Archive for 08/30/2011

Necker Belle –

Why should James Bond be the only one with a swanky aero sub ? If you’ve got the cash, Sir Richard Branson is more than happy to lend you his for the day.

The Necker Nymph, which resides on Branson’s luxury catamaran, the Necker Belle, is an open-cabin three-seater sub. It dives down to a depth of 30 meters, a top underwater speed of 6 knots, and can remain submerged for up to two hours.

Both passengers wear normal scuba breathing gear—no, you don’t get to drive this one-of-a-kind winged submarine, there’s a pilot for that. A day-long rental will set you back $2,500 and unfortunately does not include Barbara Bach.

Robert Lewis Knecht –

We’ve all heard of the Pirates of Penzance, and the Pirates of the Caribbean. But have you heard of… the Pirate of Monterey?

For April and me, one of the most interesting aspects of treasure hunting is the history that comes alive through the research that must be done before, or after, a new treasure discovery is made. Whether it is treasure we’ve discovered, or items discovered by other “treasure finders” we work with all over the world, research is often where a hunt begins, and it most certainly ends.

And it is this documented history that gives our treasures even more value – to know exactly when and where a treasure was found gives voice to history. It is no longer a “coin I found in Grandpa’s old shoebox,” but rather a living piece of history with a story to tell.

Another fun part of this business is getting to name a treasure discovery. On several occasions over the years, we have been either the first or among the first people to see a treasure cache since it became lost hundreds of years ago.

And so is the case with the Refugio Bay Pirate Cache. Did you know that Monterey, Calif., was once a part of Argentina … for six amazing days? The tale begins with the French and Argentine pirate, Hippolyte de Bouchard. Bouchard was the first Argentine to circumnavigate the globe, and he attacked Monterey in search of Jesuit and Franciscan treasures he had heard were secreted away in California’s Spanish missions.

Now here is an example of one of the many pitfalls that can trip us up when researching and writing about history. We’re often dependent on long-dead historians who wrote said history, and the side of the proverbial “fence” upon which they sat. From the views of the residents of Monterey and the other Spanish settlements Bouchard attacked on his way back to Argentina, he was “Pirata Buchar.”

But to the Argentines, he was a “corsair” and a hero, sailing under a “letter of marque” from the Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata; the direct predecessor of the present Argentine Republic. This letter gave him permission to prey on all Spanish settlements he encountered. (For more information about what life was like in California at that time, see the historically accurate “Zorro: The Gay Blade,” best enjoyed with a lime and a Tecate… make that a six-pack.)

Now, on to the lost treasure part of this story! On Nov. 18, 1818, Bouchard arrived off Monterey. Even though they didn’t have “texting” back then, (stay tuned for my column “What if Pirates Texted?”), the Spanish had been forewarned that ol’ Hippolyte was on his way and had moved all their valuables and civilians inland. For six days, Bouchard and his men sacked the settlement (not to be confused with the relatively docile “sacked” in football parlance); swords were drawn, cannons fired, and by Nov. 24, the Argentine flag was flying over the Spanish fort at Monterey.

Full story…

Ariana Kaknevicius –

Scott Cassell already holds the record for longest non-stop dive but is ready to break it again while trying to preserve ocean life.

On September 17, the explorer and combat/commercial diver will attempt a 30-mile (48-kilometre) non-stop SCUBA dive from Catalina Island to Los Angeles, gathering information about shark population and what the ocean actually holds, a task that only human effort can accurately collect.

“[The ocean] is where monsters dwell,” says Cassell, who has spent more than 13,000 hours under water in his lifetime, “Where man’s imagination can become reality because it truly does have the most magnificent animals to ever have existed.”

From 1,000 ft. to 3,000 ft., he will be diving through two great white shark strike zones, and an area that has been known to contain very large Mako sharks, to calculate how many sharks there are in Southern California.

Aside from sharks, other  dangers Cassell is prepared to face include hypothermia, decompression sickness, extraordinary currents, equipment failure, and physical exhaustion.

For this diver, however, his safety, although important, is not top priority.

“Every dive is a mission,” says Cassell. “And the mission is always first.”

Cassell considers himself a man who takes responsibility for everything in his world. In this case, that’s the ocean and the animals that dwell underneath.

Full story…

Mike Lee –

Even in utero, marine researcher Brent Stewart was on the move — and he hasn’t stopped since.

Conceived in Florida, Stewart was born 56 years ago in Alaska, then raised as an Air Force brat in Morocco and France before graduating from high school in Spain.

Today, he keeps a desk at the nonprofit Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute that overlooks Mission Bay, but he’s much more likely to be in the Channel Islands. Or Greenland. Or West Papua. Or Antarctica.

His globe-trotting has a goal. Stewart tracks various marine creatures in hopes of documenting their travels and ultimately conserving the species by protecting vital habitats. He and two other researchers from San Diego will be honored in October by the Explorers Club with an award shared over the years by some of the most famous names in exploration, including Carl Sagan, Sir Edmund Hillary and Wally Schirra.

Based in New York, the Explorers Club counts about 70 in San Diego County among its 3,100 members worldwide. It was founded in 1904 to give adventurers a place to share their triumphs and trials with peers, a function it retains even though the concept might seem outdated in the 21st Century.

Members must contribute to the body of scientific knowledge, either with a discovery or adding knowledge about a discovery. A few of them, including Stewart, pack one or more of the club’s 202 numbered flags on their journeys as they stake new claims for science.

San Diego boasts one of the most active chapters in the world, in part because of the oceanographic trendsetters at UCSD who figure prominently into the history of exploration.

“When the club was initially founded, it was to define the map,” said international club President Lorie Karnath, who splits her time between New York, Berlin and Normandy, France, when she’s not on an expedition. “Today I feel the stakes are much higher because we are working to balance and preserve and sustain our planet. … You still have all the excitement and thrill of exploration, but you also have a very important purpose.

Full story…