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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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June 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 40, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the June, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Can Big Fish Predict Hurricanes? More than 750 sharks, tarpon, tuna and billfish, fitted with satellitelinked tags, are providing scientists at the University of Miami with data on temperature and salinity in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, because they think that info could be used to improve hurricane forecasts. Three years ago, the scientists discovered a remarkable pattern: The fish remained in waters with temperatures around 79 degrees, the minimum required for tropical systems to develop, and many swam into waters around tropical systems, which churned up nutrients and made hunting easier. That's when scientists realized fish could provide accurate ocean temperatures, which could be fed into computer models forecasters use to develop tropical predictions. The National Hurricane Center is noncommittal, saying it does not expect the fish to have "a significant influence on hurricane forecasting."But the Miami scientists say tag data shows many fish swam directly into the paths of storms, including Hurricane Katrina. We'll see how active the fish are this year: Federal forecasters expect a slower-than-usual Atlantic hurricane season.

Divers Facing Hefty Fines for Wreck Treasures. Two British divers were hauled into court after failing to declare $400,000 worth of historic treasure they plundered from shipwrecks. Over the course of 13 years, Edward Huzzey, 55, and David Knight, 52, dived off the Dover coast and used explosives and professional cutting equipment to salvage valuables from nine submerged vessels, includng German submarines from WWI, and a ship carrying East India Company cargo in 1807. Their haul contained eight bronze cannons, worth $20,000 each, three propellers, ingot, copper, lead and zinc. But they failed to inform the Maritime and Coastal Agency's Receiver of Wrecks about their finds. The pair pleaded guilty to 19 charges, and they now face hefty fines, with maximum penalties of $4,500 for each undeclared find, or the risk that they must pay the rightful owners twice the value of the items recovered. This is the first time the agency has brought a case to court for divers failing to declare their haul; Huzzey and Knight will be sentenced on July 2.

The Deepest-Diving Mammal on the Planet Is ... the Cuvier's beaked whale, which is able to reach a depth of nearly 1.9 miles. In another record-breaker, this type of whale has held its breath for two hours and 17 minutes. Those figures surpass the 1.5-mile and two-hour dives of elephant seals, which had previously held those records among mammals. The results come from 3,700 hours of diving data on eight tagged whales. The creatures' average dives measured almost 0.9 miles, and they usually lasted more than an hour. How do they do it? Their muscles are packed with a protein called myoglobin, which lets them store vast amounts of oxygen. They also have rib cages that can fold down, collapsing the lungs and reducing air pockets. But exactly how Cuvier's beaked whales manage to avoid high-pressure nervous syndrome, a neurological and physiological diving disorder with symptoms ranging from tremors to decreased mental performance, is still unknown.

Let's Give Memory Cards More Credit. We curse them for corrupt files and irretrievable photographs, but sometimes they perform above and beyond. Paul Burgoyne's camera went down with the ship while he was sailing from Vancouver to his summer home in Tahsis, B.C., two years ago. Understandably, he never expected to see those photos again. But last month, Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre students discovered the camera while doing research dives off Aguilar Point, B.C. It was in bad shape and covered in multiple marine species, but when the researchers plugged in the now-dry 8GB Lexar Platinum, it worked right away. They posted a photo on Twitter and hoped for the best. A Bamfield coast guard station member who helped rescue Burgoyne two years prior recognized him from the photo and got in touch. After two years in frigid Pacific waters, the card, which included priceless photos of his family scattering his parents' ashes in a Canadian lake, is making its way back to its owner.

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