The Sea-gram
August, 2009
Close Encounter
Paul in Cozumel

Welcome to Sea-gram, the monthly newsletter from 
Landlubbers only receive ordinary telegrams, but ocean lovers and divers get Sea-grams. You've received Sea-gram because you may have purchased a copy of my photo manual, Basic Underwater Photography, or ordered one of my dive adventure novels; perhaps you visited my Cozumel beachfront condo, or you may be a dive buddy or a friend who just loves the ocean.
Every Sea-gram issue contains photo tips, interesting stories behind unique photos, articles about world-wide dive adventures of mine or other dive buddies, and issues related to diving and ocean conservation. 
If you have a good photo with an interesting story about how it was taken, or have a good dive yarn to share, let me know at and I'll be happy to include your story in a future issue. 
I hope you enjoy reading Sea-gram !
Paul J. Mila
The Story Behind The Photo . . .
     A Thrilling Shark Adventure in the Bahamas!  By Paul Mila
 shark diveOur plan was to dive cageless with Caribbean reef sharks in Nassau. Standing on the dive platform with dorsal fins slicing the water inches below my feet, I was having second thoughts about the idea. The logical part of my brain said, Don't worry, it's perfectly safe; the dive crew does this every day. But the more primitive part of my brain, the part that deals with survival, sent me a different message: Look, dummy, if sharks are circling the boat you stay out of the water, you don't jump in! The deckhand's command, "ALL CLEAR! JUMP NOW!" jolted me out of this mental debate and into action. I splashed in as several sharks slipped past me, like silent gray torpedoes. Immediately I descended, eschewing the usual surface check for the safety of my dangling legs.  The deckhand's pre-dive instructions were clear: "If a shark comes toward you, face it down and it will turn first; but don't you turn first or the shark will keep following you." This plan worked great as I snapped several nice shark photos. Then, a shark, much larger than the others, about 9 feet long and very husky, rose from the bottom scattering the smaller sharks.
A 9-foot shark may not seem large to anyone thinking about the 25-foot JAWS shark, but trust me: any fish bigger than you looks very big. And if it's armed with over 100 razor-sharp teeth it commands your full attention. As the shark approached me I aimed my SEA&SEA MX10 film camera (remember film?) with YS40 flash and wide-angle lens, and waited for it to turn. At about 15 feet below the surface the ambient light was strong, so I switched off the flash. As the shark came closer and closer without turning away, I realized this must a very curious shark. But not hungry too, I hoped. I recall as it closed to within ten feet I almost had an "accident" in my wetsuit, but it suddenly veared and I just pressed the shutter. The photo turned out great, a nice three-quarter angle shot with the sunlight reflecting off the shark's dorsal area.
You can view a short YouTube clip of our shark dive at:  
My publisher termed the photo "predatory" and used it for the cover of my first novel, DANGEROUS WATERS. 
You can view details about this exciting undersea story at

1. Turn off your flash when diving in clear water with bright ambient light, and your subject is more than six feet away.
2. Try for a head-on angle instead of a profile or rear-end shot. Your photo will appear much more interesting and dramatic. 

Lion Fish Invade Cozumel
Voracious Predator Threathens Reefs !
Cozumel LionfishWe found this lion fish hiding inside a small cave, 60 feet down on Dalila Reef in Cozumel. I took the photo carefully, to avoid spooking the critter, while our dive master returned to the boat to get a net. Divers all over the Caribbean have been instructed to capture or kill these Pacific invaders, which have no natural predators in the Atlantic or Caribbean. They have been sighted all along the Atlantic seaboard, even carried north by the Gulf Stream up to New York waters during the summer. Some have supposedly been sighted as far north as Maine.  
 They arrived via human intervention in several ways. Two common reasons proposed are that captive imported lion fish escaped from a Florida aquarium during a hurricane, and some may have been released by aquariists after outgrowing their home aquariums.
THE THREAT: Even small lion fish are capable of eating twenty or thirty juvenile resident fish each day. The fear is that with no natural predators they could take over the reefs. If they eat too many indigenous fish, such as parrot fish, which feed on algae, Cozumel's beautiful corals will die under an algae blanket. In addition, their poisonous spines pose a painful, potentially deadly danger to divers.  
Our lion fish hunt can be viewed on YouTube, at
Watch carefully as the cagey invader eludes our dive master's net with a burst of speed.
About is your home for exciting dive adventure novels, YouTube videos about ocean creatures, and more.
 The most recent addition is our Basic Underwater Photography manual, designed for divers who want to take good photos without spending their dives fiddling with their camera's manual settings and controls.
Two new projects are underway: A third sequel, book #4, in the fictional dive adventures of Terry Hunter and Joe Manetta, and a non-fiction book called Bubbles Up!, which I am co-authoring with writer, diver, and underwater photographer, Judy Hemenway (details in a future Sea-gram issue).
Thanks and hope to see you next month!
Paul J. Mila
75 Titus Avenue
Carle Place, New York 11514
In This Issue
The Story Behind The Photo: Bahamas Shark Adventure
Conservation Corner: Lionfish Invade Cozumel
Featured Article in this month's  Conservation Corner: Lion Fish Invade Cozumel 
Queen Angel with coral
Cozumel's beautiful coral reefs,
and diverse sea life were a secret until Jacques Cousteau visited the island in 1961 and dived into the gin-clear water. He announced that a spectacular underwater world existed beneath the surface, and the rest is history. However, scenes such as this queen angel swimming among colorful coral heads and sponges may someday exist only in our memories and photos if the lion fish population grows unchecked. Read the featured article below.
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