The problem can't be seen from above the surface - but SCUBA divers know it's there. Diving is not only a hobby for local marine enthusiasts, its also big business in the Cape Fear Region. But recently, Mother Nature has made it tough to enjoy the coastal waters. The water is extremely cloudy for this time of year, and business and pleasure divers alike don't know why. "It looks like a sewer out there, it really does," says diver Jim Radle. "It's three feet of visibility at best at one hundred feet, and traditionally that's where you get your best visibility's offshore." Dave Smithey agrees. He's an owner at Cape Fear Divers in Carolina Beach. He says the cloudy water extends miles offshore, and up and down the coast. "The report has been the same. Whether it be eighteen miles out or forty miles out you got that poor visibilty after about seventy feet or so," Smithey says. "So it seems to be consistent. We've called other dive shops in the area up through Hatteras and Myrtle Beach and we're getting the same reports." The problem for dive shops comes down to not being able to sell what you can't see. "Scuba diving, its all about being able to see. And if you can't see anything, its just kind of a waste of time and money," says Jim Radle. Smithey says the low visability has hurt his business a bit. Jeremy Eaton owns and operates Dive Quest SCUBA. The company has been dealing with the limited visability for about 2 weeks. Employees are now preparing divers for less than perfect conditions. Eaton says "We haven't had to cancel any trips, we just make the customers aware that the visibility is not as good, we can't explain why its like that. We hope its going to clear up. They just want to dive!" As for culprit behind this murky water? The exact cause is unclear. Some theories include algae blooms, or increased runoff from the Cape Fear River due to rain. But without samples from below its too hard to say. UNCW marine expert Dr. Carmelo Tomas agrees that its too hard to tell what exactly is causing the decrease in visibility. The next time the divers head out, they'll bring back a few samples of the water for testing at the University's Center for Marine Science. In the meantime, divers are hopeful that as Hurricane Bill passes offshore, currents could stir things up and clear things out, so they'll once again be able to enjoy the view under the sea.
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