lap and rubs its snout until it becomes so mesmerized that she's able to stand the predator by its snout on the palm of her hand (beginning at the 2:00 mark).

The video, posted Friday on YouTube, (22nd April/11) portrays Caribbean reef sharks as beautiful, graceful creatures that comprise a valued centerpiece attraction of island eco-tourism operations. Romeiro produced the video after learning these same sharks might soon fall victim to large-scale slaughter.
The Bahama Tribune reported recently that there are no laws to protect sharks from finning operations, and that at least one seafood company is considering expanding its cucumber export business on Andros Island to include the export of shark fins to Hong Kong.

"All those sharks could be killed," Romeiro complained.

Shark finning is carried out globally to satisfy demand, mostly in China, for shark-fin soup. Finning operations kill up to 100 million sharks per year, by some estimates, and imperil several shark species.

The waters around the Bahamas contain a robust population of Caribbean reef sharks, which have not yet been targeted. While expanded fishing operations might increase local employment they'd provide only a short-term economic boost, opponents of finning say, lasting only until the sharks were fished out.

Larry Cartwright, the Bahamas' minister of agriculture and marine resources, agreed that sharks ought to be protected but acknowledged that there is no official government position against finning, and that there are no legislative safeguards in place.

"I wouldn't say shark finning is not going to happen here because what's happening elsewhere I am sure will come this way eventually," Cartwright told the Tribune. "And when the time comes we will look into legislation."

Meanwhile, the Bahamas National Trust, in partnership with the Pew Environmental Group, has launched a campaign to create legislation that would ban finning, and nearly a dozen environmental groups, including the Nature Conservancy, have begun lobbying on behalf of the sharks.

With his video, entitled "Nina Salerosa," Romeiro has taken an artistic approach to the campaign. Since Friday (22nd April/11) it has been viewed by more than 15,000 people.

Thanks to Outdoors, action and adventure

Kathy Dowsett
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Turning Man into Fish – Scuba Diving Advances

The exploration of the Oceans is still a very new concept for humans. In the 1300s is when man started building snorkels and then in the 1700s air pumps were invented. It really wasn’t until 1943 when Emile Gagnan and Jacques Cousteau invented the modern regulator and improved diving suits. Recreational diving is just under 70 years old. As are society grows and our technology – the more we get to learn about the ocean and it’s wonders.

Come 2010 – an American inventor claims to have invented a suit that turns man into fish. How is this possible?

Inventor Arnold Lande, a retired American heart and lung surgeon, has patented a special suit that would allow humans to breathe “liquid air”. The scuba suit would allow divers to inhale highly-oxygenated perfluorocarbons (PFCs) – a type of liquid that can dissolve enormous quantities of gas. The liquid would be contained in an enclosed helmet that would replace all the air in the legs, nose and ear cavities.

The technology of liquid “breathing” has been tested. PFCs have been used to assist babies born prematurely in breathing and the U.S. Navy Seals experimented with this type of technology in the early 1980s.

“The first trick you would have to learn is overcoming the gag reflex,” explains Lande, “But once that oxygenated liquid is inside your lungs it would feel just like breathing air.” says Arnold Lande.

The CO2 that would normally exit our body when we breathe out, would be “scrubbed” from our blood by attaching a mechanical gill to the femoral vein in the leg.

By using oxygen suspended in liquid, divers would no longer have to worry about decompression sickness – the often fatal condition known as “the bends” which occurs when nitrogen dissolved in the blood under the immense pressures of deep water bubbles out as we rise. It could potentially allow divers to descend to far greater depths than is currently possible.

Currently the world record for the deepest scuba dive is just 318 meters (1043 ft) , accomplished in June of 2005 by South African diver Nuno Gomes. It actually took Gomes only 14 minutes to descend to that depth, but took him 12 hours to ascend to the surface. Had he ascended any quicker, he would likely have died from a condition called decompression sickness, or “the bends“.

Thanks to Scuba Diver Life

Kathy Dowsett

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Gold found by Mel Fisher treasure divers in Florida Keys

For years, scuba divers have been joining Mel Fisher Treasure Hunting Expeditions to experience what it’s like to be a treasure diver. Last week, several lucky participants got a first-hand thrill of a lifetime as the team recovered a 2-pound solid gold bar and 20 more silver coins on the Atocha wrecksite over the weekend. Andy Matroci, Captain of the Magruder, said the gold bar is 12 inches long.

Remarkably, this bar is unmarked, leading to speculation that it was being smuggled as contraband aboard the ship. Many of the Atocha gold bars previously found were marked with karat stamps indicating the purity of the gold and Spanish royal tax stamps, indicating the 20% tax had been paid on the bar.

This is the second major find by Mel Fisher’s Treasures this year. Earlier this year, an impressive 4-foot-long gold chain was just found on the Atocha site. The 55 gold links are each about 3/4 of an inch long. Attached to the main chain is a gold cross, a gold medallion and a black bead. The cross and medallion have traces of black enamel on them. The cross is about 2 inches long, 1 and 1/2 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick, with a Latin inscription around the edges. The medallion contains an image of the Virgin Mary on one side and a chalice on the other side.

thanks to Dive Wire

Kathy Dowsett
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Diving Barotrauma

Scuba diver. Found at Plongée sous-marine & ob...Image via Wikipedia

Barotrauma is physical damage to body tissues caused by a difference in pressure between an air space inside or beside the body and the surrounding fluid. In addition to humans, and in contrast with Avian lungs, bats suffer fatal barotrauma around wind farms.

Barotrauma typically occurs to air spaces within a body when that body moves to or from a higher pressure environment, such as when a SCUBA diver, a free-diving diver or an airplane passenger ascends or descends, or during uncontrolled decompression of a pressure vessel. Boyle's law defines the relationship between the volume of the air space and the ambient pressure.

Damage occurs in the tissues around the body's air spaces because gases are compressible and the tissues are not. During increases in ambient pressure, the internal air space provides the surrounding tissues with little support to resist the higher external pressure. During decreases in ambient pressure, the higher pressure of the gas inside the air spaces causes damage to the surrounding tissues if that gas becomes trapped.

Ear barotrauma

Barotrauma can affect the external, middle, or inner ear. Middle ear barotrauma (MEBT) is the most common being experienced by between 10% and 30% of divers and is due to insufficient equilibration of the middle ear. External ear barotrauma may occur on ascent if high pressure air is trapped in the external auditory canal either by tight fitting SCUBA equipment or ear wax. Inner ear barotrauma (IEBT) though much less common than MEBT shares a similar mechanism. Mechanical trauma to the inner ear can lead to varying degrees of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss as well as vertigo.


The sinuses similar to other air filled cavities are susceptible to barotrauma if their openings become obstructed. This can result in pain as well as epistaxis.

Mask squeeze

If a diver's mask is not equalized during descent the relative negative pressure can produce petechial hemorrhages in the area covered by the mask along with subconjunctival hemorrhages.

Pulmonary barotrauma

Pulmonary (lung) pressure damage in scuba divers is usually caused by breath-holding on ascent. The compressed gas in the lungs expands as the ambient pressure decreases causing the lungs to over expand and rupture unless the diver breathes out. The lungs do not sense pain when over-expanded giving the diver little warning to prevent the injury. This does not affect breath-hold skin divers as they bring a lungfull of air with them from the surface, which merely re-expands safely to near its original volume on ascent. The problem only arises if a breath of compressed gas is taken at depth, which will then expand on ascent to more than the lung volume. Pulmonary barotrauma may also be caused by explosive decompression of a pressurised aircraft.


When diving, the pressure differences needed to cause the barotrauma come from two sources:

* descending and ascending in water. There are two components to the surrounding pressure acting on the diver: the atmospheric pressure and the water pressure. A descent of 10 metres (33 feet) in water increases the ambient pressure by approximately the pressure of the atmosphere at sea level. So, a descent from the surface to 10 metres (33 feet) underwater results in a doubling of the pressure on the diver.

* breathing gas at depth from SCUBA equipment results in the lungs containing gas at a higher pressure than atmospheric pressure. So a free-diving diver can dive to 10 metres (33 feet) and safely ascend without exhaling, because the gas in the lungs had been inhaled at atmospheric pressure, whereas a SCUBA diver who breathes at 10 metres and ascends without exhaling has lungs containing gas at twice atmospheric pressure and is very likely to suffer life-threatening lung damage.

Avoidance and treatment

Diving barotrauma can be avoided by eliminating any pressure differences acting on the tissue or organ by equalizing the pressure. There are a variety of techniques:

* The air spaces in the ears, and the sinuses. The risk is burst eardrum. Here, the diver can use the Valsalva manoeuvre, to let air into the middle ears via the Eustachian tubes. Sometimes swallowing will open the Eustachian tubes and equalise the ears. See ear clearing.

* The lungs. The risk is pneumothorax. which is commonly called burst lung by divers. To equalise, always breathe normally and never hold the breath. This risk does not arise when snorkel diving from the surface, unless the snorkeller breathes from a high pressure gas source underwater, or from submerged air pockets.

* The air inside the usual eyes-and-nose diving mask. The main risk is bleeding around the eyes from the negative pressure[10] or orbital emphysema from higher pressures. Here, let air into the mask through the nose. Do not dive in eyes-only goggles as sometimes seen on land with industrial breathing sets.

* Air spaces inside a dry suit. The main risk is folds of skin getting pinched inside folds of the drysuit. Most modern drysuits have a tube connection to feed air in from the cylinder. Air must be injected on the descent and vented on the ascent.

Following barotrauma of the ears or lungs from diving the diver should not dive again until thoroughly cleared by a doctor, which can take many months.

Thanks to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kathy Dowsett

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Monday, April 18, 2011

A wakeup call on ocean degradation

GULF OF MEXICO (May 16, 2010) An oil containme...Image via Wikipedia

For Deb Castellana, a dive on a reef offshore from Palm Beach Florida in August 2009 was a wakeup call to the degradation of our oceans.

She had returned to re-explore the waters where she learned to scuba dive in the 1980s and went on to become a dive master, teaching the sport there. It is where the Gulf Stream comes closer to land than anywhere else in the United States, keeping the water warm and the underwater life such as coral washed. The reefs were healthier there than most places.

It would not be a happy homecoming.

“The difference in my reef was astounding. I saw bleached coral. When you are doing your ascent and the water is clear it looks like PVC plastic,” says Deb. “When you look closer it is dead coral – coral bleaching.”

There was not only less coral, but fewer desirable fish and a lot more of a troublesome species known as lionfish. Lionfish are native to the Red Sea and the Pacific. “They are very pretty and people had them in aquariums. But some people in Florida released them on the reef and they spread like wildfire. They eat everything on the reef. The pretty tropicals are gone. They (lionfish) have spread as far north as North Carolina. They’re all over the Bahamas and the Caribbean.”
On the positive side, says Deb, the goliath groupers have returned in great numbers. “I worked as a dive master there every day seven days a week for 10 years and I saw one goliath grouper in 2,000 dives. They protected them because they were so rare. The one I saw was in cave and was the size of a Volkswagen. It was amazing. I saw one and never saw another until 2009, when they were all over the place – on all the wrecks and in schools.”

But overall, what she saw on that dive alarmed her. Shortly afterward, she quit her job and devoted herself full-time to promoting environmental awareness.

There was no shortage of causes to address, but probably none more urgent than the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year. She found a role with Sylvia Earle, the first female chief scientist for the National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Administration and also an explorer in residence at National Geographic.

“When the Deepwater Horizon blew up they called Sylvia. They call her ‘Her Deepness.’ She is ocean royalty. Sylvia has been my idol for 30 years,” says Deb.
Sylvia had worked with many ocean conservancy groups and was looking for someone to write a blog. Authorities were trying to keep the media away from the spill area but the story needed to be told. Deb observed from planes and boats the horrific impact of the spill on the environment and wrote about it on both her blog and Sylvia’s.

“We really don’t know how many sharks or whales were killed in that disaster,” Deb says. “There was one pod of resident Orcas in Gulf and it looks like they survived.”
Sylvia’s work also emphasizes the positive. For example, she identifies “hope spots” in the oceans that are still pristine enough to save and reconstruct the healthy ocean environment of 200 years ago. Google Earth records these “hope spots” on its site.

“Sylvia went to Google and said most of the planet is ocean. Since then it is unbelievable what Google has done. You can zoom down and it takes you underwater.”
Deb, who lives in California, has also contributed in determining the status of sea lions, whale sharks and herring in the Gulf of California. “I found that the herring population had collapsed from over-fishing. The Chinese were coming in there and wiped them out. But the herring have come back and the sea lions, too.”
Outside San Francisco’s Golden Gate is the Farallones Marine Sanctuary designated in 1981 to protect the rich biological diversity of the area off the rocky Farallon islands 20 miles offshore from the mainland. Among the 25 endangered species in that area are blue and humpback whales. The sanctuary is run as a non-profit organization and has been a success.

“You would not believe the whales,” says Deb, adding that they see at least three blue whales in those waters, the largest creatures on Earth. “We’re not sure if they’re coming back or not.”

Deb says Oakland is one of the busiest shipping ports in North America and this can be a problem in October when “the water is boiling with sea life.” Last year, a ship came in with a whale wrapped around its bow. At Boston, a similar problem was avoided by changing three traffic routes so ships can stay clear of whales.
Another group protecting sea life is the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which patrols in the Antarctica south of New Zealand where there is a southern ocean whale sanctuary. The group’s ships provide a presence to deter poachers in an area where there is otherwise no enforcement.

A world traveller, Deb once lived in Sweden and was impressed with the Swedes’ dedication to environmental conservation. So clean is the water now “they go salmon fishing on their lunch breaks in middle of Stockholm. When they had the very first Earth Day the people in Sweden took it very seriously.”

Deb’s passion for the ocean began with her love of sailing when she lived in New York. “But for half the year my boat was on blocks and I couldn’t sail.” So she moved to Florida, sold her sailboat and bought dive gear. “I immediately became addicted to it. I couldn’t believe if you are underwater you could swim right up to a sea turtle.”

That discovery, in turn, led to her growing awareness of the importance of conserving oceans and the sea life they support.

To that end, she is now working with the Coast Guard in San Francisco to ensure people get hazardous material training and instruction on how to capture and handle birds covered with oil from a spill in the ocean.

“When we had the last spill, well meaning people would start chasing them and they’d fly away and die. We need all hands on deck because an oil spill could happen five minutes from now.”

Kathy Dowsett
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Get a Back-Up Mask

cairns_snorkeltrip_11Image by Paleontour via Flickr

Back Up Masks Can Save A Dive and Prevent a Dangerous Situation!!!!

Imagine my horror as I watched my student's mask spring a hairline crack and begin to fill with water. Kneeling in 35 feet of water, he looked rather confused as he attempted to clear his newly-purchased mask with no success. This was rapidly becoming a dangerous situation-- and it was his very first dive!

The crack in the mask grew bigger and it looked as if the mask lens was about to go. I reached into my pocket, whipped out my back-up mask, and signaled for him to switch it for his mask. He pulled on my back-up mask just in time, and the broken mask fell apart in my hand, not on his face. I am still frightened to think how the new diver could have reacted had the mask unexpectedly come apart on his face. Having the right emergency gear can mean the difference between a slight annoyance and an accident. For me, a back-up mask is required gear on every dive.

Back-up masks help to avert dangerous situations. We all practice swimming without a mask in the Open Water Certification Course, but how calm do you really think you would be if your mask suddenly came apart during a dive? Would you be calm enough to make a slow and controlled ascent to the surface? Would you be able to make the required safety stop from a deep dive? Realistically, I doubt it. Without a mask, reading your depth gauge or computer to determine your ascent rate and depth would be nearly impossible. Checking for boat traffic before surfacing would also be difficult. Perhaps you could find your buddy to help you. Still, do you want to go through a 3 to 5 minute ascent with no mask? Most open water instructors I know would not be very clear-headed in this situation. I imagine that most recreational divers would simply panic.

A diver carrying a back up mask can also help out a buddy with a mask failure. Dive guides and instructors, in particular, should carry a back up mask to be able to handle situations in which a clients mask breaks underwater. True, a single back up mask will not fit all divers, but a standard-sized mask will fit most people well enough to prevent them from inhaling water, and to keep them in control long enough to call the dive group or buddies together and signal an ascent if necessary.

Back-up masks are useful even in non-emergency situations. When properly prepared, a diver can trade out an annoyingly foggy or ill-fitting mask (learn how to test a mask for fit) for a back-up mask while underwater. On the dive boat, having a back up mask can save a dive if a diver's personal mask breaks or is forgotten on shore. I have used my back-up mask for each of these situations.

Purchasing and carrying a back-up mask may be a hassle, but consider the alternatives-- panic, quick ascents, annoyance, and missing a dive. Back-up masks do not need to be bulky or expensive; they just need to work. Most Buoyancy Compensators (BCs) have pockets that will easily hold a back-up mask without inconveniencing the diver.

In recreational diving, alternate air sources are necessity because we need to be able to breathe to safely reach the surface. I would argue that back-up masks are also a necessity because we need them to be able to read our gauges to ascend at a safe rate in a safe area. Get a back-up mask, put it in your BC pocket and forget about it. One day you or your buddy will be glad that you did.

Thanks to Natalie Gibb of

Kathy Dowsett
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Şahİka’s under ice freediving record seems unbreakable

free diving with monofinImage via Wikipedia

Turkish freediver Şahika Encümen’s record seems to be unbreakable as even internationally renowned athletes’ attempts were fruitless when they could not get close to toppling the 26-year-old.

World-famous record-holding divers about a month ago attempted to break her record 110-meter swim under ice in Austria’s Lake Weissensee, the largest natural ice rink in Europe, Encümen told the Anatolia news agency. She outperformed the men’s 108-meter record and women’s 70-meter record in horizontal diving.

“Sweden’s Annelie Pompe, who holds several records in women’s diving, and Switzerland’s Peter Colat, who is known to be one of the world’s best divers, attempted to beat my under ice freediving record, but they failed. I was proud that these two athletes, who are among the world’s best freedivers, could not outperform me,” she said.

After breaking the men’s 108-meter record, the diver hopes to reach greater depths. “Naturally, many athletes will continue trying to beat my record. I want to maintain this sweet competition. Many authorities think my record is hard to break, which makes me happy. From now on, I will focus on other record attempts,” she said.

The Mares freediver aspires to break a world record in vertical diving, swimming as deep as possible. “I will start working soon for a world record attempt in the fixed weight category. In that record attempt, there will be no elevator or rope support, so I can say a very hard one awaits me. My goal is 70 meters, but the world record belongs to US diver Tanya Streeter with 67 meters, which means I will have the new record once I dive 68 meters. After my recent record, people expect more from me, but I don’t feel any pressure. I won’t let those who believe in me down.”

Also an athlete on the Turkish national diving team, Ercümen has asked Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to sponsor her just like he does Yasemin Dalkılıç, Turkey’s freediving world champion.

“Of course I expect the same support from our prime minister. Everybody knows about his interest in this sport. Many companies have sponsored my record attempts so far. I couldn’t have managed to break most of them without sponsor support,” she explained.

Ercümen, who graduated from Başkent University’s department of nutrition and dietetics, says she cannot work in that field due to her heavy training program. “In an attempt to make Turkey’s name heard more in the world, I train a lot and can’t spare time for a job. We have started talks with the companies who want to sponsor my record attempts in vertical diving. I hope I will get the support we expect from both our prime minister and the companies.”

Speaking about Turkey’s place on the world diving map, Ercümen said: “We are leaping forward in the world in sports. We are gaining very important achievements in all branches. I do my best to maintain the same trend of success in diving. I believe that as Turkish athletes, we will be mentioned with world records in this branch.”

Turkey’s diving champion Şahika

Born Jan. 16, 1985 in Çanakkale, Ercümen is a dietitian, freediver and freediving coach by profession. According to her official web site, she has won more than 100 medals in national and international swimming and underwater competitions since 1998.

In 2003, she became the Turkish champion in pallet swimming in the 800-meter and 400-meter categories and in the underwater navigation competition. Her freediving team also won the championship for three consecutive years, starting in 2003. Her underwater hockey team won a domestic title in 2006, the same year she broke a freediving record in Turkey.

The following year she improved her Turkish record in freediving and also won the domestic championship with her freediving and underwater hockey teams. In 2008, her underwater hockey team placed third in a European competition and she won the Turkish championship with her freediving team.

She became the Turkish champion individually in freediving in 2009, while improving her domestic record in freediving again. This year, she broke the world record under ice with her 110-meter swim in Austria.

Thanks to Today's Zaman

Kathy Dowsett
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Friday, April 1, 2011

SS Californian: Could They Have Saved Titanic Lives?

zdjęcie przedstawia statek SS Californian.Image via Wikipedia

Debate surrounding the location of SS Californian on the night of April 14, 1912 is still prevalent. Did Californian’s crew see Titanic and ignore signals for help, or was the ship too far away?

Californian was a cargo vessel that departed from London on April 5 and was en route to Boston, Massachusetts. On April 14, 1912 Captain Stanley Lord ordered that the engines be stopped as the ship encountered an icy field. Californian stopped for the night at 10:21 P.M. and would resume voyage in the morning. Around 11:00 P.M. Captain Lord saw another vessel in the distance but was confident the Ship was too small to be Titanic.

Around 12:45 A.M. on April 15 Californian’s second officer saw a “flash of light,” soon to be followed by another. The “flashes of light” turned out to be the white rockets shot off by Titanic. Californian’s second officer notified the Captain that he saw 8 white rockets, but he took no action. Various crewmen on Californian gazed at the horizon until they could no longer see the Ship’s lights, unaware that Titanic had just sunk.

The debate about Californian’s exact location on that night continues. Captain Lord claimed his ship was 19 ½ miles away from the location Titanic reported in their distress signals. Experts speculate that if this were true, crew on Californian would not have been able to see the white rockets.

thanks to the Titanic Store online

Kathy Dowsett
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The Problem of Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are a true menace to our ecosystems and our waste diversion goals. Barely recyclable, almost all of the 400 plastic bags used per second in the state are discarded. Once discarded, they either enter our landfills or our marine ecosystem.

People think of plastic bags as being free. Instead, they actually cost taxpayers millions every year. In San Francisco alone, City officials estimate that they spend $8.5 million annually to deal with plastic bag litter. That equates to around 17 cents for every bag distributed in the city. Additionally:

* It costs the state $25 million annually to manage plastic bag pollution.
* Public agencies in California spend in excess of $303 million annually in litter abatement.
* Southern California cities have spent in excess of $1.7 billion in meeting Total Maximum Daily Loads for trashed in impaired waterways.
* Cities and recyclers spend incalculable amounts removing plastic bags from their recyclables stream, where they jam machinery and add to the manual labor costs of recycling.

At least 267 species have been scientifically documented to be adversely affected by plastic marine debris and it is estimated to kill over 100,000 marine mammals and turtles each year. Plastic bags are considered especially dangerous to sea turtles, who may mistake them for jellyfish, a main food source. 86% of all known species of sea turtles have had reported problems of entanglement or ingestion of marine debris. Plastic bags that enter our marine environment eventually break down into small fragments.

Plastic bags, which are made from natural gas or oil, consume an energy equivalent of thousands of barrels of oil a day just to meet California's consumption. Numerous recent international, national, state and local reports have called for the banning or drastic reduction of plastic bags due to their environmental damage. Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environmental Program, recently said "there is simply zero justification for manufacturing [plastic bags] any more, anywhere."

Thanks to Californians Against Waste

Kathy Dowsett
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