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SCUBA News 159,

SCUBA News (ISSN 1476-8011)
Issue 159 - August 2013
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- What's new at SCUBA Travel?
- Letters
- Creature of the Month: Soft Coral, Dendronephthya hemprichi
- Underwater Photo Competition: $75000 of Prizes
- Diving News from Around the World

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What's New at SCUBA Travel?


Diving Glossary

We've updated our eclectic diving, ocean and marine life dictionary: from ABLJ to Zooxanthellae.

Diving Sierra Leone

Diving Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is not the first place you might consider for a SCUBA diving holiday, which guarantees that the dive sites will not be crowded. The country suffered a ten year civil war from 1992 until 2002. In September 2010 the UN Security Council lifted the last remaining sanctions against the Republic, saying that the government had fully re-established control over its territory. Sierra Leone, with its miles of beaches, hopes to emulate Gambia in attracting tourists.

Diving Ustica

Diving Ustica, Italy

Ustica's dive sites are among the best in the Mediterranean. We've updated our list of dive centres in Ustica, with divers' ratings and reviews at

For regular announcements of what's new at the SCUBA Travel site see our Twitter feed, Google+ or Facebook pages.


Crossover Qualifications

This table (at is very useful for roughly equivalent qualifications, however, I have found that the maximum depth ratings can vary. Has anyone compiled a table with depth limits between the differing qualifications?
Theresa Murphy

Good question Theresa, we'll try adding the depth information to the table.

Creature of the Month: Soft Coral, Dendronephthya hemprichi

"Like rich rosettes of royal velvet, they decorate the rusting iron, transforming the unromantic metal stanchions into pillars that would grace a palace"
thus wrote Robert Gibbings on observing soft corals for the first time on his visit to Hurghada. His words are as true today as when he wrote them in 1938.

This gorgeous soft coral is on the wreck of the Carnatic. She was a sail and steam ship launched in 1862. Seven years later she struck the reef. For two days she remained there with all passengers and crew staying on board. They finally abandoned ship, but as they were doing so the Carnatic broke in half. Thirty-one people died but the rest reached the lifeboats and Shadwan Island.

The coral is Dendronephthya hemprichi. This species is common in the Red Sea and a pioneer settler. It can clone small fragments of itself with root-like processes that quickly attach to artificial structures like wrecks. Especially vertical structures.

When not cloning itself, this soft coral can reproduce sexually year round. They don't have synchronised broadcast spawning episodes. They also reproduce at a younger age than other corals. Spawning occurs after sunset and continues until 2 am.

One of the Nephtheidae family, the soft coral takes in sea water to expand its body before feeding. This builds up a positive pressure inside the coral that supports the branches and trunk. Unlike most other corals, D. hemprichi don't depend on symbiotic algae: they are azooxanthellate (asymbiotic). Instead they feed almost exclusively on phytoplankton. Eight feathery tentacles surround the coral's mouth and whip food into it. Relatively recent data on soft corals indicates that they feed on very small plankton such as single-celled algae, rather than larger particles as had previously been thought.

Soft corals are not reef-building, although they do secrete limestone. In their case this is as internal crystals called sclerites or spicules. Because soft corals do not have large skeletons, they grow faster than hard corals

According to the Encyclopedia of Life, Dendronephthya are among the most commonly traded soft corals. Between 1988 and 2002 at least 12,618 were sold globally (the U.S. was the largest importer, with 51% of the total Dendronephthya trade). However, corals in this genus are poor choices for aquarium hobbyists. They generally die within a few weeks, mainly because they rely on filtering food particles and dissolved nutrients from the water.

You find Dendronephthya hemprichi from around 11 to 32 m, standing out from walls and wrecks in currents.

Back to the Coral Photo Gallery...

Blue Angels and Whales, by Robert Gibbings 1938
K Fabricus, Y Benayahu, A Genin, Herbivory in Asymbiotic Soft Corals. Science, April 1995, Volume 268
M Dahan, Y Benayahu. Clonal propagation by azooxanthellate octocoral Dendronephthya hemprichi. Coral Reefs (1997) 16:5-12
U. Oren, Y. Benayahu, Transplantation of juvenile corals: a new approach for enhancing colonization of artificial reefs. Marine Biology, February 1997, Volume 127, Issue 3, pp 499-505

Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition Announced: over $75,000 in Prizes

Our friends at the Underwater Photography Guide are now accepting images for the Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition 2013.

previous winner of Ocean Art competition

There are over $75,000 worth of prizes, including over 35 liveaboard and scuba diving resort packages. Winners will be able to rank the prizes they would like to receive, making it more likely for winners to receive a prize they want.

The competition has 12 categories, including a Novice dSLR category and 3 compact camera categories, giving underwater photographers of all levels a chance to win a great prize. Unique categories include SuperMacro, Cold/ Temperate Water, Nudibranchs, and Divers/ Fashion. The more traditional categories include Wide-Angle, Macro, Marine Life Portraits, and Marine Life Behaviour.

Judges include world-renowned underwater photographers Martin Edge, Marty Snyderman, Tony Wu and Todd Winner.

Photos must be submitted on or before the deadline of 10 November 2013.

To enter see the Ocean Art Photo Competition webpage.

Diving News From Around the World

For breaking news see our Twitter feed, RSS feed or Google+ page.

Dolphins remember each other for decades

Bottlenose dolphin's 20-year recollection sets record for long-term memory in animals. Between the ages of about 4 months and a year, every bottlenose dolphin settles on a whistle of its own that stays the same for the rest of the dolphin's life. Dolphins use these whistles in the same way as humans use names: they voice their own whistles to identify themselves to others, and they mimic others' whistles to call to them.

New study gets its teeth into shark trade regulations

A new TRAFFIC study examines how implementation of trade controls through CITES regulations can ensure that seven species of sharks and manta rays are only sourced sustainably and legally before entering international trade.

Watch Archaeologists Explore a Gulf of Mexico Shipwreck

Follow researchers on a live feed as they investigate a 19th-century shipwreck armed with cannons in the Gulf of Mexico.

Native Predators no Match for Invasive Lionfish on Caribbean Reefs

New study surveying 71 reefs in Caribbean finds native predators, like grouper, don't lower the densities of invasive lionfish from the Pacific - Pterois volitans and Pterois miles.

NOAA proposes opening closed areas

To help fishermen adjust to the new quota cuts for groundfish that have been effective since May, NOAA Fisheries has proposed to open approximately 33% of areas that have been closed for nearly 20 years.

Ancient Underwater Forest: Found By Scuba Divers

Scuba divers have discovered a primeval underwater forest off the coast of Alabama. The Bald Cypress forest was buried under ocean sediments, protected in an oxygen-free environment for more than 50,000 years, but was likely uncovered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Scientists uncover secrets of starfish's bizarre feeding mechanism

Scientists have identified a molecule that enables starfish to carry out one of the most remarkable forms of feeding in the natural world.

Starfish eyes are good enough to show them the way home

If they stray from the reef, starfish can use the light-sensitive organs at the tips of their arms to form images, helping them find their way home

NOAA reports discovery of table coral, Acropora cytherea, off O'ahu

NOAA scientists report the discovery of the first known colony of table coral off of the south shore of O'ahu in Hawaii. Given its common name due to its flat-topped, table-like shape, table coral (Acropora cytherea) is one of the primary reef-building corals throughout most of the tropical Pacific, but it has never been observed in waters off O'ahu - until now, researchers said. The coral, estimated to be 14 years old, was found at a depth of 20 m during a training dive.

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EDITED by Jill Studholme

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