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Discovering Deeper Waters Written by Karl Stanley Photos by Lia Barrett
Submersible Reveals Secrets of the Unexplored Cayman Trench

Caribbean roughshark (Oxynotus caribbaeus), below 1700 feet during the day, as shallow as 1000 at night.
Only photographed live off Roatan.

Though many people visit Roatan for their love of the ocean, most often their love remains shallow and superficial. As opposed to the mere 130-foot depths explored by Roatan scuba divers, the world's oceans have an average depth of over 14,000 feet. Most of the planet is covered in waters that have never seen light and are inhabited by otherworldly animals adapted to this extreme environment. Currently the most accessible point for people to explore this world for themselves is right here on Roatan.
To better understand the uniqueness of the Roatan Institute of Deep-sea Exploration (RIDE) and its current submersible Idabel, it is useful to have a brief history of submersibles. It was in the 1960s that modern submersibles were born, that interest was at the highest in exploring the ocean, (as well as space one could add), and that most developments in submersible design were made as well as in vehicles. It was during this time the submersible Alvin was launched that famously found the Titanic (1964), and the standing record for deep submergence was made by the Trieste to the bottom of the Marianas Trench (1960). In 1968, six men spent over a month drifting 1500 miles in the Gulf stream in a submersible named the Ben Franklin. Television regularly featured the exploits of Cousteau piloting his diving saucer and living underwater in the Conshelf habitats. In short, it was an exciting time to be exploring underwater.
By the 1970s, enthusiasm to explore the depths was considerably dampened. Many large companies that had built submersibles in an effort to demonstrate their ability to do so and in the hopes of getting funding in a government funded "wet NASA" realized they had invested poorly and began mothballing their subs. There was a surge of sub building activity however due to their use, particularly in the North Sea for support of oil extraction. One company in Florida came the closest to a "mass produced sub," manufacturing over 20 submersibles with a 1000 foot depth rating and a cylindrical design. Interestingly this company was started as a hobby by John Perry, a newspaper publisher. It was Perry-made subs that were making tourist dives for years in the Cayman Islands, and a high-strength steel sphere that used to belong to a Perry sub is incorporated into my submersible Idabel. By the 1980s even this market was drying up as oil companies decided it was more cost effective to send ROVs - (Remote Operated Vehicles) to replace the subs, reducing risks and with unlimited power supplied down an umbilical cord.
The 1990s saw the growing of the Atlantis submarine company that claims a fleet of subs "larger than that of many national navies" with 11 subs operating in seven countries. The company has provided tours to over 11 million people and claims to be the largest tourism service provider in North America. Though the owner of Atlantis got his start working with subs at depths up to 6000 feet, he quickly decided that the real money was in taking the 99% of people that have never been scuba diving to 100-150 feet under, and the success of his company has proven this philosophy. It also was something of a death toll for deep submersible innovation and investment. We now find ourselves living on a planet that is more than 70% covered with water, with an average depth of 14,000 feet and yet only nine nations on the planet - USA, Germany, Portugal, Russia, France, Greece, Costa Rica, Canada and Honduras - have the capability to explore past the first 1000 feet of that. The majority of these vehicles are operated by federal governments, off 200-300 foot long ships, at the cost of $20,000 to $50,000 per day to support the overhead. With such a small number of vehicles worldwide, operating in such a limited basis due to their extreme cost, the amount of deep ocean exploration done by humans is scarce at best.
It was in such a scarcity that my dream as a 9-year-old boy to build a sub was born. With the chance encounters of many people that have benefited the project, and more than two decades of stubborn determination, that I have found myself operating the deepest submersible in the hemisphere south of the US. Due to total vertical integration of the business- (being my own designer, welder, machinist, pilot, etc.), I have kept my costs to levels that are less than 10% of my nearest competitor. It is for these reasons magazine reporters and TV crews have been sent from as far away as Brazil, Japan, England and Germany to document what lives in Roatan's deep waters.
Beginning in 1998, I have made over 1200 dives, as deep as 2620 feet in the waters off Roatan. Most have been 2-3 hours, but many have lasted 7-9 hours, and once I stayed down for 17 hours. I would like to share with the Voice readers some of what I have learned and observed from these dives.
Water Visibility
One of the most common misperceptions about the deep ocean is how quickly light fades. Due to Roatan's large distance from a major land mass, and lack of rivers to put sediment into the water on a regular basis, the visibility here can be as good as visibility possibly gets in saltwater. I base this on conversations with pilots of other subs, who are always amazed to learn I have seen the sun hitting the surface here as deep as 800 feet. The only time I have heard of the sun being visible any deeper is in Crater Lake in Oregon, which is fresh water and so high in the mountains no rivers run into it, and the volcanic crater lip even protects the lake's surface from wind driven waves. There, people have seen the sun strike the surface as deep as 1000 feet.
Surrounding Roatan, there is a thermo cline at 250-300 feet down. Not only does the temperature change here, but the visibility at least doubles, as the sediment rich waters above are in another layer. This deeper water is so clear that I often turn my lights out at 1000 feet and can easily navigate with only the natural light. Once I was even able to do this at 1300 feet. What is strange about light at this level is the color, or should I say complete lack of it. As any diver can tell you, in the first 50 feet, red light waves are absorbed by the water; in the 500 foot range even the blue starts to go; and in a few hundred more feet the indigo leaves. What is left is not exactly black and white, but you can't quite say what is different about it, because you have watched each color being leached out one by one.
Another surprising fact is how far the moonlight can penetrate. You must remember 98% of the light has already been absorbed in the first 100 meters. It is not the intensity of the light that lets it get so deep, it is the remarkable clarity of the water. Thus it is on many occasions I have seen the moon striking the surface, at depths to 500 feet. I have also had people tell me they could see the glow of the submersibles lights- from shore when I was 400 feet underwater.

Part of the equation that makes RIDE possible is the unique geology of Roatan. There is only a two mile stretch (between Sandy Bay and West End) that offers a combination of being in the lea of the island, having safe harbors, and immediate access to waters thousands of feet deep. I have done much investigating for other places in the world with these three requirements, and one or more is always missing. If any world travelers have seen such a place, please contact me with the coordinates!
The largest contributor to this unique geology is Roatan's location on the edge of a Caribbean plate. In case the name of the country wasn't enough of a reminder (Honduras means "depths") that we live on the edge of a trench, the 7.3 earthquake that rocked us in May 2009 was evidence in which most of us took notice. Looking at a map it is clear that Guanaja, Roatan and Utila are the tops of a mostly submerged mountain range. These mountains are being formed as the Caribbean Plate is pushed down into the trench. The Cayman trench is the deepest in the Caribbean and plunges to depths of over 25,000 feet. It is worth noting that no manned vessel in the world today is capable of reaching such depths.
Besides being pushed upwards, these mountains are riding a plate that is slowly moving into the trench. That is why the north side of the island is much steeper than the South side. Over the years, various projects, including inspecting the dumping site for materials from the new cruise ship dock, have allowed me to explore depths of every area between French Harbor and Flowers Bay. I would estimate the slope on the south side to be less than half of that on the north side. There is also at least 3x the trash to be found on the south side, as would be expected from the larger population and industrial centers being found on that side of the island. The north side is so steep in places there is often a vertical wall in the depth ranges of 250-1200 feet. Just like a glacier moving continually downhill "calves" off pieces of itself, the north side of the island is constantly losing chunks that break loose. On a dive done only 16 hours after the earthquake, enough material had broken free that below 900 feet visibility was less than a few feet and the sub could safely go no deeper. These processes are also on display in certain areas, for example directly in front of Half Moon Bay, and also in front of Peter's Place dive site, where a slab of the deep wall (250-500 feet) is starting to split away but has not yet fallen off. Think of Mary's Place, but many times larger. The cave formed in front of Peter's place is large enough that I have been able to drive my sub thru it, 400+ feet down.
Most know Roatan's gnarled "iron shore" used to be coral and that sea levels used to be approximately 20 feet higher, but how often do you see evidence of when the sea levels were up to 400 feet lower? This fact is on clear display because of the coral (now limestone) left at depths up to 700 feet below current sea level. Reef building coral relies on the algae that grows inside of it, thus generating due to photosynthesis. There is only enough energy in sunlight to permit photosynthesis down to about 300 feet. Seeing the drowned and eroded reef left behind from 20,000 years ago, during the last ice age, at depths of up to 750 feet is a stark reminder in the variability of sea level over time. Where waves used to hammer Roatan's ancient cliffs, there are now many areas in the 300-450 foot range where the wall is severely undercut - these are truly dramatic places to navigate the submersible.
Below this, the landscape changes dramatically. The wall starts to slope out at about a 45 degree angle and the landscape is dominated by blocks of limestone that have tumbled down. These giant blocks of stone, many the size of two- and three-story buildings, provide safe habitats for many creatures that need protection from being smothered by the rain of sediment from above. Below 1500 feet the numbers of boulders diminishes and the most common rock is the black igneous rock that forms the base of the island.

National Geographic Host Dr. Brady Barr photo shoot in the submarine Idabel
Animal Life
One hundred and fifty years ago the prevailing scientific paradigm was that conditions in the deep sea (cold, dark, extreme pressures) were so hostile that life could not exist there. In fact in 1854, British Naturalist Edward Forbes published his "azoic hypothesis" based on limited dredging he did in the Aegean Sea stating that by 300 fathoms (about 1800 feet) "all life would cease to exist."
This theory was held by most until the Challenger Oceanographic expedition of 1873-1876 proved it untrue. I find this to be a valuable lesson pertaining to the big question of "are we alone" in the universe? The human race seems to think life will only exist to the very limits of our ability to find it. When our technology didn't allow us to see in the ocean depths it was easier to say nothing could live down there. We have yet to really explore any other planets, but most people like to think that earth may be the only planet supporting life.

The Idabel offers access to three of the five zones of the ocean. Those are the Epipelagic zone (where photosynthesis still occurs); the Mesopelagic zone, or Twilight zone, (where there is light, but not enough for photosynthesis); and the Abyssopelagic zone, where you have passed into total darkness. Around Roatan this tends to happen between 1700-1800 feet. Besides being totally dark, you can tell when you have passed into this zone as there is a surge of animal life, also known as the "Deep Scattering Layer." It is named this because it was first discovered by people mapping the oceans with sonar, who kept getting false reads back from the same 1700-1800 foot depth range. This is because there are many animals that wait at these depths for night to fall. After dark, they vertically migrate to relatively shallower water to feed, then return to the darkness before the sun comes up. Besides fish, that tend to hang in the water on their heads or looking straight up, orienteering themselves so as to make as small of a silhouette as possible for any predators trying to see them from below, or trying to see prey above them. The main animal that makes up this layer is squid. On some night dives I have seen thousands of 3-6 inch squid as they migrate to shallower water. This migration of animals in the world's oceans not only happens daily, but by sheer mass of animal life it far outweighs the caribou or the wildebeest.
On most dives I try to go thru the Epipelagic zone as quickly as possible. The warm water makes it uncomfortable to linger there, visibility is relatively poor, and my philosophy is people are paying to go in the sub to see things they cannot in any other way. Most of the animal life in the first 300 feet tends to be the same to what you can see diving or snorkeling.
Once you get below 300 feet things change dramatically. The visibility jumps, water temperature drops, and there are no more reef building corals or algae. Most of the animal life is new to even the most experienced diver. You are now in the Mesopelagic or Twilight zone. Surprisingly there are a few stragglers from the surface. For example four eyed butterfly fish (which wander to 500 feet), Barracuda's and scroll file fish (400 feet), Moray eels (1000 feet), and manta rays go as deep as 1500 feet.
Some things divers see nearer to the surface actually like it best deeper than divers usually go. My overwhelming majority of hammerhead shark sightings over the years have been at 300-500 feet. I have seen two tiger sharks (500 feet, and 1400 feet), and tuna and jacks prefer the edge of the 2nd wall at around 250 feet. The one animal that has no concern for depth is the hermit crab - they seem to thrive in any environment, from mangroves to well past 2000 feet.
Most animal life, however, is very different. There are fan corals growing under overhangs up to 4 feet across with purple and neon pink on their base. Colorful sponges dominate the transition zone of 250-350 feet, with elephant ear, rope, antler, and encrusting sponges exploding in yellows, oranges, and purples. Invertebrates are the most common type of animal, with many types of urchins, anemones and starfish found. One of the largest types of anemones only comes out at night. It took me years of diving to realize this as the daytime and nighttime version of the same animal look so different. During the day it is retracted into its self and looks like a knobby mass only about 4 inches long. At night it grows into a formidable predator stretching 3 foot long arms into the current off of a foot long body. For some reason it also never connects itself to the rock directly, it chooses to attach to sea fans and corals. Only after seeing this large animal so many times at night and never in the day, and marking the location of where I was seeing them, did I realize the transformation it went thru each day.
One animal I see on every dive is a Sea Lilly or Stalked Crinoid. They are one of the oldest forms of life on the planet, being found in the fossil record as far back as 500 million years ago. (Dinosaurs came and went 65 million years ago) They were first thought to be extinct, and only in the last 50 years did submersibles start to see them. This is because the shallowest you will find one is at 470 feet. Though they look a lot like flowers, they are in fact animals and in 2005 were first filmed "walking" along the ocean floor.
One of the most common animals below 300 feet is the glass sponge. They come in many varieties - some make tubes, others encrust the rock, and the largest ones resemble the openings of a tuba, growing from a central base. What they all share is a very hard structure that has silica spicules in it, making it very unattractive to predators. Interestingly, one variety of these sponges, found only below 1700 feet seems to have some sort of symbiotic relationship with a shrimp that must spend its entire life trapped inside the sponge. This is because these sponges have what appears to be a lace net over their opening, and the shrimps that are much too large to fit thru the openings in this net can be seen happily living inside the sponge.
The areas with the most life are the Lophelia reefs. Deep water corals are only just beginning to be understood, but what we are discovering is amazing. Most scientists now think that there are more square miles of deep water corals than there is coral reef in sunlit waters, even though the majority of the reefs may have already been damaged by trawling. This is because these deep water reefs are not limited to the tropics, they only need suitable currents and structure to attach to. The largest deepwater reef found so far is off Norway, but they have been found almost everywhere submersibles have looked. I have found two such deep water Lophelia coral reefs off Roatan. They both are between 1200 and 1500 feet, and the types of corals and density of life to be found there are largely exclusive to those areas. The main purpose of inspecting the dump site for the cruise ship dock was to ensure that such a site was not buried alive.
The backbone of these communities is Lophelia coral, which is a hard coral with polyps that live by filtering the water, not by cultivating algae. They grow in fans up to six feet across, and are usually bright yellow, but can be white or brown. Where Lophelia coral is found, gold coral can be found as well that get up to 8 feet across and have up to 25 large pink brittle stars wrapped on their branches. These corals are thought to live up to 2700 years. The most common fish to be found on these reefs is the Orange Roughy, which some of you may recognize from menus. This is a particularly poor choice for people to eat, as the only way Orange Roughy is caught is by trawling. Besides the fact that Orange Roughy are thought to live over 130 years and not reproduce until they are over 30 years old. In the act of catching them once, deep water reefs can be wiped out that have taken thousands of years to grow.
One of the largest fish to be found on the Lophelia reefs is the Tinselfish whose flat teardrop shaped body gets to be 2 feet long. They have huge eyes, but swim very poorly using translucent ribbons of fins running over the top and bottom of their bodies for propulsion. They are so named because of their shiny, mirror like body, though to be fair many fish at these depths are shiny like mirrors as well. For example, the 3 foot long frost fish that is shaped like the blade of a sword hangs motionless in the water column looking straight upwards. Tinselfish make their homes in cracks and crevices of the Lophelia reef, and seem to defend their turf. This is because when approached by the submersible they will stand their ground, and if we linger too long they stare us down, and begin to angrily shake their head at us.
It is when you pass thru to the Abyssopelagic zone that, as one writer put it, the "freak show" begins. A favorite for passengers to see is the dumbo octopus, that swims with its ears and its eyes can change from pin pricks to the size of nickels in seconds. The Jellynose eel can reach lengths of 4 feet, and has large round pectoral and dorsal fins, and a face that only a mother could love. The Chimera is the animal to be found in my logo. Like sharks and rays it has no bones, only cartilage as it is a hybrid of these two animals. It has a mouth with bony plates that is uses to crush mollusks and small animals it digs in the sediment and a body that shimmers with iridescent green. It often seems curious about the sub and comes to the front window and stares in.
Of the over 400 species of sharks known, most live in deep water, so it should not be a surprise to the reader that there are many more species of sharks living around Roatan than the ones divers see. I have observed over a dozen species including cat sharks (that live below 1000 feet, are two feet long, and are patterned somewhat like a leopard shark), dog sharks, white tips sharks, and of course six gill sharks. Six gills are the largest animals I see regularly. I have on rare occasion seen whale sharks and mola molas, but have spent hundreds of hours observing six gills. During the day these giants prefer the total darkness, and during daylight hours I most often see them below 2000 feet. At night I have seen them as shallow as 1000 feet, but even with bait to entice them, they seem to prefer it below 1500 feet. On numerous occasions I have had a large female (the females are always significantly larger) swimming alongside the sub and can say with confidence they grow up to 18 feet long.
To give one a better understanding of the mass of these animals, consider on numerous occasions I have been able to secure entire horses to feed them, and most often by the time I arrive at the bottom to see the sharks the horse is mostly devoured. On one occasion I got there too late, as the pile of 10 cinderblocks the horse had been chained to were dragged 200 feet down the sloping ocean bottom and nothing but a short piece of one leg remained, with so little flesh attached only a few shrimp remained to pick over it. It was to film these sharks that National Geographic television sent host Dr. Brady Barr and a producer to film, a television special they tell me 300 million people around the world were able to enjoy.
One of the least known sharks in our waters has to be the Caribbean Rough Shark, Oxynotus caribbaeus. Though it has been known to science since 1961, and is listed in any book on sharks, they are so rarely observed that I have never found a photo of one. They are very distinctive, with their forward dorsal fin having a spine in it and being unusually large. The body is even stranger, with two keel-like ridges on the sides of its belly that probably contain organs that detect electrical impulses in the water, much like a hammerhead's head contains such organs.
Other strange animals that live this deep include a creature that looks like an orange slimeball. It anchors its self to the ocean floor with a pyramid of 2 foot long clear arms, and when approached starts pulling the arms up to its body and jets off. I have also observed blue sea cumbers with two rows of purple spines that can flatten their bodies and swim, multiple variations of jellyfish that resemble spacecraft, and predatory tunicates that wait with an open mouth for small fish to swim in and then trap them, much like a Venus fly trap.

In the 1960s, Jacques Cousteau observed that thirty percent of life in the oceans had already been killed by human activities. New discoveries show that he may have been overly optimistic. In 1987, a whale carcass was first observed on the sea floor from a sub and scientists quickly realized the explosion of life this huge amount of biomass puts into the deep-sea food chains. It is estimated that over 60,000 whales die and sink into the abyss every year, but the eye opening figure is that in the last two centuries humans have killed over 1.5 million whales. These whales that spent a lifetime in surface waters accumulating nutrients were never able to deposit them on the sea floor the way nature had for millions of years.
In other words, the oceans Jacques Cousteau was observing 50 years ago may have already had whole branches lopped off its "tree of life."
The figures today are even more disturbing: ninety percent of large fish have already disappeared worldwide, and catches have not gone up since 1989, despite massive increase in the numbers of boats and technology used to catch fish. These figures bear true to my personal observations. In only a decade of diving I have witnessed a dramatic (more than 90%) reduction in the numbers of tuna and hammerhead sharks, due no doubt to the international demand for sushi and shark fin soup.
In short, history has shown humans to have a remarkable inclination to destroy nature, and an even more remarkable ability to not care about what it is they are destroying before doing so.
I am proud to be providing the only spot on the planet that allows the general public to educate themselves on the deep ocean in the best way possible, by experiencing it. I am thankful to all my passengers over the last decade that have had the curiosity to want to see this world for themselves and that have made this unique operation possible.

Supporters for Honduras' National and Liberal Parties flooded the main road in Coxen Hole in front of the polls on Sunday, November 29.
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Deadlocked in Frustration - Again by George Crimmin

We also need new leadership that has the will, skill and courage to succeed in this endeavor. We are separate and entirely different from mainland Honduras and deserve to be considered by different standards. We have always been treated differently: in negative and punitive ways. It is not only the time to divide the Roatán Municipal territory into two separate entities, from upper Brick Bay to the Oakridge border forming a new municipality, but each individual Island being awarded it's own representative in congress - both Utila and Guanaja deserve their own individual "diputados."
Roatán, being the capital, should be awarded two representatives in congress. I believe that this would create at least a resemblance of fairness - today we basically have no voice in national affairs. One Congressman for all three islands no longer makes sense, and is inherently unfair. We cannot compete with mainland Honduras because we do not possess the necessary territory and will never be able to accommodate the population required to increase our representation based on the current formula. We must be judged by a different standard. It's interesting, when the U.S. was forming its government and decided on a representative form based on population, the large states were delighted, the smaller states however recognized that they would have little say in government, that's why the Senate was created. Therefore any law that passes the House of Representatives must also be approved by the Senate where all the states are equal (two senators per state) that way the little states are able to be heard as well. Since in Honduras we do not have a Senate we must have greater representation in Congress to be able to have a proper voice in national affairs, particularly when it directly affects the Bay Islands.
My Fellow Bay Islanders: we have a right to demand to be treated fairly. We have given enough, or should I say, enough has been taken from us and we deserve all of the afore mentioned merits and privileges. I for one will not let this issue rest until we are awarded our equal and deserving rights under the law.
We are the gateway to tourism in Honduras, and if we speak with one voice we will be heard. If we come together as one, we can get the job done. I have said this before but I think it is worth repeating: "Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice".

In September of 2007, I wrote an editorial entitled "Deadlocked in Frustration", where I outlined my reasons why I believe the current Roatán Municipal district should be sub-divided. Perhaps it's time to revisit this topic. However, before doing so let me reiterate that readers have the right to disagree or even be offended by what I write, and I am not necessarily trying to convince them that they shouldn't be. That, I believe would be a monumental waste of time and energy. And it's somewhat depressing to have to restate the obvious.
Now back to the topic at hand. I believe most native Bay Islanders would agree that the current format has been a dismal failure. Very little has been accomplished from lower Brick Bay to West Bay. The demands of the West End/West Bay area and those of Mt. Pleasant are worlds apart. Our politicians employ the strategy of divide and conquer, therefore some areas win and some areas lose. Not a very productive formula for running a successful administration. In my earlier editorial I mentioned that there is one thing stronger than all the armies of the world, and that is an idea whose time has come. To succeed in this venture however we need the right people in the right places. I frequently get my inspiration from nature. It is said that "the secret of success is to start from scratch and keep on scratching."
Any worthwhile accomplishment requires effort. Take the hen for instance, hard work means nothing to her. Regardless of what business prognosticators say about the price of eggs, she keeps on digging for worms and laying eggs. If the ground is hard she scratches harder, if it is wet, she scratches where it is dry. If she strikes rock, she digs around it. Have you ever seen a pessimistic hen? I haven't. Have you seen a hen cackle in disgust at the prospect of her job? I doubt it. Yet some of us humans give up at the first sign of the slightest opposition. We could learn a lot by paying close attention to nature. Our current municipal arrangement is totally dysfunctional and completely ineffective. We need a change of format as soon as possible.

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Marine Park Holds Second General Assembly

Elects New Members to Board of Directors

RMP has two chapters: Sandy Bay West End Marine Reserve (SBWEMR) and the South Side. Reported accomplishments in 2009 were the increased installation and maintenance of dive, yacht, and fishing moorings and channel markers; higher numbers of people and contraband apprehended when patrolling for illegal activity; new education projects for schools, public awareness, Bags for Life, beach cleanup, and community development; and launching the official website, complete with interactive maps and forms where the community can report lionfish sightings and damaged or missing moorings.
Patrolling led to 79 arrests for such activities as wielding spear guns, traps and gaffs, carrying stolen dive and snorkel equipment, cutting mangroves, and creating oil spills and land fills. Of those arrested, 35 were imprisoned. According to Nic Bach and South Side Field Coordinator Licario Zepeda, those released were typically elder or underage, but who were punished through community service such as beach cleanup.
As a crucial addition to budget, the RMP found a way to capitalize on the cruise ship traffic with a stand at the Port of Roatan cruise ship dock selling Marine Park eco-store merchandise. In the initial 14 days, RMP representatives report that more than 700 cruise ship passengers were educated by staff at the stand, and revenues amassed $4,023 for RMP efforts.
Presented goals for 2010 are to increase the number of schools that participate in the RMP environmental education program, add to diving courses offered to the general community, continue building the Coral Reef Leadership Network in certifying the youth of Roatan, launch a recycling program, give support to the Fisherman's Alliance, and complete the official declaration of the Cordelia Banks as a protected area. In addition, plans will be put into action for the licensing, training, and eradication program for controlling the lionfish population. Other possibilities include a restaurant and food awareness program.
New members elected to the Board of Directors are Enry Padilla, Santos Cruz, Trevor Brown, and Kevin Braun. Continuing members are President Alvin Jackson, Vice President Jennifer Keck, Secretary Mark Havey, Treasurer Mish Akel,

Licario Zepeda, Grazzia Matamoros, and Mish Akel count votes for the new members of the Board of Directors.

Approximately 50 people gathered at the Blue Marlin on December 16 for the Roatan Marine Park's (RMP) general assembly for the presentation of the organization's 2009 achievements, goals for 2010, and to select new members for the Board of Directors. This was the second meeting of its type.
What started in 2005 as a grassroots organization has grown to a major regulating and governing body over Roatan's reefs and ecological systems. The RMP achieved non-profit status in May of 2008 from the Secretaria de Gobenacion y Justicia, which then allowed the organization to apply for international grants, greatly increasing its scope of service to the island. "Obtaining nonprofit status was incredibly important, as we could grow in ways we couldn't before," said Grazzia Matamoros, Executive Director. By the end of 2009, RMP received support from USAID, CORAL, Project AWARE, Nature Conservancy, and WWF. The RMP shares duties as co-managers of the Marine Reserve with the Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA) under an agreement with ICS, the Honduran Institute for Forestry Conservation, Protected Areas and Wildlife.
and Committee Members Jenny Myton and Patty Grier.
While the organization has had access to a greater wealth of resources, the worldwide economic downturn has kept recent income to a minimum. "Basically, we're just trying to get by, cutting costs as much as possible, and maintaining services as best we can," said Nic Bach, Director of Infrastructure and Patrols. "We need about $10,000 a month to survive."

Flu Prevention in Roatan
Brigades Target Elderly and Infants

The program was set to be implemented in November as in the past three campaigns to combat higher incidents of flu during the rainy season, but political and economic situations delayed the program until December.
During the 2009 Bay Islands campaign, approximately 3,000 people were expected to be vaccinated, versus the 2,400 people who were treated in 2008. While the 2009 campaign only targeted common flu strains, inoculations for H1N1 will be included in 2010.
The program operated under strict hygienic rules. Syringes were transported in coolers with ice packs. Used syringes were discarded into a biohazard box and later electrically incinerated.
The nationwide campaign cost Lps. 43,534,162 ($2,304,614.19), 97% of which utilized central government funds, and the remaining 3% were provided in cooperation with USAID, OPS, and UNICEF.
The program was advertised before arriving into the barrios through local radio and TV, and through announcements from speakers on cars and motorcycles. "Some refuse the shot, but through education, the program is getting more accepted," said Roatan director Maribel Bejarano de Figueroa. During visits, the staff also educates the community on basic hygiene, such as the importance of washing one's hands. The brigades also collect information on each person inoculated, much like a census.

Nurse Carolina Nuñez administers a flu shot to Mercedez Lopez in Col. Policarpo Galindo.

The fourth campaign for flu prevention by the Honduras Secretaria de Salud sent brigades throughout Honduras on December 7-18. In the Bay Islands, a group of 30 nurses, teachers, and health administrators in five brigades visited the local communities in Utila, Roatan, and Guanaja. The brigades provided free flu vaccinations for those 60 years of age and older, private or public health care workers, infants from six to 35 months of age, and feed handlers for farmlands, especially any of the above with a history of respiratory illness. Cayos Cuchinos was not included in the plan for transportation reasons.
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A Ride with a Princess

A Look at Passenger Maritime Safety between Utila and La Ceiba

As for the doors, the new air conditioning system might influence the crew to use the standard marine-type dog latches properly, without propping the door open. "There are two exits in the front, and two in the back, and all exit doors can be opened from both sides," assured Wardlay. "There would be no problem getting passengers out of the boat." Tying doors shut are a violation of maritime safety codes and law in accordance with US Coast Guard standards.
Concerns for passenger safety were also raised when the La Ceiba port captain re-examined the boat's certification after its structure and passenger areas were modified. In July the Utila Princess II certification from 100 passengers was reduced to 70-75, by the La Ceiba Port Captain. "We operate under a tightly governed system that is constantly behind us on safety," said Wardlay. "The US Coast Guard granted the craft 125 passenger status, 20 miles off shore. The rules of the Honduran Mercantile Marine Division are much stricter."
The cost of the 21 mile journey to Utila is Lps. 500 per person, as opposed to the Lps. 524 for the 40 mile trip to Roatan, on the much larger Galaxy II. Both Guanaja's Bimini Breeze and Roatan's Galaxy II are bigger boats. The 21 mile journey is covered in 1:05 minutes by the Princess II. If there is high demand, the owners of the boat will substitute the Utila Princess II with Princess III, a bigger, monohull and more seaworthy boat, according to Kandy Ruby, Manager of the Princess II, who is working in San Andres, Columbia.
According to Robilio Rivera, La Ceiba port Captain, in case a Honduran passenger boat would go down, the emergency signal would be received by the National Port Agency in Tegucigalpa, who would then contact individual port captains in La Ceiba and the Bay Islands. On all three Bay Island passenger boats bringing passengers between mainland Honduras and the Bay Islands, it is mandatory to be equipped with emergency, satellite maintained rescue beacons. Automatic response and rescue procedures are executed through VHF radio, GPS, radar, and cell phones. In December, Wardlay was also in the process of replacing the existing standardized equipment with newer, state-of-the-art radar and GPS systems in The Princess II.
"Honduras is top in the region as far as maritime safety," says Emilio Ulloa, a boat inspector, based in La Ceiba. If the Utila Princess II catamaran was to capsize, the small emergency rafts located on the boat's roof would automatically free. "It would take a 40 ft. wave to capsize that boat," said Wardlay. "And we certainly would not be running in that type of hurricane weather."

The Utila Princess II awaits departure in La Ceiba.

The passengers were locked in with door hatches that opened up. While one door was closed shut, the other was tied with a piece of rope, while a rubber buoy served as its door stop. When the boat reached its destination the crew took a minute to "untie the knot" and let the passengers out. This was the described experience of a passenger in October 2009, on the 60 foot Catamaran that provides a life link between Utila and La Ceiba.
Several passengers contacted Bay Islands Voice concerned about the safety of travel of the Utila Princess II catamaran. "We call it the shake and bake. It shakes all the time and you bake from the heat," said Dr. John McVay, a Utila resident, about the Utila Princess II. "If I know they will use the catamaran, not the bigger boat, I fly, or just stay at home," said one La Ceiba resident who travels to Utila for business once a month.
The Utila Princess II boat was originally brought in from the Bahamas where it served on short inter-island journeys. The journey between La Ceiba and Utila produced spray and the top of the boat was only covered with plastic covers. Because of complaints that passengers were still getting wet in rough weather, the owner of the boat, Bruce Wardlay, removed the temporary protection and welded aluminum plates to its top structure. Some passengers feared this made the boat more top heavy, vulnerable to capsizing, and, as it is a catamaran, it would not "bounce up."
When asked about passenger concerns, Wardlay replied that the aluminum addition did not compromise the structure of the boat, adding only 500lbs. to the total weight of the boat. Wardlay has been making several improvements to the Princess II. The new marine-type, water-cooled generator installed in the hull of the ship in December 2009 provided additional low weight to the craft, giving extra stability. The generator replaced the old system which could not handle the air conditioning system. Passengers will have air conditioning in 2010.


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