- Saudi Women Divers Seek More Female-Only Dive Sites
- Texas A&M Professor Leads Dive in State’s Deepest Cave
- Large Numbers of Sick Seal Pups Being Cared for in California
Although women in Saudi Arabia are allowed to SCUBA dive, they are not permitted to go to most dive sites without the accompaniment of a mahram, or male guardian, as mandated by the SA Coast Guard. There are very few women-only courses available to female divers over the age of 18, and can be cost-prohibitive for some, costing between 1,500 – 2,000 SR (approx $400-535 USD) for a 6-day open water course. The places where such courses are available are often remotely located, which presents another obstacle for women to want to learn to dive. Many have been obtaining their certifications outside of the Kingdom where restrictions are not as tight, but more Saudi women have voiced their desire to have a private, male-free zone in which to teach and learn how to dive in the Red Sea.
An expedition led by Dr. Tom Iliffe, one of the world’s top cave biologists and professor at Texas A&M Galveston, took a team of scientists into the Lone Star State’s deepest underwater cave: Phantom Springs. The submerged site is owned by the Texas Bureau of Reclamation, and due to the ecologically sensitive nature of the site, just two 2-year exploration permits are issued at one time, with no other type of access permitted in the cave or the surrounding property under any circumstances. The first mile of the cave is relatively shallow, only reaching depths of about 30 feet, but the next 2,000 feet of the cave brought the divers to a depth of 460 feet before they had to turn back. Although the descent took just one hour, the return trip lasted for roughly 7 hours, in order to properly decompress and navigate through various currents. Dr. Iliffe intends to analyze the findings of this expedition with his team, and begin planning for the next deeper dive to take place in the summer of 2014.
Since the beginning of 2013, nearly 100 sick seal pups have been rescued from the shores surrounding Los Angeles, the cause of which has yet to be determined. The pups are being sent to the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, CA, where the main symptoms are malnutrition and dehydration. The director of the Center, Dave Bard, stated that while it is not unusual for sea lion pups to experience illness in the winter months, the number they’re typically used to seeing in their facility is in the teens, rather than the tens of mammals they are seeing now. Blood tests are being conducted, but no one consistent culprit has been discovered. The Marine Mammal Care Center is asking the public for assistance in the pups’ rehabilitation, so if you can help in any way, please call their facility at 310-548-5677.