It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Macro at the Metridium Field

After having to skip the BAUE boat yesterday due to a cold, I decided to head down to the Breakwater since I was feeling a bit better today. We met up with Ted and Nils to do a dive to the Metridium Field. I have been dying to dive the Metridium field for a while (I haven't dived it except at night since May), but since Rob manages to get reservations for Point Lobos every weekend we aren't on a boat, that hasn't happened. We finally didn't have a Lobos reservation (thank goodness) so I insisted on the Metridium field. We often see interesting nudibranchs and other small critters on the pipe and in the sand on the way out there. So I wanted to do a dive where we looked for little things.

We met at the Breakwater a little before 9, and I was shocked to find it pretty empty. We got a parking spot halfway down the wall at 8:45! We put our tables down on the beach, and in between crapping around, we slowly moved our stuff down there and then got dressed. Unfortunately, we waited long enough that it got pretty sunny and hot out, so we were roasting in our drysuits. After a group bob in the shallows to cool down (during which Ted ran around splashing us like a little girl -- Nils's words, not mine), we did the GUE EDGE (longest pre-dive briefing of my life... I think we need a talking stick, so I can withhold it from Rob). When we got to the last E (for environment), Nils pointed out that he drives a Prius :) Ted and I were team 1 (I was leading), and Nils and Rob were following us. Rob suggested I do a valve drill (grumble... I was planning on it anyway, but so thoughtful of him to insist). And Ted and I both wanted to shoot a bag, so we decided that right before the ascent, we would buddy swap, so we each could :) So, we headed into the water, ahh, nice and cool, and started to swim out. When I turned my light on, no love. It just flickered very weakly and died. Boohoo. So Rob insisted I take his. We went to all the trouble of him removing it from his harness and giving it to me, and in the time it took us to do that, his died. It was on when he first started to hand it to me, but off when I looked at it after putting it on. That was so annoying! Now I had two lights clipped off, which was seriously crowding the area around my right D-ring.

Anyhoo, we finally descended in about 25 feet of water, and I quickly did a valve drill. I was relieved that I was able to clear my ears... would have been pretty annoying to get all the way out there and find that I could not. The viz was pretty bad, very chunky and green, maybe 10 to 15 feet. We headed for the pipe, and found it pretty quickly. I was a little sad that I didn't have a decent light, since I wanted to look for little critters. Just as I was thinking I wouldn't be able to find anything with my crappy backup light, I found a little Flabellina trilineata on a piece of kelp on the pipe. I pointed it out to Rob, and he took some pictures. Required a bit of a team effort... I think Nils was holding the kelp leaf in the right position. We kept heading out on the pipe, and I noticed some little hermit crabs with barnacles growing on them. The pipe was actually pretty barren, but there were tons of dock shrimp skitting around on it -- I didn't notice them for a while, then after I saw a couple, I realized they were everywhere. There were also some cool feather duster worms growing on the pipe. I also noticed a decent amount of orange lacy bryozoan in small clumps all along the pipe. At some point on the pipe, I decided to try my two lights again and see if either wanted to work. When I turned mine on, it came on, and I was delighted, and when I went to put it on my hand, it was dead again :( I actually thought I may have imagined it being on, but Ted later confirmed that it came on. No luck at all with Rob's light.

Ted wanted to see some Dendronotus (or actually, he wanted to see one swimming), but I didn't see any along the pipe. Their eggs were everywhere, however. We did see a moon jelly along the pipe (or maybe two) and some other type of jelly that I have never seen before. We periodically stopped along the pipe to wait for the other team to catch up (they were both taking pictures). When we got to the end of the pipe, after chasing a moon jelly, we got kind of bored, so Ted asked me to watch him do a valve drill. What a dork. When the others finally caught up, we headed out to the Metridium field. Very shortly after leaving the end of the pipe, I spotted a nudibranch that I have never seen before. But it just looked so familiar. I was super excited to find a new nudi, and Rob was even shooting macro. I don't think Ted and Nils were quite as excited, they didn't do the chicken dance with me and Rob (see Discover California Diving for more information on the underwater chicken dance). It turns out it was an Acanthodoris brunnea. It is the first nudibranch on Clinton's nudibranch page, which is why it looked so familiar! After some picture-taking, we continued on. I was looking for stuff in the sand so closely, that I almost didn't see the big rock of Metridium as we came to it. Below about 35 feet, the viz had opened up quite a bit, to maybe 30 feet. We hopped from rock to rock, heading in the north-ish direction. The Metridiums were all open and looked happy. I continued to look for little critters. There were a lot fewer nudibranchs out there than usual. I saw one Triopha catalinae, and one Doriopsilla (usually there are so many more boring nudis). I also found a cute little sculpin, but it was at an odd angle in a crack, and Rob was about to switch off of his stage bottle, when I showed it to him, so he didn't get any pictures.

Our plan was to swing around towards the wall, and shoot bags in about 30 feet of water. We agreed to leave the Metridium field no later than 70 minutes. But about 62 or 64 minutes into the dive, I was totally freezing. I guess that's what I get for moving ridiculously slowly (it took 45 minutes to get to the Metridium field). So I told everyone that I was cold, and was going to head towards the wall. I decided to pick up the pace quite a bit, to warm up. I consider myself to be a pretty pokey swimmer, so I figure any pace I got should be fine for my 3 manly teammates. Apparently they were struggling to keep up (sorry boys, but you really should have said something!). My legs were pretty tired too, but I blamed it on the gaiters that I borrowed from Ted :) I did periodically stop along the way, to let the photogs catch up, or to point something out to Ted. I saw a moon snail somewhere out along the sand. I also finally found a Dendronotus for Ted. It was pretty small, but it was a really pretty one, different shades of red and pink. It did not want to swim for Ted though. At last, we got to about 35 feet of water, and a little rocky patch of reef. As I swam over it, I saw a Melibe leonina on a piece of kelp! I haven't seen one of those since last fall, when they were literally all over the pipe. Clinton saw one at Lobos recently, so I was hoping they would return in droves. So I had been looking all over the pieces of kelp on the pipe for one. So I was pretty excited. I showed it to Rob and he took some pictures. Underneath that kelp leaf, I saw a tiny Hermissenda. Anyhoo, it was finally time to ascend (yay, warmth!), so I shot my bag and we headed up. We swapped buddies so I ascended with Rob. It wasn't the most graceful bag shoot, since my lips were numb (not to mention my fingers and toes, though I don't generally involve my toes in bag shoots), but it worked. We met up with the other team on the surface, and decided it was too far to swim, so we popped back down and had a brisk swim in (after I warmed up for a couple minutes). Luckily my ears were willing to let me descend again (there were some funny popping sensations in my forehead on the last 10 feet of the ascent). Right after descending the second time, I found a kelp stalk with another Melibe on it, and then Rob found two more on the same stalk. I left, thinking that they could stay behind to take pictures without Ted and I, but they didn't quite get that, so he didn't get to take any more pics. I also noticed right in that spot where we descended that there were lots of Hermissendas, mostly the ones with grey and orange tips. We swam in and ascended on the beach when we could almost stand up. The tide was super low, so it was a very long walk up the beach (especially in doubles, after a week of single tank diving in the Caribbean). 114 minutes, 51ft, 51 deg

After some tinkering on the surface, we found the problem with my light. The bulb had become unseated, so it was just barely making contact. That is why it would come on and then go off. That was easy enough to fix. Rob's light just worked on the surface. I have no idea what the problem was. When we got home, Rob immersed it in water and let it run for a while, and it was fine. Rob asked some pointed questions to get to the bottom of it, most of which insinuated user error, but in the end, we don't know what the problem is. I think it is time for a new light. I am sick of my crappy 10W H light -- I think I will go for a 21W Salvo.

Dive 2 was at Turtle Bay, where we discussed canister lights, and made fun of Ted's Cave Diverness (he is a Global Underwater Line Follower, as Nils pointed out).

Pictures from the day here.

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