A few weeks ago some Israeli divers chanced upon nearly 2,000 gold coins that had been underwater in the Mediterranean for a millennia. This was the largest hoard of gold coins ever discovered in Israel and theories abound. Scientists have posited that perhaps it's the remnants of a shipwreck carrying tax money to the central government in Egypt. Or perhaps the coins were meant to pay military garrison salaries in Caesarea.
Before you start diving shipwrecks looking for buried treasure, take the PADI Wreck Specialty Course. It teaches divers how to safely dive wrecks, which are usually located in deep water. It also teaches divers how to research the history of a wreck and determine the legality of salvaging, so you don’t end up on the wrong side of the law.
After that, there are opportunities to search for sunken treasure like diving the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha in Florida. For $2,500 you get to dive alongside professional underwater treasure hunters and try your hand at finding your very own cache of precious, antique gold coins.
Come join us on May 2 and 3, 2015 for our next Wreck Weekend in San Diego where you can earn your Wreck Specialty certification diving the 366 foot Canadian Destroyer “Yukon.” This could be your first step in being an underwater Indiana Jones or Lara Croft.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details or call 310-398-5759 to sign up.
This past weekend I got to witness rebreather divers in action, so I thought I’d do some research on rebreather technology. Rebreather diving actually predates SCUBA diving by several decades, the first being the Fleuss Rebreather. Invented by Henry Fleuss in 1878, it composed of a breathing bag, a copper tank of oxygen, and a rope soaked in caustic potash that served as a crude carbon dioxide scrubber. This device became an important part of WWII naval operations, and is a milestone in underwater exploration.
Modern rebreathers operate on the same basic principle, though they now are controlled by computer and many divers use some variation of trimix to reach extreme depths. Rebreather diving has always been used by military and commercial divers, mainly because it does not release bubbles. Navy divers needed to be difficult to detect by enemy ships, and commercial divers needed approach fish without spooking them. Most of all, rebreathers can reach immense depths without running out of air.
It wasn’t until the 90’s when rebreathers became available for recreational divers, and even then the costs can be prohibitive. The unit alone costs around 10,000 dollars, and the peripheral equipment can run tens of thousands more. That said, the rebreather can get you places that open circuit diving cannot. One rebreather diver I spoke to this weekend explained to me that California has tons of exciting dive sites that all lie well below recreational dive limits. Sunken battleships, plane wrecks, hidden caves, and other adventures lie in wait of those divers with the commitment and the funds to become rebreather experts.
California’s coastline used to be home to some of the richest waters in the world, but since the 1960’s we have lost over 90% of our big game and over 75% of our kelp forests.
Because the decimation of any one species can cause irreparable harm to the entire ecosystem, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are designed to protect all plants and animals in the entire ecosystem in the park.
Depending on the type of MPA, some taking of game is still allowed, for example in State Marine Parks, sport fishing is allowed, but not commercial fishing. In State Marine Reserves, any type of fishing is illegal and violators are subject to severe penalties.
In 1997 a group of scientists embarked on a two year project to see if fishes were responding well to the creation of MPAs. They surveyed three no-take zones on Catalina Island and two off the mainland coast, and found that not only were the fishes more abundant in the reserve, but the largest size individuals were also found within the confines of the no-take zones. Their findings suggest that the protected areas are providing a safe haven for fish to reach maturity, translating into higher reproductive output.
In 2012, another study was conducted in the Channel Islands, where MPAs have been in place for over a decade. The results showed that lobsters were more abundant and larger in protected areas, with over five more legal-sized lobsters caught per trap on average inside the refuges. Both recreational and commercial fishing in parts of the islands actually increased from 2003 to 2008.
As the MPA program matures, more data becomes available to prove that conservation has a positive impact on the ecosystem. As scuba divers, let’s respect the MPAs and enjoy all the kelp, fishes and big game that are returning to our waters.