The Cove Review

I recently watched a documentary called The Cove. You may have heard its name in the past month for winning Best Documentary at the 2010 Academy Awards. In fact, that's what brought the movie to my attention.

The Cove
Between Avatar and The Cove, 2009 was a year for hippie movies. And make no mistake, The Cove is a hippie movie. Those with any warm feelings towards oceanic creatures like dolphins---and I would assume that includes all scuba divers---will get at least a little riled up by this film. Those who don't care probably won't bother to watch in the first place.

The Cove's name comes from a small lagoon in the Japanese fishing village of Taiji. This village is small. So small you've probably never heard of it. Yet it's a small village with a big secret.

Dolphins migratory patterns bring them right by the coast of Taiji. They are so close that it is relatively easy for fisherman to herd hundreds of a dolphins into this tiny lagoon, as you'll see early in the movie. They do this by banging on long submerged poles, which interferes with a dolphin's senses. What awaits them in this lagoon? At first, the dolphins are greeted by trainers from around the world. These trainers represent the interests of just about every park, zoo, and aquarium that houses trained dolphins. The trainers pick out the "prettiest" dolphins from the bunch to be purchased at a price of \$150,000 a head---not bad for a day's work. These trainers are after the next Flipper, which leads to an interesting aspect of the story.

The documentary is centered around Ric O'Barry. O'Barry achieved success early in his life as the trainer for the dolphins playing Flipper in the US television series. This series is responsible for dolphins entering the world's consciousness as pets more than free-roaming sea creatures. After the dolphin playing Flipper died from deep depression, O'Barry entered into a depression of his own. He had launched an industry responsible for the captivity and eventual death of thousands of dolphins, and the unspoken thread throughout this film is him dealing with this guilt by dedicating his life to saving dolphins. He is seeking the dolphins' forgiveness.

Plenty of the movie is dedicated to O'Barry---an interesting character in his own right. He's been one of the most active environmentalists in the world. Not your Al Gore type activitist, either. He's been arrested more times than he can count, and is responsible for many changes in how the world's oceans are treated and perceived. Ric O'Barry's wikipedia page is a short account of some of his accomplishments.

Back at The Cove, however, the unchosen dolphins are herded into a secret cove that is not visible to any bystanders. What goes on over here? The movie uses a lot of CIA type spy-work to answer this question, with the fishermen going to great lengths to keep them out. We know from the beginning that the dolphins see their end here, but it is the manner in which it is done that is particularly gruesome.

This is not a film for light viewing. Be prepared to decide where you stand on things as you watch. I am far from a militant activist, but I went with this movie, and felt angry at the needless killing and destruction shown. Watch the movie, decide for yourself.

I have my convictions about various practices, like chumming water for sharks, where I've decided not to participate. This movie challenged me. I now know the cost of dolphin shows at Sea World and dolphinariums. What am I going to do about it? I don't know. The least I can do is not contribute to the problem by spending my money at these places, but is there more? I'd like to. This is a hippie movie, and maybe one day I'll be proud to be counted as one of the hippies.


Dive Photo Guide

I don't have a fish ID article today, so instead I offer a link to Dive Photo Guide.

Dive Photo Guide is a pretty nifty site about underwater photography. This includes articles on photography techniques. They have monthly photo contests and a section listing underwater equipment options.

It has stuff for the non-photographer. In particular, check out the Galleries section for some great underwater photography; it can be inspiration for those of you who do take pictures.

Have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday!


Can I Get Sued for Not Helping a Diver?

I am not a lawyer, and this is not official legal advice. In addition, laws vary between countries, so the situation can always be different for your country or the country you're diving in.

You won't get sued
I've heard dive professionals (divemasters and above) talking, in person and on places like ScubaBoard, about when they are diving on vacation (as opposed to diving while working). There seems to be a common sentiment: when the shop wants to see my C-card, only show them my open water or advanced open water card. The less they know the better.

There are two reasons ...


Ted Danson, Sylvia Earle, and Seafood

On a recent Delta flight I found an article in Sky Magazine. It was about environmentalism overall, but a few pages in particular dealt with the oceans.

One section was about American actor Ted Danson's foray into activism. His page mostly focused on eating sustainable seafood and avoiding seafood with high mercury levels (like swordfish, which no one should ever eat). However, I found myself drawn towards the portion of the article about Dr. Sylvia Earle.

I've never heard of Sylivia Earle, but the article says she is referred to by her friends and colleagues as "Her Deepness ...


Rescue Diver

Rescue me!
Telling people you're a rescue diver is fun. It evokes mental images of you jumping from helicopters into frigid waters like Kevin Costner in The Guardian. While becoming a rescue diver won't make you Ashton Kutcher, it can be a challenging and rewarding experience.

I'm coming from a PADI approach, but as we'll see, the information here applies to most of the larger organizations.

What is it?

Like most diving certifications, rescue diver has a knowledge portion combined with an applied, in-the-water component. The knowledge portion includes

  • Common causes of diver stress and dive emergencies
  • Identifying ...

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Diving

I came across this article about what entrepreneurs can learn from scuba diving. The article points you to a 128-page PDF document called "The Scuba Sutras", written by Guhesh Ramanathan. Ramanathan is a diver and businessman who has written up ten business lessons that parallel the sea.

The ten lessons are:

  1. I will never dive without a check.
  2. I will maintain neutral buoyancy.
  3. I will enjoy the dive, not just the fish.
  4. I will be a good buddy.
  5. I will not confuse expertise with certificates.
  6. I will respect the currents around me.
  7. I will remember that trigger fish can be ...

Fish Identification: Flamingo Tongue

Fish are fun, but for today's creature identification we're going to talk about a snail (they're not just for escargot).

Physical description

[Flamingo Tongue Snail][]
Flamingo tongues are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length. They are easy to identify, because they are all white with small yellowish splotches across their shell. These splotches are lined with black.

Interestingly, this color is not part of their shell, but rather part of the animal's tissue that covers the shell. Divers and snorkelers like to grab flamingo tongues as "souvenirs" because of their pretty shells, only to find after the ...


Shore Diving Tips

With two trips to Bonaire, a good portion of my diving has been from a shore. I love the freedom provided by not being stuck to a boat's schedule. Your dive can be as short or as long as you want, and the only other person that has to be considered is your buddy. Not to mention there are no half-hour boat rides to the dive site.

Shore Diving
It comes with its own set of challenges, though. Waves and surge can be rough, especially with all your gear strapped to your back. In addition, many sites have a variety of ...


What Diving Equipment Should I Buy?

Scuba dive for any length of time and you'll start wanting your own equipment. A natural follow-up question then is, "What equipment do I buy?" Let's look through all the equipment a diver needs, which you should buy, and in what order.

Scuba Dive Equipment
Your own mask is usually high up on the list of equipment to own. This could be for a few reasons. Having a properly-fitted mask increases the comfort of your dives. Masks are one of the more "personal" items you own, so having your own that you are comfortable with is an advantage. They also are ...


Spring Fin Straps

[Spring Fin Straps][]
I really want a pair of spring fin straps. Slipping my foot into my fin and pulling the spring around it seems much nicer than awkwardly tightening straps. You only fit spring straps once, to buy the right size for your fit and fin. After attaching them, you get a perfect fit every time.

They're also really nice for anyone who does a lot of shore diving, where you don't always have the luxury of sitting down to put your fins on. Even when sitting down, putting on fins can be difficult.

For anyone buying a pair, look ...