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February 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 44, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the February, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

A Whale of a Time. The BBC reports that marine biologist Nan Hauser claims a 50,000- pound (22,700kg) humpback whale protected her from a tiger shark during a recent research expedition in the Cook Islands. She believes it could be the first case on record of a humpback protecting a human, although there was no evidence that the shark in the area might have attacked her. However, she had a great time romping with the whale, with it picking her up and moving her around.

Diver Dies in Crocodile Attack. Saltwater crocodiles have reactions 20 times faster than a man; can outrun a racehorse over a short distance; are so aggressive they will kill and eat another crocodile they meet in their territory; they can jump out of the water up to their hind legs -- and they want to eat you. A 20-year-old male diver died in a crocodile attack near Barasipo village about 60 feet (20m) from the shore in the Vonavona Lagoon in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands on January 5th. No other information was available at the time of writing. (Source: Fiji Times)

Nine Ocean Deaths off Maui. And that was during just two weeks ending January 29. According to reports, at least eight were snorkelers, two of whom were wearing the dangerous full-face snorkel mask. We covered the dangers of that mask in our October article, Are Some Snorkels and Snorkel Masks Death Traps?

Snakes Alive! A rare venomous yellow-bellied sea snake found slithering on the sand at Newport Beach, CA, in January was the third reported in as many years and probably indicates that as the oceans warm, tropical species are moving further north. Are sea snakes swimming off the coast of Southern California going to be the new norm?

They're Gonna Need Bigger Tanks! Divers in Mexico have discovered what is believed to be the world's longest flooded cave system in the Yucatan. At an estimated 216 miles long, the Gran Acuifero Maya project could shed light on Mayan history.

There's Nothing in This Cave Worth Dying For. So reads a warning sign yet divers still get drawn to the deep cave site of the Eagle's Nest at Weeki Wachee. This time it was 53-year-old David Brannon of Dover, FL who lost his life, the twelfth person to do so. The emergency call came around noon on Saturday 13th. January. The cause of the accident is yet to be determined.

Hyperbaric Facility Reopens. After a 6-month hiatus for want of a suitably qualified doctor, the University of Hawaii Hyperbaric Treatment Center in Honolulu is now open provisionally with the plan for it to be fully staffed by March.

Shark Charities Thank President Trump! Market Watch reports that Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have been flooded with donations after it was revealed that Stormy Daniels, the alleged paramour of Donald Trump, claimed that Trump had told her, "I would never donate to any charity that helps sharks. I hope all the sharks die." Captain Paul Watson said Sea Shepherd had received quite a few donations from benefactors who specifically mentioned Trump's comments.

Saipan Needs a Recompression Chamber. And to get one, the governor of the Northern Mariana Islands signed a bill that requires all scuba dive shop operators to impose a $10 surcharge per tank to fund and operate a staffed hyperbaric facility.

Yum, Yum Yellow an Old Diver's Tale. A paper Microspectrophotometric evidence for cone monochromancy in sharks belies the myth that sharks are attracted to a diver's yellow fins. The Shark Research Institute tells us that experiments by Hart et al. tested the isolated photoreceptors taken from 17 different species of shark, measuring the wavelength of light each is able to detect. They used microspectrophotometry. Each shark species was found to have only a single rod photoreceptor that captured a single wavelength of light, and no shark had more than a single cone photoreceptor, meaning they see only contrast.

Incredible Shrinking Fish. Researchers at the University of Western Australia have examined more than 600 fish from seven species across the Rowley Shoals and Scott Reefs in Western Australia and discovered that fish that live without fear of sharks have different body shapes. In fact, their eyes and fins are up to half their normal size, as the need to detect and escape from predators has decreased. Shark populations have been decimated in recent years due to the increased demand for shark fin soup.

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