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March 2001 Vol. 27, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the March, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Torpedo tanks:An explosion at Parrot’s Landing in Grand Cayman resulted in criminal negligence charges against the proprietor. Evidently, the shop was storing compressed air in a WWII-vintage torpedo housing not designed for that purpose. An employee was filling tanks when the housing exploded, decapitating him and injuring other bystanders. Scuttlebutt has it that when the business had changed hands, the prior owner had suggested that the storage arrangement was unsafe, but they changed nothing. The new Parrot’s Landing management was charged with criminal negligence, but acquitted in December after a 6- week trial. The Cayman Islands Watersports Operators Association reports that many of these storage torpedoes,’ were apparently distributed throughout the Caribbean and around the world in the 70s and 80s.

Well, they are torpedoes: In Osaka, Japan on February 9, what seemed to some like a terrorist attack, was actually a dive tank smashing through the window of an auto showroom and damaging five new luxury cars. Believing there was only a little air left, the owner of the tank, who was on the street, quickly opened the valve, but the jet of compressed air packed enough wallop to send his tank “high up into the sky as if it were a loose jet engine,” police said. Seconds later, the cylinder crashed through the show room window, crushed a metal table, and damaged cars with glass and metal shrapnel. People in the showroom were showered with shattered glass, but escaped uninjured.

Thirty days of fame: The Coral Reef Alliance ( CORAL) is once again soliciting photos from amateur photographers for their 2002 calendar. You need to get your shot from marine parks and other protected coral reefs where people are taking action to protect reefs. If your photo is selected to represent a month, you’ll get 25 copies of the calendar and your photo may become part of the United Nations Coral Reef Image Bank. CORAL’s calendar is surely the most widely circulated underwater calendar anywhere, so take a shot at getting your 30 days of fame. For more information visit or write: CORAL, 2014 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94704-1117, 510- 848-0110 or 888- CORAL-REEF; fax 510-848-3720.

Chapbook corrections :We heard from Julie Trussell at Crystal Divers in Fiji, who disputed an item in the Chapbook, saying that travelers “don’t receive a 20% discount if they book direct with us. Our rates are the same on the web page as they are to travel agents and wholesalers. The last thing we wish to do is undercut the travel professionals we work with.” On behalf of traveling divers, I probably should have edited out the comment. While I don’t know about Crystal Divers, there are dive operations and resorts — and certainly business hotels — that will give you a break if you book directly. Travel agents don’t like it and will use it as an excuse not to work with certain places. So, while you might not be able to cut a deal with Crystal Divers, there’s no harm in asking others.

Boiled Shrimp: Snapping shrimp (Alpheus hetero chaelis) found on tropical coral reefs create balls of plasma almost as hot as the surface of the Sun, a Dutch researcher has found. They have an outsized claw that fires jets of water at their prey. The noise they make pervades the ocean, and is generated not by the clicking claws, but by tiny bubbles in the water jet that expand and then collapse violently. When the bubbles collapse, any gas or water vapor inside them is compressed, which can raise its temperature to startling levels — around 5000o C. These extreme conditions only last for around 200 picoseconds, however, and are most common three millimeters from the tip of the shrimp’s claw (New Scientist, 14 October, 2000).

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