TWARS (This Week at Reef Seekers) - Dec. 26 - Jan. 2

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Ken Kurtis

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Omicron, Dr. Bill, Sunfish larva, and more
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Happy Boxing Day (what's left of it) . . .

HOLIDAY TIME - I'm sure that, looking back to one year ago, 2021 didn't turn out the way we'd predicted. But I hope you at least had a good Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa, and that - once we get past this damned Omicron surge - 2022 will portend brighter things.

COVID INFECTIONS ARE SOARING AGAIN - That you already know. But what caught my eye today was the story of four cruise ships being turned away from ports of call in recent days due to COVID outbreaks onboard. And it brings to mind a parallel with liveaboard dive boats and even day-trip boats. Even though the scale is different from a cruise ship, you've still got a number of people in relatively tight quarters, in what is essentially a sealed/contained ecosystem. (Probably even more so for a liveaboard than a cruise ship.) And you will have people removing masks for eating and certainly for when they go diving. This is not meant to sound like an "Abandon ship" alarm but the point is simply be careful. You can be cautious without overkill or seeing the rest of the passengers as Typhoid Mary. But, especially on a dive boat where pretty much everyone has some contact with everyone else (unlike on a cruise ship), one sick person can infect a lot of others fairly quickly. And the self-assessment rule - so that YOU don't become Typhoid Mary - is that if you're not feeling 100% on any given day (and especially if you have a low-grade fever), isolate yourself until either you can be tested &/or are feeling better.

THE PUZZLING PART - And this should in no ways be interpreted as "COVID is a hoax." But if everyone on these cruise ships has to be vaxxed AND they have a negative test before boarding - many liveaboards have the same requirements - how are people getting sick? Where is it coming from? Is it people who are infected but they got infected only a day ago so they test negative but will soon be positive? Are they people who are submitting counterfeit/false vax records and tests? Or something else? Because in theory, if everyone who is onboard is virus-free, where does the infection come from? All the more reason to err on the side of caution because there may still be things about COVID that we simply don't know.

THE SHORT-TERM OUTLOOK - I'll start off with the I'm-not-a-doctor disclaimer but I've seen some hopefully telling info over the past few days. It seems generally that while Omicron is highly contagious - on a par with measles - it isn't as deadly as Delta, especially if you're vaccinated. That doesn't mean there won't be break-though infections among vaxxed people but it does seem that the hospitalizations and deaths are 90% unvaxxed folks. And it makes sense that the holidays coincide with spread since there are family and friend gatherings, people are travelling (helping spread it geographically), and more people are inside due to weather. There was an interesting graph in the New York Times this week that showed the various spikes of infection over the past two years. And it seems that however steep the left side of the spike is (increasing infections), the right side (decreasing) has about the same steepness. So that might mean that toward the end of January, we'll have passed this surge peak and will be headed back to new normal. Fingers crossed.

AVALON CLEANUP IN FEBRUARY - As of now, we are planning the Cleanup (our 40th) as an in-person event. Yahoo!!! Reef Seekers is hosting divers at our traditional Green Pier dive site so if you'd like to be part of our group, you can give us a call at 310/652-4990. The interesting thing this year will be that, since we din't do the Cleanup last year, and with all the December rain which will wash goodies into Avalon Bay, there should be some interesting trash to find. Also remember that you can enter your finds in the various Trash Award categories, as well as compete for the Coveted Ken Kurtis Silver-Tongued Devil Award given to the best BS story behind your find. The date is Saturday, February 26 and we'll hope to see you in Avalon.​
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DR. BILL HAS DIED - In case you haven't heard, Dr. Bill Bushing, a fixture in Avalon and the resident marine biologist on the island for the past 55 years, died after a long battle with multiple cancers. Bill passed away on December 21 in a hospital with his son Kevin at his side. Bill was always eager and willing to share his knowledge and love of the California waters with anyone who asked and he will definitely be missed. We will do a remembrance of him at both the Cleanup and at Chamber Eve 2022. There will also be a public celebration of Bill's life in Avalon in the early summer. He was truly unique and will be greatly missed.

THERE BE SQUID EGGS!!! - And if there's eggs, there must be squid. I got a message this week that some egg clusters have been spotted in the 60-100' depth range pretty much straight out from the main stairs. This is one of the "usual" spots where we see them so hopefully this marks the start of an active squid season (which generally runs until end-of-March). The nice thing about the eggs clusters are that you can see them during the day if you're not too keen on a night shore dive. But if you want to see the actual live squid mating and planting eggs - and it's admittedly a hit-and-miss proposition - you'll have to do that after the sun goes down.

SUNFISH LARVAL CUTIE - Seeing an Ocean Sunfish is definitely a special treat. (On one fabulous dive years ago, we had SEVEN of them milling about just off of the Eureka oil rig.) And seeing what the larva look like is even better. Scientists in Australia and New Zealand have finally ID'd the larva of their local species. They're adorable. You can see the little cutie and read more about it here: GIANT SUNFISH LARVA IDENTIFIED.

And that'll do it for now. Have a great week and let's go diving soon!!!

- Ken​
 
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