Browsing articles in "Scuba News"
May 16, 2013

H1N1 in Elephant Seal Study

On the sunny California coast, known to be a playground for people and an important habitat zone for many marine species, researchers from the University of California Davis and rangers in the  Año Nuevo State Reserve have successfully monitored and tracked a colony of 72 Elephant seals over a period of 2 months. The (p)H1N1 virus was found in 2 when the second swabs from 42, 2 of which were transient females, were taken on their return from over a month at sea and antibodies specific to combating the (p)H1N1 strain were found in all of them.

Over the last 33 years it has been known that Influenza A Viruses have been able to spread from marine mammals to humans, cases dating back to the winter of 1979 when harbour seals were dying of acute pneumonia (found to be H4N5) which then affected and killed the people who were involved in the handling of the carcasses for disposal (shown to be H7N7); to the last in 2011 (H3N8). Multiple cases of other influenza A viruses have been found in other colonies of seals as well as in a stranded whale; over 900 other samples were tested between 2009 and 2011 from seal colonies along the Pacific from California to Alaska. Frozen archived samples have been sequenced and tested (a total of 129) from stranded seals that have been rescued and released were also tested after the results from these elephant seals came back. Of all these tests it has shown an increase since April 2010, of the antibodies by up to 40% in adults and

While this strain appears to be seal specific, as in it has adapted itself to target seals, it is still the H1N1 influenza A virus that has been found in avian, swine and human populations because comparisons of the gene sequence were compared against known sequences from 6 sources (5 swine and 1 avian), the reason they know this (p)H1N1 strain is seal specific is because the sequences were cultured on human liver slices and found they did not survive, or more correctly did not have enough of itself to replicate and adapt.

The importance of this to anyone handling marine mammals is obvious, personal protection is there to protect them from anything we may carry and to protect us from anything they may carry; this is clearly an opportunity for the H1N1 virus to become spread to humans if it is allowed to colonise and adapt so thorough cleaning of hands and equipment after treatment and release of the marine mammals is essential.


Goldstein T, Mena I, Anthony SJ, Medina R, Robinson PW, et al. (2013) Pandemic H1N1 Influenza Isolated from Free-Ranging Northern Elephant Seals in 2010 off the Central California Coast. PLoS ONE 8(5): e62259. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062259

May 14, 2013

CornSoUP Resurrection 5

Cornsoup - Resurrection 5

CornSoUP Resurrection 5 – Dr Keith Hiscock

Speaking on ‘Photographing Cornwall’s Special Marine Life’


CornSoUP is in Falmouth again, this time as Resurrection 5 and is being held at The Watersports Centre on Monday 20th May; this is a free entry event with the doors opening at 7pm and Dr Hiscock will take the stage at 7.30pm.

Dr Hiscock Started diving in 1969 with the University of London BSAC club right here in Cornwall at Lamorna Cove, and his interest in the marine world started with shore and rock pool studies in his early teens. He has been diving around Britain over the past 44 years from the Southerly most tip of Cornwall to the Northerly most tip of Scotland and all points in between. On Lundy in 1969 he started a process that would establish the first Voluntary Marine Conservation Area (VMCA), and if you can think of a place that is next to the sea you will find his fin print on the way down to the water; just as he has left his mark on the marine biology world with his many survey papers and contributions to books. He is so well respected by marine taxonomists that he has a snail named after him, the Simnia hiscocki, even though he looks more like a seal in his kit when he walks back onto the shore.

This is a unique opportunity to hear Dr Hiscock talk about marine life around Cornwall, especially seeing as he has probably identified most of it during his early work back in the 70’s and 80’s. Later, he led the Marine Nature Conservation Review of Great Britain (MNCR) team which collected much of the data for the Marine Recorder resource, and in 1998, established the Marine Life Information Network for Britain and Ireland (MarLIN) at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth. In all this time he has taken thousands of photographs and has a wealth of experience with underwater photography, at Cornsoup he is going to be sharing that knowledge with all who attend.

CornSoUP Resurrection has been re-introduced by Paul Ives, Charles Hood, Jane Morgan and Gaynor Bennet, and this will be the 5th successful offering where divers and students of the marine environment can be entertained by people who work in the field, and have traveled the world shooting video and photographs at a professional level.

Paul has been lecturing the Marine and Natural History Photography BA at Falmouth University, since he moved to Cornwall 16 months ago; Charles is a local skipper and diver with the RHIB Logan out of Penzance; Jane is currently a student on the MN&H BA at Falmouth University; and Gaynor is a part-time lecturer at the University and staff PADI instructor teaching the lucky 1st and 2nd years on the course. Their goal is to bring together the local diving community and students to enrich the experience for both with entertaining talks from world renowned professionals in their field, and with four talks a year, they are growing in success.

Previous talks have been on filming Arctic and Antarctic marine life by Jamie Watts at the first resurrection of CornSoUP in April 2012 and, in CornSoUP Resurrection 4 in April 2013, with award winning Jeff Goodman talking about filming techniques in different locations around the world with underwater photographer and journalist Jane Goodman in the second half talking about how to get work published.

These events are free of charge, and while primarily for the students on Paul’s BA course, are open to the general public as well, giving anyone that has an interest in the marine environment and photography or videography above and below the water an opportunity to tap into the wealth of knowledge being shared by professional photographers, videographers and journalists; these should not be missed by anyone and the future Cornsoup talks will have more exciting topics and speakers.



ScubaFest 2013

The weekend is well underway at Scubafest 2013, many of the divers will be out right now enjoying the calm seas the South Coast of Cornwall has to offer. Yesterday while the divers were out setting up the stands were getting ready and they had Scuba Steve pointing the way.

Scubafest 2013 Scuba Steve pointing the way

The local dive club, Kernow Divers were out in force with Atlantic Scuba in their stand at the top of the field, the place to go if anyone needed to book a boat dive and well sheltered next to the fence from the gusty wind.  It was also a great spot as the view over the bay was astounding, eventually when the sun popped out and the rain stopped with a perfectly inviting flat sea for divers to get wet thinking about.

Scubafest 2013 Atlantic Scuba and Kernow Divers Stand

Scubafest 2013 Suunto tent

Suunto have the best stand, their yurt had so many comfortable places to sit it was more like a divers heaven after sitting in wet gear on a hard seat on a boat half the day. The most popular stand was Fourth Element because they had free hot chocolate and a couple of great reps who were smiling all day dealing with the longest queues.

Scubafest 2013 Fourth Element Stand

Scuabfest 2013 Fourth Element hot chocolate stand

When I was helping it was a bit empty as all the divers were out enjoying what Cornwall has to offer under the sea, as the day went on the sea stayed calm and then the rain cleared up so the sun could pop its head out and with the divers all coming back with big grins on their faces it is another year of success for the team hosting the event. Was a shame I didn’t get time to pop down Saturday night, but I did get a dive in for the Scubafest weekend with Kernow divers on our club boat ‘The Trout’. I hope all that attended had a great time and were able to see plenty of marine life and didn’t party too hard into the night.