6 months ago

AD 2016 Q2

As we pointed out in the spring 2013 edition of the Alert Diver, even being a dive buddy has potential legal implications. So, to bump this up a notch, what about the diver training organisations themselves? Where do they stand? How do they relate to South African law? Are they all considered the same under our legal system in spite of the differences in organisational structures and training programmes? How does this affect their respective instructors and trainee divers from a legal perspective? These are not exactly simple questions. It is certainly true that the respective training organisations differ in a number of ways. However, this does not imply that there are necessarily differential legal implications for each of them. In fact, under South African law, the legal principles are common in all matters. Therefore, if you suffer a loss and you (or your estate in the case of a fatality) wish to recover damages, the legal principles would be applied commonly; whether you are driving or diving. Although not a frequent occurrence, there have been quite a number of law suits associated with diving injuries and damages in South Africa. This is not surprising, as the occurrence of law suits is really a function of “numbers”. As training increases, so do the chances of injuries and, with it, the chances of legal recourse. So, it remains wise to insure yourself, your equipment or your business in a proper and effective way. But before getting back to the potential differences amongst the training agencies, let’s first explore the foundational legal principles on which any civil claim would be adjudicated: inherent risk, negligence and duty to take care.


FROM THE SAFETY STOP PUBLISHER’S NOTE Capt. Spencer Slate feeds a barracuda with a ballyhoo clenched in his teeth (photographed in the early 1990s). Emulating this behavior has sent several divers to the emergency room over the years. Just because you see it in a photograph doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to try it. DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME By Stephen Frink STEPHEN FRINK Some images take on a life of their own. That’s my thought each time I see a Facebook post by Capt. Spencer Slate, because his profile picture is a shot I took of him decades ago. Back in those days he did a “Creature Feature” each week in which he introduced divers to the critters and fed ballyhoo to the resident marine life on Key Largo’s City of Washington shipwreck — usually with the bait clenched between his teeth. This was an odd thing to do, even given the tenor of the times in the dive industry, but fish feeding at this particular site was the continuation of a long tradition begun by Steve Klem, celebrated as the “Pied Piper of Pennekamp Park” in a long-ago Skin Diver magazine feature. I took that photo when I was shooting for Skin Diver, and it was one of those crappy days when the wind had been blowing for a week and the visibility was less than 30 feet. The only way I could get the shot was by using an extreme wide-angle lens and getting so close to the action that there was only a foot of that turbid water between us. Slate and I were so close together that there was only a very narrow channel for the barracuda to race through to get the bait. It took a dozen attempts, but I finally nailed the shot: a frozen moment in which the barracuda’s mouth was wide open just nanoseconds from consuming the ballyhoo and made all the more impressive with close-focus perspective distortion. The shot made the cover of Skin Diver, and then it went beyond. I’ve seen it as a postcard for diving the Red Sea and the Turks and Caicos and on Ripley’s Believe It or Not as well as in other, mostly unauthorized, uses. Carlos Jaile related via Facebook a similar experience he witnessed while diving the City of Washington some years after the photo was published. “I remember this picture well.… I also remember back in the mid-1980s seeing a photographer and a diver trying to do something similar, feeding this barracuda or another damn big one and the guy losing two fingers in the process.” I can see how that could happen. Given this image’s wide distribution, it’s not surprising that other 12 | SPRING 2016

photographers would try to replicate the shot. I tried it again myself with a more beautiful model (no offense, Slate): My wife, Barbara, was modeling for me in one of my photo classes in Key Largo, and she fed the barracuda. Happily, she did so by hand — even at the height of our youthful risk tolerance she figured it was not a great idea to put dead fish in her mouth in hopes that a barracuda might come by to snatch it away. I was shooting video at the time, which was unusual for me and bad for Barbara because it meant I was detached from the action, seeing the world only through a tiny electronic viewfinder. Had I been fully engaged I might have realized the pace was too frenetic and tried to calm things down a bit. When I played the tape back, what happened was obvious: The barracuda grabbed a piece of bait and then hung in the water behind and to the right of Barbara’s head, just outside her peripheral vision. She turned her head right and left, searching for but never seeing the barracuda. She took another piece of bait from the bag, and faster than we could comprehend — let alone react — the barracuda hit. It didn’t bite down (if it had, she would have lost her fingers as well), but its teeth slid along her fingers like twin scalpels, shredding them to the bone. It was a terrible injury, the scars from which she would carry for life. We left the fish feeding to the pros after that. This sort of thing is bound to happen when photographers and magazines conspire to publish dangerous in-water activities. There’s a fine line to walk because no one wants to sanitize all the fun out of scuba diving. But an enlightened publication shouldn’t sensationalize reckless behavior or suggest that it’s something its readers might wish to do on a dive. Words matter, and so do photos. I think about that these days when I choose which shark photos to publish. Shark populations are being decimated by unconscionable finning operations, and I don’t want to perpetuate the myth that sharks are mindless predators eager to devour all the humans in the ocean. Divers know better than that, but the general public remains susceptible to misunderstanding, and sharks can lose big as a result. For the same reason we shouldn’t take photos of divers touching coral or puffing pufferfish or riding turtles, we shouldn’t overhype the hazardous marine life angle. There are those who, unlike us, haven’t experienced the world through a face mask. If their only view of our world is through our lenses, we should carefully consider their perception of our reality. AD CLAUDIO CONTRERAS KOOB CAS DOBBIN WHAT’S NEW ON ALERTDIVER.COM MARVELOUS MALDIVES Manta rays, sharks, turtles and friendly fish — marvel at the imagery in the Maldives on Page 64, then continue the journey in Stephen Frink’s online photo gallery. ART AND DIVING Discover how the aquatics team supports the artists in Cirque du Soleil’s O (Page 44), then go online to catch a behind-thescenes video of how it all comes together. CHANGING THE WORLD Photography can change the way people look at the world, and the winning images of the 2016 Ocean Views photo contest (Page 86) are proof. Let the images in the bonus online gallery continue to amaze you. REDISCOVERING A MINE Travel with Jill Heinerth to Bell Island on Page 16, and see more of her discoveries in the bonus online gallery. ALL THIS AND MUCH MORE AWAIT AT ALERTDIVER.COM STEPHEN FRINK COURTESY CIRQUE DU SOLEIL ALERTDIVER.COM | 13

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