Dive Times: 10:12 am/12:32 pm
Dive Lengths: 35 mins/42 mins
Max Depths: 83 ft./66 ft.
Temps: 52 F. / 52 F.
Surface Conditions: Calm
Currents: strong at Site #1 [PTP], negligible at Site #2
Mixes: 34%/26% [Due to Operator Error on Boat]
Viz: 15ft/30 ft.
Marine Life Observed Recorded [Inverts Only]: Fluted Bryozoans, Lacy Bryozoans, Northern Staghorn, Southern Staghorn, Strawberry Anemones, White Spotted Anemones, Orange Cup Coral, Bat Stars, Giant Spined Stars, Leather Stars, Spiny Brittlestar, 1 Red Abalone, Chestnut Cowry, Red Turban Snail, Orange Puffball Sponge, Stalked Tunicates, Masking Crabs, Feather Duster Worms, Pterygophera californica [Northern Sea Palm], Southern Sea Palm, Chestnut Cowries, Sunflower Stars….
Dive #1: The Pinnacle or Point of Tremendous Proportions [PTP]
Today, we had the privilege of having Dida Kutz join us, an experienced science diver [who also dives for Monterey Bay Aquarium] and REEfer for both dives.
On this first dive, with the unlikely name of ‘Pinnacle [or ‘Point’] of Tremendous Proportions,’ she and I buddies up, while Barb went with another experienced REEF diver, Greg.
Capt. Phil had warned of a strong surface current and sure enough, when we splashed in, we could feel it in the familiar sensation of kicking and not actually getting anywhere, so Dida and I agreed to just drop down the anchor line and stay around 80 ft or so, so as not to risk being swept off the sea mount by the current.
The entire sea mount was covered in a thick canopy of Northern and Southern Sea Palm, about 3 ft. high, which meant in order to access the tiny invertebrates we were recording [we were both doing only inverts], we had to basically bury ourselves under the canopy of Sea Palm, which was constantly being blown first one way, then the next, in the strong current.
Within just a few minutes, only a few feet apart, we were both buried under this layer of Sea Palm, which has a bad tendency to wrap itself around your face and mask in the current, making the task of writing on a slate rather difficult.
This is not a task for the claustrophobic, let me assure you.
Nonetheless, Dida and I managed to make our way slowly Northward around the palm covered sea mount at around 80 ft. and record quite a few inverts.
I was pleased to be able to record a few Feather Duster Worms, with their ‘feathers’ prominently displayed.
At one point, we looked up to see a pair of alien looking lights being shined down on us: Barb had found us and was filming away with the Hi Def Sony.
After 35 mins or so, we made our way straight up the mount and to our delight, found ourselves directly under the anchor chain and made our way slowly up until we surfaced next to the boat. Nice!
Dive #2: Dali’s Wall
The second site was probably one of the best sites we manage to hit all week: it was a rocky kelp forest which reminded me of nothing so much as Broomtail Reef in Pt. Loma.
On this dive, Barb, Dida and I dived together, and I’m glad we did: we had a blast.
The three of us dropped down together and after a brief kelp ‘entanglement’ episode, in which Dida conducted herself like the pro that she is [she calmly let her dive buddies assist her], we made our way down to the bottom at 60 ft. to see what we could find.
Almost immediately, I came upon a remarkable sight: a small Masking Crab sitting over in a corner, who appeared to be dining on a Bat Star.
But, that was not the most unusual thing about him: what was amazing was the 3 Fluted Tunicates growing straight up from his carapace, like large radio antennas, waving in the current.
You have to remember that both Stalked Tunicates and Masking Crabs are on our REEF sheets, which is why I referred to him as a ‘two-fer’ for science diving purposes.
To say nothing of the rarity of seeing a crab [of any kind] with tunicates growing from the carapace.
Immediately, I gestured for Barb to come over with the Sony Hi Def video cam and begin filming, which she did and then, we signaled to Dida to come over with her camera to take a shot of him, which she did.
What a cute little fellow: he soon had his pincers out waving around, ready to take on all comers—nobody’s messin’ with my tunicates!
After giving the little guy a few minutes of digital fame, we slowly moved on to the large rocky pinnacles which jutted up from the surface, much as they do at Broomtail Reef in Pt Loma, richly covered in invertebrate and vertebrate marine life.
It was under one of these rocky promontories that I saw my first Red Abalone, but I wasn’t about to try and mark it as such on my sheet until I had the agreement of my two other ‘expert’ dive buddies, so I called them over and they concurred that it was a Red Ab, so gleefully marked it as such on my sheet. I don’t mark abs lightly, simply because they can be so difficult to identify accurately—even for experts.
It was about this point that Dida lost her pencil and Barb and I dithered about, writing
‘War and Peace’ notes to each other on my slate, trying to establish if one of us had a spare pencil for her; it took waaay too long to establish that, alas, we did not.
Non-divers have no conception of how complicated the simplest tasks become with the weight of 3 atmospheres of pressure on your brain!
Anyway, shortly after this, I indicated to Dida that I was running a bit low on my magical 26% mix and we told Barb we were ascending and she agreed: there being always the ‘final shot’ that had to be taken for National Geographic.
Dida and found the anchor line but noticed that it ascended through the thickest part of the kelp, so we decided to do a ‘rolling safety stop, to the stern of the boat.
Unfortunately, when we arrived under the boat at the stern, we noticed the kelp was a nearly impenetrable canopy covering the surface, but we had no choice but to surface here.
I kept an eye on Dida as we surfaced through the thick fronds of kelp, forgetting that she has spent many years doing science diving in kelp conditions much thicker than this, as she later explained to us.
But, you never know how any given diver is going to react to surfacing in thick kelp, so my instinct is always to watch someone the first time up. It turned out we had nothing to worry about with Dida.
Barb surfaced a few minutes later , satisfied with much of the video she had shot.
We all agreed that in an entire week of diving for REEF, this final dive site might have been the best.
It was a lot of work, but was extremely enjoyable working with such professionals such as the captain of the ‘Cypress Sea,’ Capt. Phil, DM Sean and the entire REEF crew, Dr. Christy Semmens and Dr. Steve Lonhart, both of whom provided invaluable training in vertebrate and invertebrate ID training which will last us the rest of our lives, to say nothing of the science grant that paid for our places on the boat for an entire week!
Dive safely, everyone……….