It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Not Diving Kawika's Garden

A few months ago, we did a dive at a spot on the deep deep shale which we call Kawika's Garden. We saw a lot of interesting rockfish there, so we've been wanting to go back for a while, to see if they are a fixture there. We finally put together a trip for Saturday afternoon to go back out there. As it turned out, the conditions looked crazy good, and it seemed like it would almost be a waste to dive the shale in these conditions. Rob predicted on the way down that there may be a mutiny. When we got to the dock, Jim mentioned that there appeared to be some sort of sailboat race going on in the vicinity of the spot we wanted to dive, so this may be a problem. I am honestly not sure if this "sailboat race" really existed, or he was giving us an out if we wanted to bail to a more exciting spot :-). We all agreed that if the "race" prevented us from diving there, we should head south. So that's what we did. After what I imagine was some wheelhouse negotiation between Rob, Jim, and Beto, we decided on Pinnacle Point Wall, which is just outside the Lobos boundary, near the point. I hadn't been to this site before, but I had eyed it on the bathymetry and it was on our short list for sites to go to on our Fridays with Phil (which have been in short supply lately).

Usually on the tech boats, people sign up in teams, but as we were having trouble early on even getting enough people to make the boat a go, there were a bunch of singletons in the mix. So we took the opportunity to mix things up a bit. I dove with Clinton and Karl (my first tech dive without Rob, woohoo!). When we got to the site, Jim told us there seemed to be a bit of a current pushing us west. We hopped in and kicked to the line (during which I could feel the current), and then headed down the line. It was, again, a slow descent (though not nearly as bad as Wednesday), but eventually we made it down, and the viz was awesome. The water was so blue, and the pink Corynactis really lit up the reef. There were also a lot of elephant ears that contributed to the whole reef looking very bright. Since the original plan had been to look at fishies in the bay, Rob and Clinton had both packed macro. Oh well. It would have been a great day for wide angle, but it was a great day for macro too! We got right to work looking around for some little critters. The first thing I noticed was something Doto-like on some hydroids. They were all over the place, and bigger than I thought Doto's were supposed to be. I have only seen one (a Doto amyra) once before, which Clinton found. So I really wasn't sure of what they were, but I pointed them out to Clinton, he seemed excited, and then I moved along. Turns out they were Doto amyra too. Other than that, I spotted a bunch of Diaphorodoris lirulatocauda. Then we ran into Rob's team, and Rob pointed out a couple of Cuthona divae which Matt had found. Everyone took a turn either taking pics or oohing and ahhhing -- they are so pretty! That was pretty much it for exciting finds. There were also tons of Hermissendas with bright red tips, which I really like.

At some point during the dive, I noticed that Clinton seemed to have given up on taking pictures, which struck me as a little odd. He also swam over to Rob's team and was having a sign conversation with Rob about something. Apparently the leak detector on his camera had come on, but late enough into the dive that he didn't see any point in aborting the dive (since the camera already had a decent deco obligation). The deco was uneventful. It seemed like we were really moving (Karl handed the bag off to me at one point and it spun me up and dragged me up a couple feet). Apparently we drifted about a half mile. After we retrieved all of the teams, we headed north, and decided to do a short second dive at Shale Island. The water was noticeably pooier looking, and when we got in the water, we confirmed that the viz was horrendous on the surface -- Clinton was showing me his stage bottle to verify before he switched to it, and I was like "dude, I can't see that!". I had to swim right over and jam my face into the bottle to read the marking. It was just Clinton and me on this dive -- Karl found a more interesting buddy for dive 2 :) 151 feet, 72 minutes, 48 degrees

The viz was totally crappy on the way down, and I kept expecting it to get better and it wasn't. Then around 40 feet, it finally cleared up. When we first got down there, I actually thought the viz was pretty good on the bottom -- the water was very clean anyway, not much particulate, so I had a very clear view of the macro stuff I was looking for. We initially swam around looking under the overhang, until at some point Clinton headed off over the top of the island. I pretty much always stick to the overhang, so I figured why not. The most notable thing about this dive was that there were a gazillion ronquils (of varying sizes). The little ones are so cute. I also found the lack of slugs to be somewhat notable. There were also a gazillion baby rockfish (mostly by the overhang), of a variety of species. There were, at least, olives, yellowtail and gopher (IDs blessed by Tom Laidig in case you doubt me :P). Eventually we ended up back by the overhang, and I found a nice-sized octopus hanging out under there (which is what I always look forward to seeing at Shale Island, so I was glad to find one). He just slithered along under the overhang and eventually headed into a hole as we were heading off. Eventually we found our way back to the anchor line, which was a relief, since honestly I got a little disoriented when we were on top of the island. The ascent was super murky. We were both right on the line facing each other, and I could basically just see Clinton's light, his camera (which his light was pointing at) and his hand (which the camera was reflecting the light back onto). Matt was below me on the line, and I tried to move up to give him some space, and then he seemed to disappear. Apparently he moved down a foot or so to give me space, and poof he was gone to me. The dive was pretty relaxing; I think the darkness on the bottom added to that. 56 feet, 43 minutes, 57 degrees

All of the pictures (from both Clinton and Rob) are here. Also, Beto posted an incredible video from the first dive, although I do a double take every time I see the scene where Susan is swimming (yes swimming, not scooting) towards the camera :) The pictures in this post are by Rob, even though I didn't dive with him -- he had a mini temper tantrum when I told him I was going to use Clinton's pics... how adorable.

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