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April 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 41, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Belize, British Virgin Islands, Hawaii

a KKK leaderís resort, a dive shopís faulty rental gear

from the April, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The Ku Klux Klan on Ambergris Key. Over the years, several Undercurrent readers have stayed at the Seven Seas Resort, on Belize's Ambergris Caye. Let's hope never again. It seems that a fellow named Bill Wilkinson, who was once reviled across America when he served as Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan from 1975 to 1984, owns this little run-down tourist resort. As the Daily Mail reported on March 17, "Wilkinson organized hundreds of marches across America to stir up racial hatred . . . He set up a para-military-style training camp to equip Klansmen with the combat skills needed in the event of a 'race war'. . . Then in 1984, Wilkinson resigned from the organization, left America for Belize and acquired the Seven Seas Resort . . . But the unsuspecting guests at Seven Seas know nothing of the dark past of the resort's owner . . . Tanned Wilkinson spends his days milling around the dated property chatting with guests or taking a dip in the swimming pool . . . Bizarrely, Wilkinson seems convivial with the local black population. A front desk worker told the Daily Mail, 'Mr. Bill doesn't bother us too much, he lets us run the hotel. He lives in one of the condos on the second floor and comes in and out, he spends a lot of time on his computer.' The Belizian workers have some knowledge of their bosses' controversial past as the head of the KKK, but seem to have little understanding of the power and influence he wielded all those years ago . . . News reports in 1978 say Wilkinson was deported from Britain after trying to start a KKK movement there . . . In astonishing 37-year-old photos, Wilkinson is seen at a cross-burning ceremony in a farmer's field in the English countryside . . . According to Wilkinson, he chose to come to Belize 'to do scuba diving and fishing.'" Read the entire story and see the photos at Wizard-pictured-time-vanished-America-1984-paradise-holiday-resort-owns-country-tiny-whiteminority. html

More about Kona, Hawaii. Reader Lynda Durfee (Alexandria, VA) says she has to take issue with our article about Kona Diving Company in the March issue of Undercurrent. "Seems the reporter didn't do his/ her homework before arriving in Hawaii. The diver should have contacted the shop regarding transportation and gear storage before booking the trip. I've done the manta dive several times (with Jack's and from the Aggressor), and the signature dive is always preceded by a twilight dive at a nearby dive site. The first dive gives the divers a chance to check their weights, gear, etc., and for the divemasters, to note those who might have problems on the manta dive. Also, if you're cold on the first dive, you'll need to add a hood, gloves, vest, etc. Unless your writer was promised a 'meal,' I wouldn't be complaining about the food. Most dive boats provide just snacks. If the diver had checked ahead of time, he/she would have known there would be four hours between the morning and night dives, and planned accordingly. These snarky comments marred what was otherwise a detailed report on the underwater topography and critters. By the way, the snorkelers don't get in the way of the divers. In fact, all those lights shining down from the surface make it even better for the divers kneeling on the bottom."

Lee Little Haponski (Austin, TX) raves about the Black Water Dive offered by Big Island Divers in early March. "We got to the dock around 9 a.m. as the manta divers returned, and it was 10 a.m. before we entered the water. We had the maximum of six divers plus one divemaster and the captain. They require divers to have at least 50 total dives. The protocol is three divers on each side of the boat, clipped to a 40-foot-long line; each diver enters off the stern, accompanied by the divemaster. Timed for up to 50 minutes, the hunt is on for the small, deepwater dwellers that migrate into the shallower waters at night to feed. I find it a thrill to watch the strange, small, translucent jellies, shrimp and worms floating and zipping around the black waters above the 6,000-foot-deep trench just off the Kona coast. Watch the Jack's Dive Locker Black Water dive video on YouTube for a good preview. Sharks often show up just to check out the action. We had a black tip and one or two gray reefs circle around a few times below us." ( )

Have Braces on Your Teeth? Lee Haponski adds, "I planned to check out how diving with braces on my teeth works. I took a new Trident comfort-bite mouthpiece, which they happily put on my rental regulator even though they use the same mouthpiece on the rental gear. It works great and had no discomfort from my teeth."

S/V Promenade in the British Virgin Islands. Veronica Harding (Valrico, FL), onboard in March, says the Promenade is a great way to experience the best of BVI diving. "She's a comfortable 65-foot trimaran with five passenger cabins for 10 passengers. The three aft cabins share two heads/showers between them. The beds are very comfortable, but the cabins are small. The public areas, such as the cockpit and salon, are large, airy and well appointed. Meals were wonderful . . . We were fortunate to have between five and seven crew members, depending on the day, for only seven of us passengers. Divers ranged from beginners to one doing her 1,000th dive. They always had two guides in the water to ensure the experienced divers didn't have to come up early due to beginners low on air. Once they saw that some of us were experienced, competent divers, we could have gone off on our own, but why would we want to when we had a local guide who led but let us go entirely at our own pace? Lobstering was my husband's focus, and Captain Chad got us to a spot that yielded enough lobster for dinner for the entire boat. It's a point of pride of his to find spots that are seldom or never dived by others, which made for some very pretty and interesting dives. The exit is set up nicely as well, with the ladder extending far down into the water. I have bad knees, so the crew insisted on taking my gear once I was on the swim deck so I didn't have to climb higher. This boat is all about service! The British Virgin Islands is generally not about big animals, though we did see a couple of whales breaching while we were under sail. Undiscovered spots aside, we did dive the iconic RMS Rhone . . . The crew made sure that at least three daily dives were available, including a night dive. The other entertainment options are numerous and varied -- floats, kayaks, trips to uninhabited islands, fishing, a dinghy ashore to visit iconic bars, you name it." ( )

Problems with Dive Aruba. Reader Damien Gambill (Salt Lake City, UT), a PADI master instructor, sent a newly certified couple to Dive Aruba in December, and they had all sorts of problems with rental gear, which, as Damien points out, really shouldn't happen at any operation. His student, Keven Godfrey, says, "My wife, Penny, and I went on a two-tank dive with Clive of Dive Aruba. Let's say I am thankful for our training. My pressure gauge stuck at 500 psi, and I ran out of air at 50 feet. I had to get to Penny quick and grab her air. It also worried me when Clive wanted us to start back up at 300 psi, when I know getting back on the boat still with 500 is safer. My BC also had one of the buckles torn off and just tied on; thus, I could not adjust it, so it impaired my ability to breathe . . . The dive computer Damien sold me said no dive for four hours, but when I asked Clive, he said, 'Oh, you're fine to dive again.' I was going to dive again, but I had problems with his equipment again, so I aborted. Clive rushed us and did not explain much or give us adequate time to check our gear. We had another two-tank dive planned for Thursday, but cancelled it." Of course, the cautionary note here is to refuse to take any rental gear that isn't fully operable, like the BC (that wouldn't help for the pressure gauge) and insist on proper instruction for the new equipment. By providing faulty gear and rushing his customers, this operator lost a lot of business.

- - Ben Davison

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