“Barrack-cuda” Obama

Keys coral reefs are home to many of the planet’s most complicated and diverse life forms.

Unfortunately, many of our politicians are decidedly not so advanced.

Despite this glaring opposition, our bountiful waters played host to a number of political “big fish” at last week’s 24th Annual Underwater Music Festival set at Looe Key Reef.

Billed as “Eel-ection 2008,” the annual event included festively dressed, undersea impostors “Barack-cuda” Obama, John “McClam,” Hillary “Clint-tuna”— plus real-life Keys Congressman (actually a steadfast environmental supporter) Ron Saunders.

Posing in front of a star-spangled, underwater backdrop, these political heavyweights frolicked to the sounds of the Beatles, Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffett, and a number of public service announcements designed to promote diver safety and coral reef conservation.

Sponsored by 104.1 U.S. 1 radio, the one-of-a-kind event found hundreds of area divers joining in the politically-themed acoustic fun as it was piped underwater via five waterproof Lubell Labs speakers. Suspended from special music boats stationed throughout the reef, the unique speakers unleashed sub-sea sound traveling six times the speed than its land-based rate.

Echoing into the currents and zooming into the distance, the musical din could be detected by human ears throughout the reef. A strange phenomenon, the underwater sound waves morphed the underwater setting into an ethereal, coral-covered paradise complete with a soundtrack of oceanic tunes, conservation-themed messages, and a dose of American politics.

Heard Underwater

The submerged speakers broadcasted conservation tips reminding divers to stay off the coral, to safely display dive flags, and to secure their vessels to the reef via mooring balls provided by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Emphasized Above Water

Local dive shops and our friendly marine patrol officers emphasized safe boating regulations, Special Protected Area (SPA) rules, and the National Marine Sanctuary “no take, no touch” policy stressing the need for divers to avoid contact with underwater life and prevent damage to coral reefs at all costs.

The Signal

The Underwater Music Fest echoed from the Key West conch houses all the way to the Everglades including features on CNN and worldwide distribution via the Associated Press (AP) newsreel and U.S. 1 online radio.

Aqua Team

Also on hand to experience the fun – the Canadian-based “Aqua Team,” a group of four, enthusiastic junior scuba divers currently featured on the Discovery Kids Channel. Taking time out of their summer-long shooting schedule, the team geared up and joined in the musical fun as Discovery Channel videographers captured their experience on HD film. Educated in the physics of underwater sound by Discovery Channel dive masters, the young team delighted in the new experience and even took a few free-diving tips from Florida Keys locals.

However, drawing both local and international attention, the unique feature of “Eel-ection 2008,” wasn’t that it drew hundreds of divers to a beautiful, sound-filled coral reef. On a larger scale, because it was broadcast via radio throughout South Florida, released the internet, and picked up by foreign media outlets— the event’s trademark feature was its promotion of coral reef awareness to countless people across the world.

Looe Key’s resident mermaid and an aquatic “Aunt Sam” joined underwater spectators for the politically-themed fun of “Eel-ection 2008”

Divers dance in the waves to the sounds of sub-sea jams at the 24th Annual Looe Key Underwater Music Festival

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