TWARS (This Week at Reef Seekers) - May 24-31

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Ken Kurtis

Reaction score
Beverly Hills, CA
# of dives
5000 - ∞
Beaches, new Pygmy Seahorse, and more
Hard to believe it's Memorial Day Weekend already. of course, I lose track of time being coped up inside . . .

BEACHES ARE GENERALLY OPEN AGAIN - I don't really have any word on whether or not diving is officially considering an "active" use of the beach, but I would assume it is. The biggest issue will still be parking as many lots are not open. That's no big deal if you're just going to go for a stroll down the beach and you have to park a few blocks away.
But it's a different story when you're carrying a tank, weights, geared up in your wetsuit, etc., and have to walk a few blocks. So if you plan to do a beach dive, check the parking situation before you go. On the live cam at Vets, it appears that narrow strip of parking (roughly the Pier to Main Stairs) is closed and I'm assuming the big lot may still be closed as well but you can't tell from the shot. No matter where you go, check the parking ahead of time, be safe, practice social distancing from others, and just use common sense and common courtesy. One thing that seems to be happening is people are so joyous about going out again that they're neglecting masks &/or distancing and study after study says those - along with frequent hand-washing - are the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID.

THE AVALON UNDERWATER PARK IS OPEN AS WELL - Catalina Divers Supply has set up seven sanitized gear stations (large rubber mats) laid out that can accommodate up to 7 people at each. Advance reservations are required and there's a $20 charge to use the mats (which seems reasonable). From their FaceBook page: "At this time, if you plan to dive, we are requiring advance reservations for space at the park, air fills and gear rentals. Our sanitized dive stations are available for groups of up to 7. Please make a reservation for a station and indicate requested gear and/or air fills. Your equipment will be available when you arrive. We have set up areas with rubber mats for groups to use that are spaced out to ensure social distancing, which we will sanitize after each use. At this time there are no restrictions against someone setting up a space outside of the areas we have provided. We are trying to be good stewards of the space and ensure that the City or County don't see it as an area of concern and then later shut us down. The $20 fee covers our labor cost and cost of a coat of disinfectant to clean the stations down after each use." You can get more specific info and reserve a spot on the mats by calling them at 310/510-0330.

USING THE EXPRESS TO GET OVER TO AVALON - They're running on an extremely limited schedule. There are NO boats out of San Pedro until at least the end of June. From Long Beach, for the remainder of May, there's a 7:15AM departure with a 6:15PM return. For June (at least thru the 28th), it's 7:00AM going over and 7:30PM leaving Avalon and again nothing out of San Pedro. That's it. Prices are the same at $74.50 RT for adults and $67.50 for seniors (55+). Reservations can be made at 800/613-1212.

SANTA BARBARA CORONER RELEASES CONCEPTION VICTIM REPORTS - As you may already be aware, the Santa Barbara Coroner has released the autopsy reports on all 34 of the victims of the Conception fire which occurred on September 2, 2019. In California - and I personally happen to think this is a good thing - Coroner reports are considered public information and you can get any one simply by asking. In L.A. County, the Coroner's office has a searchable website. For this specific tragedy, Santa Barbara has posted each one on-line. If you want to read them for yourself - and I warn you ahead of time, they're all somewhat gruesome - Google the Santa Barbara Coroner/Sheriff's website, look for "How Do I" along the top, and under that tab click "Conception." You'll find each report as an individual PDF.

MY TAKE ON THESE REPORTS - You may have already seen the L.A. Times or Associated Press stories about this. I caution you about making any assumptions or leaps of faith. The official cause of death (COD) has been listed for each victim as "Smoke Inhalation." 27 of them had Carbon Monoxide levels that were above lethal (>50%). 4 of them had CO levels just below that (39-49%). I truly believe that at that level, there's simply no way anyone was alive by the time the fire burned down into the bunkroom. The puzzling/troubling reveal is that 11 of them had shoes or sandals on their feet. Some people have jumped to the conclusion that this means they were trying to escape the bunkroom. I don't think it's that cut-and-dried. One problem with determining what's what is that we lack the spatial relationship. In other words, we don't know if they were in their bunks with the shoes on, or at the foot of the stairs with their shoes on, or somewhere else. Knowing where they really were makes a huge difference in what this indicates. And, because the boat flipped over as it sank, and everything fell to the bottom with the boat and may have shifted along the way (not to mention further shifting/drifting while the boat was on the bottom), we may never be able to truly know what's what. Or perhaps some other info will come out down the road that sharpens the picture for us. Right now, it's all speculation. But I do admit it's puzzling. I've slept in Ugg boots before because my feet were cold but some people were in slippers or sandals. Two or three people with shoes on wouldn't seem out of line. But 11 is puzzling. (And three more people had a single shoe/slipper on.) But even if this indicates that they were aware that there was something wrong, based on the CO levels, as I said above, I doubt they were very alert or functional, and I really believe that the smoke did them in (or at least made them pass out) long before anything in the bunkroom started burning.

Let's move on to nicer things . . .

CHAMBER DAY FINAL TOTAL - We usually get some late donations and Dutchman signups for Chamber Day, so we really don't finalize everything until a few weeks after the event is officially over. That usually means our final number if higher than what we announce at Chamber Eve. This year was no different. I'm delighted to tell you that we went from our announced total of $136,775 to a final audited official total of $140,112. It's the first time we've ever broken $140K and is obviously a new record. Thanks to all who helped!!!

THE SCUBA SHOW IS GOING 100%-VIRTUAL NEXT WEEKEND - They haven't updated their website yet to reflect this, and they're still working out the details, but the Scuba Show obviously can't be an in-person event this year but instead will be a 100%-virtual event. There will be exhibitor "booths" and there will even be seminars you can attend through Zoom and (I think) FaceBook Live. In fact, we (L.A. Coroner Captain John Kades, Chamber Director Karl Huggins, and myself) will give our usual "Why Divers Die" talk on Saturday at 4PM. We will NOT be discussing the Conception at all since (1) It was a boating accident involving divers, not a diving accident, and (2) It was not within our jurisdiction. On top of that, there were ZERO fatalities in L.A. County in 2019. So we're going to make this one a review of a couple of our most interesting cases as well as - new for us - detailing a couple of successful treatments at the Chamber where the patient survived and walked away. So make plans to join us on Saturday and be sure to check out to find out whats going on for Sunday, when there will be more seminars.

MEET THE NEWEST PYGMY SEAHORSE - Alan Wald let us know that a new species of Pygmy Seahorse has been discovered, and it's the first one even discovered in Africa, let alone in the Indian Ocean. As you may know, these guys are incredibly small (sometimes less than an inch long) and amazingly well-camouflaged within their environment. They're very tough to see even when you know there's one right in front of you. I've long suspected there are more species to be found in more places in the world, but it's just REALLY hard. So kudos to the researchers who discovered these. You can read about it here: NEW SPECIES OF PYGMY SEAHORSES.

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

- Ken

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