John Christopher Fine
is a marine biologist with two doctoral degrees, has authored 24 books, including award-winning books dealing with ocean pollution. He is a liaison officer of the United Nations Environment Program and the Confederation Mondiale for ocean matters. He is a member of the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences in honor of his books in the field of education. He has received international recognition for his pioneering work investigating toxic waste contamination of our land and water.
Latest by John Christopher Fine
By John Christopher Fine | July 19, 2014
“It is Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The wall paper was custom made,” Server Camille Horton explained. In the midst of a brutal Civil War President Abraham Lincoln took a long train ride from Washington to this rural farming hamlet to deliver ‘a few appropriate remarks’ on November 19, 1863. It took him about two minutes. The world has never stopped reciting his inspired message that dedicated a military cemetery. The battle five months earlier left 8,000 dead among 51,000 casualties. It was one of the bloodiest battles in a war pitting American against American.
While the war continued for two more years, it was here at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in its peaceful orchards, wheat fields and sloping hills, that the fate of …
By John Christopher Fine | July 14, 2014
Did you ever trust a chef to prepare a gourmet meal for you? Sure, Mom did it all the time. You came home and ate what she prepared. Apart from some radiant dislikes, rarely does the family participate in planning a daily dinner meal in most homes. Even the tradition of all family sitting down together at mealtime is disrupted by demands of modern society. Both parents may work and meal time is not a formal sit down affair. Dinner table gatherings are part of societal ritual. Loss of dining together has meant loss of family bonding, with it disruption in family structure. No matter the maintenance of a half-million dollar mortgage on the house and two financed black BMW …
By John Christopher Fine | July 10, 2014
Getysburg College is rated one of the most beautiful campuses in America. It is set on the edge of town with turn of the century brick and stone buildings, a chapel and magnificent sprawling lawns. A fountain adds to the tranquility of any stroll among sculpture and outdoor art. Not far away, on a knoll overlooking town, is the Lutheran Theological Seminary. There is plenty of parking and visitors are welcome to stroll the beautiful grounds.
Summer is a magic time in this Pennsylvania town that was a crossroads for commerce during the Civil War. The momentous battle fought here in the brutally hot summer during three days in July 1863, forever changed the hamlet’s future. The July 1 to …
By John Christopher Fine | July 7, 2014
It was the battle that turned the tide of the American Civil War. When General Robert E. Lee retreated across the Potomac River, the death knell of the southern cause was sounded. The war would bleed on for two more years. The attempt to invade the north and capture the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg failed. The invasion of the rolling hills and farmlands of rural Pennsylvania culminated outside the town of Gettysburg on July 1 to 3, 1863. It was a crossroads, a hub, where farmers toiled in their orchards and fields. A college and Lutheran theological seminary graced the town. It was of no real military importance until two armies converged there on those three hot summer days.
By John Christopher Fine | July 5, 2014
Dwight David Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander on June 6, 1944, during the ‘D Day’ embarkation that sent thousands of troops ashore in Normandy, was elected 34th President of the United States in 1952. His inauguration was January 20, 1953. Reelected in November 1956, he served two terms in the White House.
He met Mamie Doud in 1915, in San Antonio, Texas. She was 18 years old. They got married on July 1, 1916. This is Mamie’s story as recounted and performed by Ruthmary McIlhenny. Her portrayals began after Ruthmary served as a volunteer at the Eisenhower farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania beginning in 1990. The farm is now a National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service. The Park Service …
By John Christopher Fine | July 5, 2014
Cylinders must pass hydrostatic testing every five years. The dive industry promulgated standards to visually inspect the interior of Scuba tanks every year for rust, corrosion or valve cracks. Hydrostatic tests are the same tests required by the Department of Transportation for all gas cylinders as well as fire extinguishers filled to high pressures with compressed air and gasses.
What happens to them when they fail to pass inspection? The tanks are condemned and end up as scrap. Keys to Peace, a 501-c-(3) non-profit organization began a program dubbed Sounds of Peace Bells to make bells out of old Scuba cylinders. Dive shops and individuals contribute cylinders that no longer can be filled under high pressure.
The bottoms are then …
By John Christopher Fine | June 30, 2014
He was checking a family in at Habitat on Bonaire. The reception area was just a small booth. For all intents and purposes, Captain Don, for whom Habitat was named, was cranky. The family arrived in a taxi from the airport after nightfall. Nobody else was around to check them in. Don didn’t volunteer to show them their room, rather pointed them in the direction where it could be found.
Captain Don’s Habitat was primitive in its beginnings. The idea was to have a place where divers could dive all day and all night if they wished, socialize at the veranda bar under a thatch roof and sleep the few hours away until dawn when they could dive again. What …
By John Christopher Fine | June 26, 2014
The History of Diving Museum at Mile Marker 83 in Islamorada, Florida is more than a building to house memorabilia. It is a living legacy dedicated to preserving history and sharing knowledge about human penetration of the underwater world. How it got there is a story about an emergency room doctor and a surgeon. A husband and wife team from Ohio that took up diving to escape the stresses of medicine.
The couple got interested in Scuba diving in the 1960s. In the late 1960′s they purchased their first hard had diving helmet and on that day they contracted an incurable disease – the collection bug bit them. The helmet was made by Siebe Gorman from the UK and is …
By John Christopher Fine | June 22, 2014
Polly Alford was born in Kent, Southeast England. “I left when I was sixteen. I took a secretarial course and became a high-powered secretary for a private hotel in the West End of London,” she related. She was relaxed, having a drink in the garden of the Colonial Inn in Punta Gorda, Belize. The setting is far removed from this 47-year old’s former life selling time-shares in Portugal, motor cars in UK and her night-school education in marketing.
“I got a job with a software company. It was a three-hour drive to get to the office and a three hour drive back.” When the company went belly up, Polly took a trip to the Red Sea. “It wasn’t crazy, crazy …
By John Christopher Fine | June 20, 2014
Spencer Slate was born in Winston Salem, North Carolina in 1947. They lived in town but had a pasture behind the house where Spencer kept a horse he rode. “Dad was a farmer. We went out to the farm every weekend.” He joined the U.S. Army and served from 1972 to 1976 as an NCO in a MASH unit.
“I watched Mike Nelson on television in the 50′s and 60s. Sea Hunt got me interested in diving.” An Eagle scout, young Spencer was drawn to water sports. “I got mail order dive equipment from a sporting goods store.”
Spencer dove all through college with the Wake Forest University dive club. He graduated from East Carolina University in Greenville. On breaks …
By John Christopher Fine | June 15, 2014
Guatemala is easy to get to. Less than a three hour direct non-stop flight from Miami, a modern airport and water. For the marine enthusiast there is the Pacific coast and the Atlantic side on the Bay of Honduras. There is altitude diving in Lakes Atitlan and Ayarea. There are mountains and jungles to explore and Mayan ruins. Historic sites and old Spanish colonial cities like Antigua where earthquakes left magnificent buildings in ruins.
Miami is a gateway to all of Latin America and the Caribbean. For those making connections, the Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel is a convenient five-minute free shuttle bus ride away. They offer safe valet parking for those that drive to Miami and wish to leave their …
By John Christopher Fine | June 12, 2014
It was the battle that turned the tide for the Confederate States of America. General Robert E. Lee’s gamble was lost in three days fighting in the orchards and fields of this pastoral Pennsylvania hamlet during July 1863. The southern forces were not defeated. They retreated from the field. Both sides suffered great loss and casualties. Yet with Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg the hope of a fast settlement of the war of secession ended. Fighting would continue as the South hemorrhaged slowly until Lee’s eventual surrender at Appomatox Courthouse, Virginia on April 9, 1865.
Each year Gettysburg hosts a festival that brings the arts in all its forms together for a week in June. Visitors are treated to fine food, …
By John Christopher Fine | June 9, 2014
Coral reefs are under attack all over the world. While it may not seem apparent at first glance, corals are classified as animals. Life for these anthozoans, translated from Latin as ‘flowering animals,’ begins as free-swimming planula larvae. The larvae land on a substrate, attach themselves and begin to form a colonial structure. Corals can develop asexually as new polyps bud off old or divide by fission. There is usually a yearly spawning period when eggs and sperm are released. Hermaphrodites release eggs and sperm, however, most corals are either male or female.
To survive corals require clear, clean water where the temperature remains above 68 degrees F. Zooxanthelae, green dinoflagellates that produce chlorophyll by photosynthesis, live inside coral polyps …
By John Christopher Fine | June 8, 2014
We pulled out of Whale Harbor Marina before sunrise. The Atlantic was a little rough. A cool wind blew shoreward. Captain Steve Stough brought ‘Warrior’ through the channel as other fishing boats started their engines and headed out. When sunrise broke, purple velvet showed through a slit over the horizon. Pretty soon a great orange ball began the day.
We rode up on the bridge with Captain Steve. It afforded spectacular views of sunrise as we headed out. The Atlantic had 4 to 6 foot waves. A 15-knot wind blew steadily. ‘Warrior’ is a heavy, solidly built sportfisherman. It was even and steady in the seas. “The water is really shallow. It will take us a half-hour before we get …
By John Christopher Fine | June 4, 2014
Ponce de Leon called them ‘Los Martires.’ Tangled islands that twisted down Florida’s Atlantic coast. Twenty years after his discovery, when a hurricane swept the treasure laden Spanish fleet ashore in 1733, the islands became legend. To this day the lure of sunken treasure beckons.
Another terrible hurricane in 1906, followed by three more, destroyed Henry Flagler’s fledgling Overseas Railway. Despite hardships and storms, the visionary, sick and aged, saw his railroad completed and rode the first train from Miami to Key West in 1912.
Flagler’s dream, or Flagler’s folly, as some dubbed the momentous bridge and trestle building, ended with the depression. The right of way was sold and is now the Overseas Highway or US 1. The road …
By John Christopher Fine | May 21, 2014
“The food we serve is different. It’s all about having fun,” Yoel Sanchez said. He was born in Matanzas, Cuba. His family moved to Miami, Florida in 1991, then to the Keys in 1998, where Yoel attended high school. He worked in restaurants to earn money. Yoel’s father is in the stone crab and lobster business, a good prelude for Yoel’s exposure to fresh seafood.
Yoel met Dave Matlock, another young chef, with a shared common interest in preparing good food. The partners decided to open OO-TRAY this year at the site of a popular local eatery in Islamorada, Florida that closed.
“We are a local restaurant. As much as possible we want to serve farm to table foods. Our …
By John Christopher Fine | May 19, 2014
It is illegal in most of Europe to spear fish using Scuba gear. The sport is practiced by free divers that have disciplined themselves to dive deep and hold their breath for several minutes. The late Jacques Mayol, protagonist in the fictional film depicting his life, ‘The Big Blue,’ started free diving on a breath of air as a young man. His prowess made him a legend. He described his techniques in the book ‘Homo Delphinus,’ ‘Dolphin Man.’
While Jacques Mayol set many world records in the pioneering days of free diving, his record, like any record, was broken. Mayol returned and conquered the depths again and again besting his own and competitors’ records. He used Yoga to relax and …
By John Christopher Fine | May 18, 2014
“When I have a question I can’t answer I call Chef George,” the manager of another famous restaurant said. The mentor referred to is Chef George Patti founder and partner with Tom Smith in a new restaurant in Islamorada, Florida called S.A.L.T. for Southern, Asian, Latin Tastes. Billed as fusion cuisine and housed in a newly refurbished two story building at Mile Marker 82.7 in the Keys, the place is as the new owners proclaim, ‘stylish yet unconventional.’
By 7 PM S.A.L.T. was packed. Any new restaurant takes time to get started, to develop a clientele. This is especially true in the Florida Keys where there are so many places that offer fine dining. Locals knew Chef George’s reputation. They …
By John Christopher Fine | May 18, 2014
You can come by boat or you can come by car to Marker 88 Restaurant. There’s always a glorious sunset, convivial atmosphere, good food and one of the most extraordinary wine lists in South Florida. Bobby Stoky took over a tradition when he bought the restaurant from Chef Andre Mueller who in turn took it over from legendary Keys fisherman and cook Bill Baxter.
Bill got Marker 88 started by cooking up his fishing client’s catch of the day. Renown spread. It was difficult to find a good restaurant in the Islamorada area in the 1960s, especially a place right on the bay. The Stokys continue Marker 88’s tradition.
Bobby Stoky and his brother Scott grew up in the Florida …
By John Christopher Fine | May 3, 2014
Training experts at the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) figure that the average American diver makes 8 to 12 dives a year. Some buy the latest in underwater photography equipment, use it on a few dives then let the camera sit in a closet. It may be geography: diving conditions in northern climes make summer diving feasible and then only weekends are free. The dive vacation turns out to be more family fun in the sun than diving. To be good at anything, the adage ‘practice makes perfect,’ applies. Taking pictures underwater is no exception.
Like computers, after the fall of film, development of new underwater photographic equipment saw a revolution in technology. Little shirt-pocket size cameras are capable …