“Timing is everything.” ”Location, location, location.” I’m in Texas. Captain Rich is in or on his way to Maryland. So MAYBE the Florida Sea Base is about to see it’s first hurricane of 2011. The system that started near Nicaragua as a tropical disturbance designed Invest 96L was upgraded Sunday morning to Tropical Depression 18 and by Monday morning was again upgraded to Tropical Storm Rina. By late Monday the system was designated Hurricane Rina and this morning the system has attained category 2 status. What a difference a day can make.
Rina is expected to move slowly for the next several days (hovering over VERY warm water) in the Western Caribbean. This could provide more than enough energy to upgrade Rina to major (category 3 or higher) hurricane status. The concern is the possibility that once the system gets to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico it may turn east and make a run for Florida. This is somewhat reminiscent of Hurricane Wilma that spanked the Florida Sea Base as a category 3 storm with a significant storm surge. Hurricane Wilma was the strongest system to hit the Florida Sea Base since my arrival in 2000. The good news is all but one model shows the system dying near the Yucatan Peninsula.
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And don’t forget about Invest 97L, still a ways off (near the leeward islands), but doing what it can to intercept and potentially add to the energy in Rina.
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I am remaining optimistic that the storm will track as forecasted and NOT pose a major threat to the Florida Sea Base. However, I am staying in contact with Captain Rich and keeping my plans flexible so I can scream back to the base if necessary. I will email Captain Beal and Mr. Kolb this morning to reassure them that, while away, Captain Rich and I are monitoring the situation and will do everything to be there to assist with last minute preparations if necessary.
A diver from Houston, Texas was the third person killed this year by a great white shark in Australia. A kill order has been issued, but is very controversial. Is one shark responsible for all three deaths? How will they know if they are about to kill the guilty shark? If you play you pay. That may sound harsh, but family members of the deceased diver have been on the news opposing the shark hunt.
Personally I have a very good understanding with all species of shark. I don’t buy shark skin boots, I don’t have a shark’s tooth necklace, I don’t eat shark fin soap, I don’t knowingly use ANY shark products, I donate money to PADI’s Project AWARE Foundation to help protect sharks. But the primary stipulation in my Memorandum of Understanding with the shark is, I don’t eat sharks and sharks don’t eat me. I have never had the opportunity to discuss this face to face with a great white. But I have had this discussion on a quiet Florida Keys reef with a tiger shark as we met face to face rounding a curve. It was a little spooky. We seemed to have startled each other, then made eye contact, continued swimming towards each other on a collision course, and finally passing left shoulder to left fin within arms reach of one another. I glanced back over my shoulder as we passed (just to be sure), the shark simply maintained course and speed – I was no threat to the 12′ tiger that easily weighed three times as much as me.
I do not mean to make light of a fatality. I don’t want anyone to get hurt, especially while scuba diving. However, I’m not convinced that killing a wild animal, in it’s natural environment, doing what it naturally does, is the correct response. Especially when identification of the shark will come after its demise. If the first one killed is the wrong one, how many more will be killed?
Anyway, come to the Florida Sea Base for your diving vacation instead of going all the way to Australia. We have NEVER fed a scuba diver to a shark. Nor have we ever left a diver/buddy team on the reef (as in the movie “Open Water”).
Capt. Steve Willis
Packing for the return journey