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Recent blog posts

Fishermen and divers can access a new, online interactive guide to learn more about the 64 artificial reefs in North Carolina.  These underwater sites enhance fisheries that the coastal economy and culture rely on.  Now, local scientists are involved in ongoing research to determine the best way to maximize fish production at artificial reefs.

The coast of North Carolina is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, where hundreds of ships have run aground or sunk to the depths of the sea.  Can you imagine also that old train cars, aircraft, demolished bridges and construction waste lay on the ocean floor?  It’s not a dump site.  These manmade structures make up a collection of artificial reefs that serve as important habitat for fish and invertebrates.  Divers are drawn to these sites where colorful sponges and coral grow on the repurposed material.  Anglers frequent these fish oasis because of the variety and abundance of sea life they attract.

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Who here isn’t familiar with that warm and wonderful sensation you get just a second after urinating in your wetsuit. That magical moment when you forget about the cold water around you and everything feels pleasant and fuzzy…

Probably only half of you will admit knowing that feeling, since the diving world is divided in two: Those who pee in their wetsuit with pride and those who will never admit doing it, or just never tried. Which half are you on?

Avoiding heart explosion

Let start with this – You pee in your wetsuit because you have no choice! This is backed up by very good physiological reasons. When our body is immersed in water, the blood volume increases. Luckily, our body has mechanisms to balance that out and keep our blood volume normal, so more blood will flow towards our kidneys and by releasing more liquid from the body, the blood volume will remain normal!

To make a long story short – you pee to prevent your heart from exploding. That reason alone is enough for me… But let’s continue anyway 

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A first look at two WWII Battle of the Atlantic shipwrecks

August 22, 2016 July 15, 1942. America had been in World War II for less than a year, but the fight was coming to the nation’s shores. That day, off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, the German U-boat U-576 sank the Nicaraguan-flagged freighter SS Bluefields. But it came at a steep price – the merchant ship convoy and its U.S. military escorts fought back, sinking the U-boat within minutes as U.S. Navy air cover bombed the sub while the merchant ship Unicoi attacked it with its deck gun.

The freighter SS Bluefields was sunk by the German submarine U-576 in July 1942. The wrecks of the two ships were discovered in 2014 off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, only 240 yards apart.

NOAA and its partners will visit what remains of the two ships, documenting World War II’s “Battle of the Atlantic,” which pitted U-boats of the German navy against combined Canadian, British, and American forces defending Allied merchant ships.

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A recent study found that 90 percent of seabirds have eaten plastic, and a lot of that plastic comes from the rings that hold together six-packs of beer, soda and other beverages. The marine life that lives in the oceans ingest plastics, too. These toxic plastics harm the health of our sea life, often killing them.

Saltwater Brewery in Florida created a six-pack ring that feeds animals instead of killing them. Many six-pack rings from beer end up in the ocean, so the brewery took barley and wheat remnants from the brewing process and turned them into an edible, compostable, biodegradable product that holds together a six-pack but doesn't harm birds or sea life if it ends up in the ocean. It's also strong enough to handle the weight of a six-pack.

This is the first time a 100 percent edible and biodegradable packaging has been implemented in the beer industry. The manufacturing cost of the edible six-pack ring raises the price of the beer, but the narrator of the video points out that if most breweries implemented this safe and sustainable product, the cost would be competitive with the plastic six-pack rings. Hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved.

Why has no one thought of this before? In addition to being impressed by this product, I'm wondering how quickly I can put together a business plan, get funding and partner with Saltwater Brewery to open up a plant that can produce edible six-pack rings for all breweries.

I bet there's money to be made from this smart, responsible idea.

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Sharks never cease to captivate our imaginations. Strange, scary, beautiful, powerful, unique, special ... the long list of descriptors would dwarf a whale shark! Sharks have had hundreds of millions of years to evolve and dominate the sea as perfectly honed predators. The more we study them, the more surprises they reveal. Here are just a few fascinating facts about sharks around the world.

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An emergency ascent is the response of last resort to an adverse event or perceived threat during a dive. Divers are trained in standard emergency ascent procedures that, when performed successfully, mitigate the dangers. However, few people practice these skills, and when called to perform them in a crisis, a diver may be at risk for serious injury or even death.

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Pulau Weh, Indonesia by Charlotte Boan
Our small wooden vessel rocked gently on the water, revealing little of the wild currents sweeping over the coral reefs below. On the signal of our experienced dive guide Arun, we rolled off the boat and descended into the cobalt ocean.

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Vertigo is the feeling that the world around you is moving, spinning or tilting while you are remaining essentially still. Vertigo can be a result of a number of ailments, ranging from an infection in the inner ear to chronic problems such as Meniere’s disease.

Vertigo is not uncommon among divers, and your experience with it occurring when you are at significant depth is fairly typical. Diving physics tells us that the greatest pressure changes occur closer to the surface, but as the diver descends, equalizing the pressure in the middle ear is still very important. Divers generally continue to descend even when having difculty with equalizing. Plus, the middle ears need to equalize during ascent as well.

You are experiencing alternobaric vertigo, which is caused by unequal pressures between your middle-ear compartments. The pressure diference does not have to be very great. The inequality is communicated to the inner ear organs, resulting in vertigo. Divers can also experience nausea and vomiting. Vertigo is usually more common while a diver ascends. Not only are the symptoms uncomfortable, but they also can lead to catastrophic problems for the diver. Vertigo can also occur when diving with a hood if one side of the hood seals over the ear tighter than the other.

Prevention of vertigo during diving requires careful, gradual and continuous equalization of the pressures within the middle ear throughout the dive.

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Ann and Bill were really getting into scuba diving. It was everything they had imagined it would be, and more. They were diving at a local quarry, and conditions were good overall. When they reached the platform 60 feet down, Ann noticed Bill was having trouble with his weight belt and moved in to help him out. She didn’t expect it to be a problem. Fighting with the belt and his gear, Bill twisted to one side and knocked Ann’s regulator from her mouth. Things went downhill from there.

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The health benefits of scuba diving and the transferable skills gained from this sport make it one of the best alternative medicine therapies around.

As part of my role as a Miss Scuba United Kingdom finalist, I recently took my first flipper steps into the underwater world at Deep Blue Scuba diving club, Edinburgh, Scotland where I successfully completed Discover Scuba.

During the dive, I was amazed at how therapeutic this underwater sport is and how being underwater enhances teamwork and communication skills.

The underwater environment is proven to provide food for the soul where the body and mind is submersed into a state of calmness and wellbeing. The ocean has long been portrayed as a healing force – the cure of saltwater for cuts and wounds as well as the hypnotic and dream like trance of the waves in feeling at peace with the world. It provides an opportunity to “wash away the pain” and “feel replenished”. This is part of what makes scuba diving effective as a rehabilitation aid in support programmes for people with mental and physical disabilities as promoted by the highly admirable work of the charity Deptherapy.

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I have known since my first days as a diver that people under stress are fighting panic and tend to make wrong choices. In an emergency, divers need a limited number of survival responses. The main danger with Scuba is no air. We need to get gas quickly, either from a buddy or the surface. Simple.

Rebreathers though can be quite complex as the manufacturer attempts to make them ‘hands-off’ or ‘fool proof’. As divers, we are taught to develop muscle memory so when a problem occurs we choose the correct response. With some rebreathers we are offered too many choices – which one do we select when we are stressed? Have we practiced all the drills since completing our training. Remember that we are often in deco so can’t just free ascend to the surface.

Within the Tech Dive community there is a mantra that too many gadgets equals too many points of potential failure. This does not seem to apply to rebreathers. My first CCR gave me a huge number of options depending on the problem I was presented with. Each one of those options had to go into the memory bank, and individual muscle memories had to be developed. My chest seemed to be covered in hoses, counter-lungs and fittings of various descriptions. To make matters worse, I had to learn drills for all these mechanical and electronic gadgets.

We are told during CCR training that we have more time to sort out a CCR problem than we do a Scuba problem. Usually a catastrophic failure on Scuba results in a sudden massive loss of air. Being out of air is easily recognized as there are masses of noisy bubbles and we inhale water, or nothing at all. Some CCR failures are insidious and develop over time, while others lead to unconsciousness very quickly. So what can we do about it?

The logical thing would be to simplify the rebreather operation and reduce the points of potential failure. ‘Simple’ is less likely to go wrong, particularly if it allows us to bail out.

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Sharks: A Key Part of Ocean Ecosystems

As one of the top predators of the oceans, sharks play an important role in the food web and help ensure balance in the ocean’s ecosystem. As demand and exploitation rates for some shark species and shark products (i.e., fins) have increased, concern has steadily grown regarding the status of many shark stocks and the insustainability in global fisheries. 

Relative to other marine fish, sharks are characterized by relatively slow growth, late sexual maturity, and a small number of young per brood. These biological factors leave many species of sharks vulnerable to overfishing. Fishermen catch sharks in directed fisheries and also as bycatch in other non-directed fisheries. Many shark species have been over-exploited because their fins are highly valued for shark fin soup. 

Globally there is a general lack of data reporting on the catch of sharks, particularly species-specific data. For these reasons, sharks present an array of issues and challenges for fisheries conservation and management both domestically and internationally. Despite the challenges, NOAA Fisheries is committed to achieving sustainable management of sharks. 

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Since Pacific lionfish were first detected off the coast of Florida three decades ago, they have spread around the Caribbean, gobbling up everything that fits in their mouths and reproducing at a phenomenal rate. Scientists have shown that soon after they descend upon a reef, there is a sharp fall in the number of small fish, notably the herbivores on which coral depends for survival. “They’re eating their way through the reefs like a plague of locusts,” said Mark Hixon, a lionfish specialist at the University of Hawaii. It is by far the most destructive invasive species ever recorded at sea, and the blight is believed to have started with aquarium fish released off the Florida Atlantic coast in the mid-1980s.

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We’ve all seen it in the movies. The main character splashes into the water, a cool looking mouthpiece gripped in their teeth, and they proceed to escape, do battle, or otherwise enjoy the benefits of a scuba system without the requisite scuba gear. To say that it’s a dream for divers to be less encumbered when underwater is an understatement. There is a whole minimalist sub-culture in recreational diving, dedicated to minimalizing the amount of gear they need to safely dive. So what’s brought all this on? The Triton Artificial Gill.

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Rebreathers could make an ocean explorer’s ultimate fantasies come true. Recirculating the same air again and again might sound like science fiction, but compared against traditional scuba equipment, rebreathers allow divers to go deeper, stay under longer, and get closer to wildlife. It’s everything a diver would want. So why haven’t they outright replaced scuba gear in the underwater swimming industry?

The same factors that hold back every other emerging technology: they’re still too expensive and too unsteady.

This is in spite of the fact that the technology on which rebreathers are based actually dates back to the 19th century. Today, dozens of manufacturers offer different styles of rebreathers to suit divers’ needs, and the systems keep getting cheaper, safer, and more reliable. There’s no doubt rebreather diving’s popularity is trending upward.

Yet, it’s still a fringe element on the scuba scene. While popular for technical diving, underwater videography, and military applications, rebreathers are still not part of standard training for the vast majority of divers. What gives?

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Travel to the secluded Korean islands of Jeiu and Udo, and you might see a strange sight. Every morning, thousands of women take to the sea surrounding the islands to hunt for seaweed, abalones, sea urchins, and octopuses. These women, called the haenyo, or Korean Mermaids, dive up to 65 feet for their prizes, using no equipment other than goggles and wetsuits. They make these dives several times a day. And almost all of them are over the age of 60.

MARK JOSEPH STERN
 
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This "vertical cave" is a paradise for divers and photographers—and it might explain the fall of Mayan civilization.

Belize's Lighthouse Reef contains something of an anomaly: After all, when we see sinkholes on the news, they're usually disastrous and frightening, swallowing up Australian campgrounds and Florida used car lots with abandon. But let's not forget the fun, chill kind of sinkhole: the underwater kind! The Great Blue Hole of Belize, for example, is not just the most obviously named place in the world (tied for #1 with Australia's Great Sandy Desert). It's also a bucket list destination for just about every scuba diver on the planet.

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BAROS, MALDIVES

Underwater: Baros has its own house reef, close enough to the shore that snorkellers can swim to it. In addition, there are 30 dive sites within an hour of Baros, all with spectacular reefs and vibrant marine creatures. And the 'Diving by Design' programme ensures that each diving experience is tailored to the individual's needs.
Above water: Elegant villas sit on stilts in the water or along the island's white-sand beach. Both food and atmosphere are important here, with sunset trips on a traditional dhoni to a sandbank where guests can dine privately under the night sky.
Best time to go: Underwater visibility is not as clear in the summer months when masses of plankton float here, but this in turn attracts whale sharks and manta rays.
Baros: North Malé Atoll, Maldives (00 960 664 26 72; 

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Underwater Overtime

If you plunge into the sea to ogle exotic wildlife, why not stay a while—and get an even closer view? Cave-diving engineer Bill Stone [see "Journey from the Center of the Earth," February 2007] makes that possible with the most user-friendly version yet of a rebreather, a device that recycles your exhaled air, removes carbon dioxide, and adds oxygen. (A scuba device quickly burns through tanks of fresh air.)

On a typical dive, the Poseidon Discovery lets divers stay underwater at least three times as long as scuba gear can, and since you don't exhale into the water, you don't create bubbles or noise that can scare off fish.

Military and advanced divers have used rebreathers for decades, but they're pricey rigs (about $10,000) that require extensive training on how to manually mix gases in case the gear fails. Stone's recreational model automates the safety system with built-in computers that check all components pre-dive, plus two oxygen sensors that monitor the gas mix. If the system spots an air-recycling malfunction, the mouthpiece vibrates and blinks an alert. Just flip its lever to inhale from a small fresh-air tank and return safely to the surface.

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Neoprene is a synthetic rubber that's often used to make wetsuits, hence its alternative name "scuba." It's also used in electrical insulation and drum practice pads, but don't let the industrial uses scare you off. Neoprene has become increasing popular as a material to wear on the street (not just in the sea) because many of the qualities that make it great for use in factories, like stain resistance and general durability, make it great for clothing, too.

The fabric is thick and doesn't breathe, making neoprene a perfect addition to your winter wardrobe, and the thickness also allows for creation of structured pieces that look out of this world. The weight of neoprene also means form-fitting skirts and dresses are more forgiving. You'll never run the risk that your bodycon skirt or tight leggings are accidentally a little bit see-through. The material is always opaque, and its resiliency means it doesn't really stretch out. Neoprene also holds photorealistic patterns well, so it's not uncommon to see huge florals or intricate pattens splattered all over a dress or a sweatshirt. Did I also mention it's incredibly comfortable.

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U/W Bike Race

eventsiconJoin us on July 4th for this annual event benefitting the Children's Mile of Hope.

Lionfish Tournament

eventsiconWe need your help to make Carteret County's 5th Annual "If you Can't Beat 'em, Eat 'em" Spearfishing Tournament a success! This Tournament is a joint effort between Discovery Diving and Eastern Carolina Artificial Reef Association (ECARA).

Treasure Hunt

eventsiconFood, prizes, diving, and fun! Proceeds benefit the Mile Hope Children's Cancer Fund and DAN's research in diving safety.

ECARA Event

2013Join us June 3rd, 2017 in support of the East Carolina Artificial Reef Association.  Click here for more info on this great event and how you can help to bring more Wrecks to the Graveyard of the Atlantic.