Snippets

Snippets…


Jurassic-era fossils show evidence of bends


If it looks like a fish and swims like a fish, it must be a fish. Right? What if it first appeared during the Triassic period (180 to 220 million years ago), had eyes that measured as much as a foot across (for seeing at great depths), and shows evidence of bends?

Dr Ryosuke Motani and his team from the University of California Museum of Palaeontology at Berkely studied fossils of ichthyosaurs, sea going reptiles which had lived during the Jurassic period. The research revealed evidence of deep diving by the creature, and the fossilised bones showed evidence of bends, indicating that they were diving to depths of as much as 1,640 feet (500 metres).

Palaeontologists are able to determine the presence of bends because, ‘like an earthquake, bends cause zones of collapse that are very easy to spot in joints.’



Drink diving

A diver in England went on a diving trip and took a few cans of Red Bull which she consumed steadily throughout the day. After her second dive she started showing signs of a neurological bend and was airlifted by helicopter to a recompression chamber. The cause of the bend was established as dehydration caused by drinking too much Red Bull and not enough water. So, Red Bull really does give you wings!



Drugs to reduce DCS

The US Navy has taken out a patent on a biochemical decompression supplement called BioDec which does not exist yet. The pill could be helping to prevent recreational diving accidents in just a few years.

The US Navy’s experiments with hydrogen-metabolising bacteria suggest the danger of receiving a DCS hit can be reduced by 50 per cent. The theory has already been tested on pigs and rats. The problem is to find a bacterium that is capable of eating up a useful amount of nitrogen in a matter of minutes, and can be packed into an easy-to-swallow pill.



Keiko ‘walks’ out of harms way

Keiko, the orca star of the hit film Free Willy, took his first ‘ocean walk’ recently to avoid being in the vicinity of the dynamite detonated for harbour construction in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. Keiko demonstrated that he is ready for this phase of his reintroduction training by following a boat four miles from the harbour mouth off of the coast of the Westman Islands. The walk lasted slightly more than two hours after which Keiko returned to the enclosed bay in Klettsvik Harbor, his home since his arrival in Iceland in September 1998. The ocean walks, where Keiko follows a designated boat out to sea, are designed to allow Keiko to acclimatise to the open ocean environment.

Keiko was captured in Icelandic waters more than 20 years ago at the age of two. Taken to perform in the marine park industry, Keiko was first sent to Canada for a few years and then transported to Mexico City. Languishing in an inadequate facility, Keiko nevertheless became the star of the hit film, Free Willy where more than 1.2 million individuals, mostly children, worldwide learned of his plight and demanded, through an outpouring of letters, emails, drawings and donations that he be set free.



Probing a sea puzzle

The recovery of a pioneering Confederate sub may reveal why it sank minutes after its great triumph. The Confederate submarine HL Hunley rammed a harpoon-like torpedo into the USS Housatonic, one of the Union ships blockading Charleston harbour on 17 February 1864. As the Hunley backed away under the power of its handcranked propeller, it triggered the torpedo’s charge, sinking the Yankee warship in about three minutes. Minutes later the Hunley unexpectedly sank, creating a mystery that has endured to this day.

Now it may finally be solved. Discovered in only nine metres of water some seven kilometres offshore, the Hunley’s remains will be hoisted from their muddy grave, if all goes well.

Although tilted on its starboard side, it appears largely intact except for a 90 cm hole in its riveted iron hull. Because both hatches were sealed, it probably still holds the skeletons of its captain and eight-man crew.

The Hunley, completed in July 1863, was despatched to Charleston where it sank twice on earlier trips, killing 13 men including one of its sponsors, Horace L Hunley, for whom it was named. It was nicknamed the ‘Peripatetic Coffin’, a fitting name as it was only 120cm wide and just over 120cm high, crewmen had to sit hunched, single file, each operating a crank attached to the propeller. Top speed was 4 knots.



Save Whale Sharks

Continual illegal hunting of whale sharks for fins and meat is being reported in the waters of the Philippines, Indonesia and Bangladesh. In 1998 there were reports of more than 1,000 whale sharks killed in offshore India. This crisis shows signs of moving towards Thai teritorial waters. ‘Save Whale Sharks’ is a Thai conservation group dedicated to the study and protection of whale sharks. They are currently seeking donations to assist with getting whale sharks listed as the sixteenth protected animal in Thailand enabling them to peacefully inhabit Thai territorial waters. See their website for more information:

www.WhaleSharkThai.com



Antiquities recovered from seabed

Pharaonic statues and sphinxes as well as Byzantine coins have been found in the undersea remains of ancient cities off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast. The artefacts were found in the underwater vestiges of Herakleum and Menouthis, off the town of Canopus, just east of Alexandria in the Nile delta.

A team of divers led by French undersea explorer Frank Goddio discovered the treasures during two years of exploration and excavation. The finds included statues, sphinxes and columns from ancient Egypt, some dating from the 26th dynasty (7BC), and the 30th dynasty (4BC). The diving team also found coins from the Byzantine and Islamic eras. Monouthis and Herakleum were submerged


more than 1000 years ago, and their ruins lay in five to 10 metres of water, 6 km off Alexandria. The cities were legendary for their wealth and arts as well as their many temples dedicated to the gods Serapis, Isis and Osiris.

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