Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Stinging Fire Coral

Fire corals are so called because of their powerful
stinging hairs or nematocysts. These are used primarily
for defence against fish like parrotfish which would
otherwise nibble the coral. However, they are strong
enough to injure divers who brush their skin against
them, causing burning and itching. If this happens
rinse with seawater and apply vinegar or methylated
alcohol on the affected area. In a severe case
anti-histamines can help, but seek medical advice.

Colonies of fire coral are extremely important in building
coral reefs. However, they are not true corals. They are,
in fact, hydroids. The word hydroid means water animals.
Other hydroids often look like ferny fronds growing from
rocks. The fire coral is different: it looks like a hard

Fire corals are yellowish to brown in colour, often with
white tips. There are several species, with different
growth forms. Some look like plates, some are encrusting
but maybe the most familiar is the branching form shown in
our photo (
You can identify them by the minute pores on the coral

Divers come across fire corals on reefs throughout the
world, in sheltered and exposed sites, in shallow and
deep water. They are often at the reef edge as they can
withstand rough waters. Look at the orientation of the
coral branches: they grow so as to minimise their
exposure to the waves.

Further Reading:
The Red Sea in Egypt Part II, Farid S. Atiya, 977-00-6697-4

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Asprin and Steroid Misuse by SCUBA Divers

Research recently published in Therapie evaluated drug use in SCUBA divers. A detailed study of aspirin and steroid consumption revealed their misuse for performance-enhancing purposes, the level of risk varying with the type of diving activity. The influence of drug use on personal performance was recognised by 72% of divers, but only 59% considered that they were putting themselves at risk by self-medicating.

60% of divers surveyed reported taking medication occasionally when diving. Drugs consumed occasionally included painkillers, corticosteroids and antiemetics to reduce nausea.

Journal reference: Therapie, 60(4): 409-12.

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Friday, November 11, 2005


New Guidelines for SCUBA Divers with Asthma

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Around 7% of SCUBA divers have asthma. This is a condition that affects the airways. When you have asthma your airways are almost always sensitive and inflamed. If something irritates your airways they become narrower, making it harder to breathe. Their lining becomes inflamed and often phlegm is produced. Coughing is the most common asthma symptom, along with shortness of breath and wheezing.

Numerous concerns exist regarding people with asthma who go SCUBA diving. These include pulmonary barotrauma (pressure damage to the lungs), pneumothorax (collapsed lung), bubbles in the blood and ear barotrauma resulting in pains in the ear. Despite these concerns, a paucity of information exists linking asthma to increased risk of diving complications.

Advice and regulations on SCUBA diving with asthma vary between countries. The British Sub-Aqua Club, for example, suggests that people with mild asthma may dive provided that: they do not have asthma that is triggered by cold, exercise, stress or emotion; the asthma is well controlled; and they have not needed to use an inhaler, or have had any symptoms, in the previous 48 hours.

A recently published article in the Clin Rev Allergy Immunol journal examines the currently available literature to allow for a more informed decision regarding the possible risks associated with diving and asthma. It examines the underlying physiological principles associated with diving, including Henry's law and Boyle's law, to provide a more intimate understanding on physiological changes occurring in the respiratory system under compressive stress. It concludes that under the right circumstances, the patient with asthma can safely participate in recreational diving without apparent increased risk of an asthma-related event.

Journal reference: Clin Rev Allergy Immunol, October 1, 2005; 29(2): 131-8.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005


SCUBA Diving Bestsellers of the last Quarter

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1. Dive Atlas of the World: An Illustrated Reference to the Best Sites
by Jack Jackson
300 pages detailing some of the world's best dive sites.

2. Dive: The Ultimate Guide To 60 Of The Worlds Top Dive Locations
by Monty Halls,
Describes 60 of the world's best diving areas, and
highlights specific dives not to be missed whilst you are there

3. Collins Pocket Guide: Coral Reef Fishes
by Ewald Lieske, Robert Myers
A compact, guide to over 2000 species of fish you might
see whilst diving on coral reefs.

4. Lonely Planet : Sardinia
by Damien Simonis,
Guide to the Italian island of Sardinia

5. Sardegna (Michelin Regional Maps)
Sardinia has obviously been a popular destination for
holidays this year

6. The Blue Planet DVD
The BBC television series on DVD - action shots of the
intriguing behaviour of the underwater world with commentary
by David Attenborough.

7. Lonely Planet Diving & Snorkeling Baja California
by Walt Peterson
Guide to the dive sites of Baja California.

8. World War II Wrecks of the Truk Lagoon
by Dan E Bailey
The definitive guide to Truk Lagoon.

9. Lonely Planet: Diving and Snorkelling Bali and Lombok
by Tim Rock, Susanna Hinderts
Guide to the dive sites of Bali and Lombok, Indonesia.

10. Neutral Buoyancy: Adventures in a Liquid World
by Tim Ecott
Tales of the characters and episodes in the history of
diving: the sponge divers, the second world war saboteurs,
the free divers, etc.


Thursday, November 03, 2005


Sea Salt: Memories and Essays

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New World Publications have just released Sea Salt: Memories and Essays by Stan Waterman, recounting his 50 years of filming sharks and other exciting marine life. Read first hand accounts of diving with sharks in the open ocean (out of the cage) and filming them for the movies Blue Water, White Death the Deep and more. In 1994 the Discovery Channel presented a two hour special about The Man Who Loves Sharks, Emmy Award winning underwater filmmaker Stan Waterman.

Faced with a decision in life to remain a blueberry farmer and lead a modest life, or take a chance for a bit of adventure like his heroes Hans Hass and Jacques Cousteau, Waterman chose the latter. In 1951 he purchased his first Aqualung underwater breathing system and took his first step toward a life-long career in the underwater world. Soon thereafter he commissioned the building of a forty-foot dive boat, packed up the family and angled the bow toward the Bahamas to start a life in the diving business.

Waterman is the true legendary gentleman of diving. "... And not just a gentleman but a filmmaker, an adventurer, an explorer, a daredevil, a gallant, a poet, an intimate of creatures as exquisitely exotic as the leafy sea dragon and the sloe-eyed cuttlefish and - this above all - a true pioneer in the discovery of our last frontier, the sea. Stan Waterman has spent more than half a century in, on and under the sea, and in these pages he takes you with him on the amazing ride he calls his life. There is excitement enough in his encounters with wild animals and weird people to fill a hundred lives and all their fantasies. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to dive in the open ocean with a huge school of … sharks as they gorge on the carcass of a whale … at night? Probably not. But hang on, because when Stan recounts scenes from the filming of the classic 1971 documentary feature film, Blue Water, White Death, you’ll be there beside him, and astonished that anyone lived to tell the tale."-- from foreword by Peter Benchley (Author of Jaws).

Sea Salt: Memories and Essays begins with Stan’s haunting recollection of the contents of his home on the coast of Maine that succumbed to a fire in 1994. Through his description of treasures and artifacts from his world travels that filled the old Maine house, he leads you on adventures to the Aegean Sea, the Amazon, Polynesia, Solomon Islands, Aldabra, Cocos Keeling and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The second half of the book is a collection of his writings (most originally published in Ocean Realm magazine in the 1990’s) describing his adventures underwater. Vivid descriptions of encounters with a “monster” in the Caribbean, sea dragons in New Guinea, 62 whale sharks in Australia, a shark feeding frenzy in the Socorro Islands, his manta ray riding son (pictured in National Geographic), many different shark encounters and stories from his various expeditions around the globe.

Stan’s filmmaking career was launched in 1965 when National Geographic purchased rights to his family’s tropical odyssey in Tahiti. In 1968 he collaborated with Peter Gimbel on the classic shark movie Blue Water, White Death, and then later directed underwater photography for the film version of The Deep. It was during his ten years of production work with Peter Benchley for ABC’s American Sportsman that he garnered five Emmy Awards (more than any other underwater filmmaker).

More diving book reviews and interviews with authors.


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