Article: Cabinet Magazine on shipping pallets

Shipping pallets under milk at my local Woolworths
Shipping pallets under milk at my local Woolworths

Here is something wildly esoteric, but beautifully written. Jacob Hodes researches the heck out of the pallet industry in the United States. Along with The BoxThe Docks, and Deep Sea and Foreign Going, this fills in another part of the global shipping puzzle.

Does this grab you?

There are approximately two billion wooden shipping pallets in the United States. They are in the holds of tractor-trailers, transporting Honey Nut Cheerios and oysters and penicillin and just about any other product you can think of: sweaters, copper wire, lab mice, and so on. They are piled up behind supermarkets, out back, near the loading dock. They are at construction sites, on sidewalks, in the trash, in your neighbor’s basement. They are stacked in warehouses and coursing their way through the bowels of factories.

Then read Hodes’s article here.

Article: Slate on shipping pallets

My role on the interweb of late has been more as a consumer rather than a producer of content, given the activities of the last few months and my resulting energy levels and state of mind. I hope that the resulting nuggets of information that I’ve gathered from far and wide are as interesting to our reader(s) as they are to me! When I get back in the water (I haven’t dived for three months, thanks chiefly to the CTDF – oh the irony) there will be a return of photographs and accounts of visits to new dive sites.

Shipping pallets under milk at my local Woolworths
Shipping pallets under milk at my local Woolworths

Meanwhile, here’s something on a subject reminiscent of The Box, which was a history of shipping containers. Shipping pallets are those nifty wooden constructs used to transport heavy (and not so heavy) items – often, packed inside of shipping containers. You have probably seen them underneath temporary displays at your local supermarket.

According to this article on, “most every object in the world, at some time or another, is carried” upon a shipping pallet. There are billions of pallets circulating in a largely unseen global supply chain. A significant proportion of US hardwood lumber production goes into pallets. This is a wonderful example of an object that is absolutely fundamental to how the global economy operates, and yet receives very little attention. Here I am, rectifying that.

Read the full article here.

Via BoingBoing

Dive gear maintenance: BCDs

Dive gear is expensive but looked after correctly it will give you many years of service. You are reliant on this equipment at depth and ensuring it is always in excellent condition means you never need to fear an equipment failure will spoil your dive.


When you buy a BCD make sure it is the right size. Too often a salesperson will tell you if it is a bit loose over your T-shirt it’s okay as a wetsuit is thicker… Don’t fall for that, your 7 millimetre wetsuit is not much thicker than 2 millimetres at 40 metres and an ill-fitting BCD at depth is not pleasant. The other important factor is that you may end up diving in the tropics, half naked, and a snug BCD is important.

Make sure you have tried a rental rear inflation as well as a side inflation before you buy. If you don’t know the difference, try it before you buy it. Side inflation BCDs with pockets are popular with training schools (instructors can pop weights in students’ pockets if they are too buoyant). It is a rugged style of BCD and it’s cheaper than most integrated weight BCDs.

Weighing a BCD in the garden
Weighing a BCD in the garden

Another important factor is the weight. If you will travel often with your gear consider a lightweight travel BCD as some BCD’s can weigh as much as 3-4 kilograms.


Rinse your BCD in the bath in warm water. Very often you will find there is water inside the bladder of your BCD. This happens when you hold the deflate button long after it is empty on your descent. Fill the bladder with a few liters of warm water by holding the BCD down in the bath and holding the deflate button. Then give it a good shake to swirl the water around and dissolve salt crystals (warm water dissolves salt quicker than cold water).

Flushing water from inside the BCD
Flushing water from inside the BCD

Invert the BCD and allow at least half of the water to run out by depressing the inflate button. This ensures the small valve and tiny opening on the inflation side is flushed. (Do this often and you will never have a sticky inflator.)

Drain the last water by depressing the deflate button, then orally inflate the BCD, drain it again, inflate it again and hang it up to dry, in the shade. Clip all the clips – a closed clip is less likely to break. Extend the straps so they are not folded over in the same spot constantly.

Packing for a dive holiday

Make sure your very expensive roller dive bag is suitable. Some of these bags weigh 6 kilograms… empty. I was very proud of this bag when I bought it: huge volume, two detachable back packs, handle, wheels and strong lockable zips… But on my first trip I discovered it weighed 6.2 kilograms empty, was useless as a head rest while waiting for a train, and did not fit in the boot of the midget budget car I rented.

Dive bag
Wheelie dive bag for travelling... rather heavy!

I have lost a fair amount of equipment to baggage handlers in my time so what I do now is usually cable tie everything together. I have a little bag for everything, I then cable tie my Reg’s to the frame in my bag and then cable tie my toiletry bag to this and link all the small little bags to one another and so on. This just makes it harder for someone to slip something out of my bag and pocket it… Its no guarantee for the hardened criminal, but it does reduce the loss.

Cameras, dive computers and other expensive gadgets must go in your hand luggage. If you must check your camera in then attach everything together as you would underwater, cable tie your torch to the strobe arm kit and so on. Never separate the items as its hard for a criminal to hide a camera housing, arm and strobe as a unit, but easy for them to slip the camera into their pockets undetected. Many airlines will allow a camera or laptop bag in addition to your regular hand luggage, which makes things easier.