Underwater radio broadcast draws hundreds in Florida; Buffett, Beatles songs among offerings

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BIG PINE KEY, Florida — Hundreds of divers and snorkelers submerged Saturday to listen to a local radio station's four-hour concert piped beneath the sea in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival took place at Looe Key Reef, part of the continental United States' only living coral barrier reef about six miles south of Big Pine Key.

Staged by WWUS in partnership with the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, the festival featured music specially programmed for the aquatic listening experience and broadcast underwater via waterproof speakers suspended beneath boats. Accompanying the tunes were coral reef conservation messages and tips on environmentally friendly diving practices.

"This is a way for people to really appreciate the coral reef while at the same time listening to an environmental message about coral protection," said station news director and festival founder Bill Becker.

Songs on the playlist included the theme from "The Little Mermaid," the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" and Jimmy Buffett's "Fins."

Some participating divers costumed themselves as undersea creatures, including a mermaid and a seahorse, and pretended to play mock musical instruments.

Among the participants was Diana Nyad, who in September 2013 became the first person to swim from Cuba to Key West without a shark cage, and who said singing to herself helped her get through the almost 111-mile swim.

One of the songs from Nyad's personal soundtrack, "Me and Bobby McGee," was played in her honor during the festival.

"To be immersed in the sea and feel the music coming from underneath instead of through headphones — it's very magical and distinct," Nyad said. "You couldn't hear it this well if you were in a concert sitting in the front row."

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