At least seven abalone divers have perished so far this year in California, victims of kelp, strong waves, heart conditions, sharks, and—indirectly—a somewhat inscrutable love of a giant marine snail that is at best an acquired taste.

The Los Angeles Times brings the surprisingly harrowing details:

‘I spent a lot of time training for this kind of thing and I have dealt with a lot of death,’ said Ron Long, a certified diving instructor who tried to save [Richard] Baer. ‘But there was nothing that prepared me to go down in 12 feet of water and stare at the face of my best friend who was drowned.’

Divers aren’t allowed to use air tanks to catch their slimy targets, and are limited to taking three abalone a day. The state ban on oxygen containers is controversial; an emergency canister could help kelp-entangled divers survive the experience.

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