Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Snorkeling

U.S. led the world in shark attacks last year

Great white shark prowls the waters near Guadalupe Island off Baja California.

The U.S. led the world again in the number of shark attacks last year, according to a University of Florida report released this week.

Worldwide, 79 attacks occurred in 2010 -- the highest number since 2000 (80) -- with 36 reported in the United States. Australia was second with 14, then South Africa with eight and Vietnam and Egypt with six each.

While Florida led the nation with 13 reported attacks, this total was significantly lower than the state's yearly average of 23 over the past decade.

"Florida had its lowest total since 2004, which was 12," said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the university. Florida typically has the highest number of attacks worldwide, but 2010 marked the state’s fourth straight year of decline, Burgess said. "Maybe it’s a reflection of the downturn in the economy and the number of tourists coming to Florida, or the amount of money native Floridians can spend taking holidays and going to the beach."

Of those attacks in the U.S. outside of Florida, five were in North Carolina, with four each in California, Hawaii and South Carolina. There were single attacks in Georgia, Maine, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Surfers were the victims of slightly more than half of the incidents reported worldwide in 2010, nearly 51% of the cases. An economic downturn will usually influence tourists but not necessarily surfers, whose sport is relatively low-cost, Burgess said.

Swimmers and waders were the second-largest group affected, accounting for nearly 38% of the shark attacks internationally.

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Decommissioned U.S. Navy ship scuttled off Cayman Islands to create artificial reef


There's a new artificial reef for divers to explore off the Cayman Islands following the scuttling this week of a decommissioned U.S. Navy vessel.

The USS Kittiwake, a 1945-vintage submarine rescue ship, now rests on the seabed 62-feet underwater off Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach. With the 47-foot-tall ship's top deck near the surface, it should be accessible to snorkelers as well as scuba divers.

"It was just perfect execution, nice and even. She landed exactly where she was supposed to," project manager Nancy Easterbrook told Associated Press during a phone interview from a nearby boat on Seven Mile Beach.

Crews strategically punched holes in the ship's hull and then carefully flooded the vessel so that the 2,200-ton ship would settle upright, which it appears to have done.


After mooring lines are attached, the scuttled Kittiwake should be open to the public Friday, according to Easterbrook.

The Kittiwake's sinking raised mixed emotions in Jon Glatstein, who was a sailor on the vessel from 1984 to 1986, and traveled from Miami to watch his old ship scuttled.

"This is the first time I've seen the ship in 25 years, and she's in pretty rough shape. But she's been serving divers all her life and now she's going to continue doing just that. That's got to be a whole lot better than getting melted down for razor blades," said Glatstein.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Divers watch the sinking of the USS Kittiwake, a 1945-vintage submarine rescue ship, off the Cayman Islands.

Credit: Associated Press /Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Video: A view above and below water during the sinking of the USS Kittiwake.

Credit: Sean Crothers / Sunset House Cayman via YouTube


Outposts looks back at 2010: Achievements

With the the year ending, it is worth looking back at memorable posts of 2010. Each day this week through Friday, Outposts will recount some of the records broken, the achievements reached, the notable passings and the downright unusual during 2010 in the outdoors, action and adventure world.

Kelly Slater clinches historic 10th ASP World Tour title

Kelly Slater clinched his 10th ASP World Tour title on Nov. 6. Kelly Slater made sporting history on Nov. 6, claiming an unprecedented 10th Assn. of Surfing Professionals World Tour title.

Culminating a 20-year effort, Slater, 38, accomplished an incredible feat that will undoubtedly remain at the top of the ASP record book for a long time.

"I feel relieved, honestly," Slater said. "It’s been the most stressful title I’ve ever had, because it’s sort of an unknown place and you know at my age people say, 'You shouldn’t be doing this.'"

Photo credit: Kirstin Scholtz / ASP

Lance Mackey wins fourth consecutive Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Lance Mackey holds two of his dogs, Rev and Maple,after winning his fourth consecutive Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race. With 11 dogs in harness, musher Lance Mackey rode into Nome, Alaska, at 2:59 p.m. March 16, passing under the burled arch and the Widow's Lamp hanging from it to win the 38th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The 39-year-old Mackey, from Fairbanks, Alaska, also rode into the record books, becoming the first to win the "last great race on Earth"  four times in a row.

Photo credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News


Irvine woman with rare disease conquers Mt. Everest

Cindy Abbott displays her National Organization for Rare Disorders banner at Camp 4 before leaving for the summit of Mt. Everest. Cindy Abbott lives with adversity. The Irvine resident started losing vision in her left eye more than 15 years ago, and began having a slew of mini-strokes and vertigo. Finally, in 2007, Abbott was diagnosed with Wegener's Granulomatosis, a rare and potentially deadly disease of uncertain cause.

Abbott, 51, has no idea how long she has left to live because of the incurable disease. But she did not let the debilitating affliction hold her back, and on May 23, became the first person with Wegener's Granulomatosis to reach the top of Mt. Everest.

Photo credit: Bill Allen

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U.S. registers sharp drop in shark attacks last year


Surfers and other ocean-sport enthusiasts might find solace in the news that shark attacks in the United States declined in 2009, according to a University of Florida report released Monday.

"The big story is that the number of attacks in the United States dropped dramatically from 41 in 2008 to 28 in 2009," said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the university. "Considering there were 50 attacks in 2007, we may have a bit of a trend, but only time will tell."

One possibility for the decline of attacks in U.S. coastal waters may be that fewer people visited the shore due to the recession.

"Florida's population hasn't gone down, so I suppose the economy could have had an effect on how many times people can afford to put gas in their cars and go to the beach," added Burgess.

Worldwide is a different story, however, with attacks edging up ever so slightly, from 60 in 2008 to 61 in 2009.

"More than half the attacks -- 33 out of 61 -- were surfers and this continues a trend that we've been seeing for quite awhile," said Burgess.

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Fred Hall Show opens Wednesday at the Long Beach Convention Center

The 2009 Fred Hall Show in Long Beach was as bustling and popular with outdoor enthusiasts as ever.

The 64th annual Fred Hall Fishing Tackle and Boat Show hits Southern California this week, opening Wednesday at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center.

Occupying nearly 750,000 square feet of space, this extravaganza of exhibits and seminars is a must-visit for any outdoor enthusiast.

To refer to the Fred Hall Show as a fishing tackle and boat show seems a misnomer these days. The exhibitor list has grown to include hunting lodges, firearms manufacturers, outdoor adventures, shooting sports and fishing destination resorts worldwide.

But not to worry -- fishing will still be well represented in the approximately 600 vendor booths and 400 seminars taking place over five days. Plus, 16 boat dealers representing 30 watercraft manufacturers will be on site.

"The Fred Hall Shows, both in Long Beach and Del Mar, are the only major boat shows left in California," Bart Hall, Fred's son, told Outposts. "The boating industry in this state has been decimated by the recession -- nearly 50 dealers statewide have gone out of business -- but last year there was no recession at the Fred Hall Shows, and we expect it to be the same this year as well."

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Harbor seal pupping season will close a portion of Point Reyes National Seashore

Evelyn Weimann of Germany witnesses a harbor seal poke its head through a kelp forest.

Ocean-sports enthusiasts visiting California's Point Reyes National Seashore will need to make certain to stay away from Drakes Estero from March 1 through the end of June.

It's pup-birthing season for harbor seals, and that area of the park is popular with the animals. They must not be disturbed during this sensitive time of year.

The National Park Service requests that park visitors -- including ocean kayakers, surfers, abalone divers and recreational anglers -- avoid disturbing seals to ensure a successful pupping season.

Maps indicating specific area closures are available at the park's three visitor centers.

Point Reyes, located about 30 miles north of San Francisco on Highway 1, has the second-largest population of harbor seals in California, with 20% of the state’s harbor seals living or breeding within the park’s boundaries. (Channel Islands has the largest.)

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Shaun White to swim with stingrays and conquer the Black Pearl

Shaunwhite1 I caught up with Shaun White on Tuesday and learned the skateboarder-snowboarder-Olympic gold medalist is on crutches with a bone chip in one ankle, but anticipating a busy skateboarding season.

As soon as he's able he'll start practicing intensely in preparation for this summer's Maloof Money Cup, Dew Tour and X Games. But first he'll travel to the Cayman Islands to be part of a camp called Skate Cayman, at which tourists and locals will spend June 12 riding with Shaun at the famous 60,000-square-foot Black Pearl skate park.

(Other athletes involved with Skate Cayman are Bucky Lasek, Rune Glifberg and Brian Sumner.)

Asked what kind of people he'll be skating with, White paused and quipped, "Snorkelers." The Caribbean paradise is renowned for its snorkeling and diving, and White plans to swim with stingrays, explore reefs and ride some waves. "I'm actually searching out a surf spot right now," he said. "But if not there's an actual wave machine next to the park."

It'll be a good break for the Carlsbad mega-star who, after the summer, will change boards and begin a grueling snow season in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

To learn more about Skate Cayman, click here.

--Pete Thomas

Aerial view of Black Pearl Skate Park, Grand Cayman

Top photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times. Aerial view of Black Pearl Skate & Surf courtesy of Cayman Islands

Manny Ramirez rejects $25-million contract offer---who cares?

Ramirez2 News item: Manny Ramirez rejects the Dodgers' $25-million one-year proposal.

Reaction: How do you think this kind of news feels to all those fans -- and I mean virtually all of those fans -- who have lost their jobs or are worried about losing their jobs?

Major league baseball ought to take these dealings out of the public eye or people ought to find something more worthwhile to do with their free time, such as getting outdoors and enjoying cheaper and healthier pastimes like hiking, climbing, fishing, surfing, snowboarding, skiing or bird-watching.

I for one am finding it increasingly difficult to support big-time athletes who earn obscene salaries -- and whine through their agents when they aren't quite obscene enough -- while a growing number of ordinary hard-working Americans are jobless or out on the street.

Sure, baseball is entertainment and top entertainers demand millions. But you don't see -- or at least I don't see -- actors or their agents squabbling over such grossly high contracts in public.

Baseball is notorious for this, and the Manny money headlines are sickening to me during a gloomy economic period during which teachers, nurses, salesmen, truck drivers and people in just about every regular line of work are deeply concerned about how they're going to get by.

I think I'll skip baseball this year and support state parks and their incredible hiking trails instead. Spring training will be spent on my surfboard or alongside a trout stream. Summer weekends will be enjoyed on the beach, not at the ballpark, and the fall classic might be fighting a giant tuna at one of the outer banks.

Now that will be something to cheer about.

--Pete Thomas

Hawaii is paradise, but only for the few who are unaffected by the economy

Diamond Head looms over beachgoers on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

If you're like a lot of people, you've canceled or shortened your annual trip to Hawaii because you're worried about finances in what is looking more and more like a great depression.

As for Hawaii, one of the world's premier destinations for outdoors enthusiasts, the term "paradise" no longer applies to many of its residents. The jobless rate, in part because of a devastated tourist sector, reached a 10-year high at 5.5% in 2008, according to figures released this week.

And that figure is expected to soar higher in 2009.

A geographical breakdown:

-- Honolulu: 4.2%

-- Molokai: 11.6%

-- Maui: 6.5%

-- Hawaii: 7.1%

-- Kauai: 7.7%

-- Lanai: 6.2%

For the sake of comparison, Michigan is the state with the the highest jobless rate at 10.6%. California, which is closest to Hawaii in terms of air travel, ranks fourth at 9.3%.

The weather may indeed be beautiful, and we wish we were there to help out. But ...

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Diamond Head looms over beachgoers on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Great whites are developing taste for humans, Australian shark hunter claims

The late legendary shark hunter Frank Mundus, right, in 1986 with fellow charter boat skipper Donnie Braddick and a great white. Mundus was thought by many to have been the model for Captain Quint in the movie 'Jaws.'

Should the protection of great white sharks be lifted?

Of course not, but some might make such a claim after the next fatal attack off California. And if there is a spate of attacks, or sightings, watch out.

In Australia, where increased sightings off Queensland and the fatal chomping two weeks ago of a Perth snorkeler have generated "Jaws"-like hysteria, one man is claiming that overfishing and protection of sharks has become "a recipe for disaster."

Shark hunter Vic Hislop told the The Mercury, an Australian newspaper, that he was certain the great white that killed the snorkeler off Rockingham Beach was the same shark that killed another snorkeler just north of Perth in 2005.

Hislop, author of the book "Sharkman," said: "Everything I wrote in my book 12 years ago is coming true 100% of the time."

Claiming sharks have run low on natural food because of overfishing, Hislop says the predators are developing a taste for humans, and he is calling for lifting the protections of great whites.

That's unlikely to happen, but Hislop is entitled to his opinion.

Interestingly, what's happening in Australia brings to mind a fairly recent phenomenon in Hawaii, where state wildlife experts, responding to a spate of attacks, killed dozens of tiger sharks and turned a blind eye while citizens hunted dozens more from various islands.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: The late legendary shark hunter Frank Mundus, right, in 1986 with fellow charter boat skipper Donnie Braddick and a great white. Mundus was thought by many to have been the model for Captain Quint in the movie "Jaws." Credit: Newsday

A Christmas wish list, checked twice


A Christmas wish, brief version, minus materialistic desires:

-- May this latest storm further blanket our mountains, for the benefit of skiers, snowboarders and resort operators. More important, may it saturate a landscape that remains so parched that creeks remain dry and waterfalls without cascades. We need lots  of precipitation in 2008-09.

-- May the economy improve sooner rather than later. This would be our Christmas miracle. Being forced from a home onto the street is the worst possible kind of outdoors experience, and it should not be happening.

-- May children receive more gifts that introduce them to our spectacular natural resources--surfboards, skis, snowboards, hiking boots, binoculars, tents, fishing poles, etc.--and fewer computerized gadgets that contribute to obesity and create a disconnect between kids and their parents.

-- May more parents get out of the house with their children, to a lake shore, a state park, aboard a whale-watch boat or wherever there is sky and a vast surrounding. Most outdoor activities are inexpensive. Generate fond memories. Instill an appreciation for open spaces and critters that inhabit them. You won't regret it.

-- May Japan and other whaling nations stop the slaughter. Most if not all species of whales were on the brink of extinction at one point in our recent history. Haven't they been through enough?

-- May people lose the taste for shark fin soup. Unlike whales, sharks are being driven methodically to extinction because of the demand for this so-called delicacy and the brutal practice of "finning" live sharks. This is perilous for sharks and the environment. Is a bowl of soup worth all this?

-- May more people go green. May we see fewer Hummers and Suburbans and more hybrids. May the warming trend reverse (another miracle, please) and may the polar bears somehow survive the shrinking of their icy realm. People are trying, and that's a positive first step.

-- May at least some of your Chritmas wishes come true. Happy holidays, everyone. May better times prevail in 2009!

-- Pete Thomas

Photo credit: Greg Zook, Big Bear Lake Resort Assn.

Steve Irwin's ghost greets diver -- or does it? -- at Australia's Batt Reef

Steve Irwin hugs a baby alligator at the San Francisco Zoo in 2002.

Italian scuba diver Pino Termini has either a) spent too much time in the sun; b) been holding his breath too long during dives, or c) really did see the ghost of Steve Irwin during a recent dive along Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Specifically, the former Italian Navy diver was exploring Batt Reef near Port Douglas, and is quoted on the allnewsweb.com website as saying:

"As I started my dive I saw somebody and was surprised because I saw no other boats around, then I noticed that the person had no oxygen tank or mask; the person swam towards me and I realized that it was none other than the Crocodile Hunter himself: Steve Irwin. I freaked out, but he looked calm and at peace.

"I have seen a lot underwater but never a ghost. It was as if he was looking after the spot where he met his end, I felt that I should not impose myself on his turf as it was his and it seemed as if he was caring for the living creatures there."

Batt Reef is where Irwin, the star of Animal Planet's "Crocodile Hunter" series, was pierced by a stingray, and later died, in September 2006.

Does Irwin's spirit remain in the shape and form of the man as he appeared while alive?

There is, at the very least, one believer.

—Pete Thomas

Photo: Steve Irwin hugs a baby alligator at the San Francisco Zoo in 2002.

Credit: Getty Images


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.