It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Breakwater Sand at Night

Photo by Robert Lee
Since the conditions looked crazy good during the week, Clinton suggested the obvious -- a weekday night dive. I haven't done a night dive in forever (since last spring, I think) so I was definitely interested. It was also a good excuse to break in our new (to us) single tanks. We headed down to Anywater to meet Clinton (and pester Frank while we waited), and then headed down to the Breakwater. There was a little confusion about whether we would stop for dinner on the way, or before meeting up, which resulted in me eating an energy bar for dinner. Yummm. We got down to the breakwater around 8. The water was lake-calm when we got there, and with the low tide, we were treated to a nice long walk down the beach. We got geared up not too horrendously slowly, and headed in.

Photo by Robert Lee
As soon as we got into the water, we were delighted to see how clear the water was. We swam out on the surface, occasionally checking out the water below us, with its crazy good viz. Eventually Rob pointed out that there was a school of fish below us, so we decided to drop there so the boys could get some pictures. It was pretty cool dropping into the school of fish. They seemed moderately tolerant of the picture-taking. After Clinton completely traumatized them with his strobes, we headed out and pretty quickly we hit the slope. We headed down, meandering along until we got to about 40-45', and then we loitered there for a while. One notable thing was the incredible lack of nudibranchs. I saw at most one all night... on the way out, we passed a rock and I saw a yellow splotch on it, which I didn't stop to look at, but was probably a yellow dorid of some sort. Another notable thing was that there were an incredible number of juvenile rockfish. I don't know what all of them were (since they were particularly skittish about the lights at night), but I saw quite a lot.

Photo by Robert Lee
I have to admit, for the first half of the dive, I just didn't feel like I was bringing my critter-spotting A-game. I didn't even manage to find a single octopus, which is pretty much unheard of for Breakwater night dives. We had been commanded to look for flatfish to get pics of (for the BAUE field guide), and nary a flatfish was spotted either. There were, however, quite the array of sculpins, shrimp, and crabbies. About halfway through the dive, I found a first octopus, and then it was like we hit the octopus mother lode. First a tiny one, then a big one. We accidentally scared the big one into flying off the sand, after which is quickly swam head-first into the float on Rob's strobe. Poor kitty. Just as Rob was harassing, err, shooting that octopus, I turned to look at my gauge and and saw a squid lingering about 2 inches from it. I excitedly called Rob over to take a look. He took a couple pictures, then called Clinton over, at which point the squid skeedaddled. Rob decided to pursue him, but I knew it was folly, and left him alone. Not long after that, I found a turbot (finally) who had a friend (parasite) hitching a ride. Kind of gross, but kind of cool.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
Not long after this, I called turn, and we started to heard towards the wall. Rob wanted to look for Dendrontos subramosus on the wall, so we had agreed to swoop back in along the wall at the end of the dive. However, we kept happening upon interesting/cute critters (many more little octos), and stopping for the boys to take pics. At one point, Rob was taking pictures of something (I don't know what), and I was loitering near him. Clinton called us over to look at something, a tiny sculpin of some sort. At which point I was like.... umm, guys, there's a like foot-long shrimp sitting right next to that fish. That shrimp will forever haunt my dreams. I can usually get past the fact that shrimp are basically like sea bugs. But a foot long shrimp!?! That is just disturbing. Worse, perhaps, than any bug I encountered during my tenure at East Campus. After Rob and Clinton got some shots of that most disturbing creature of the night, we continued on, only to find more late night oddities.

Photo by Robert Lee
Rob and Clinton eventually each managed to find a mystery worm to take pictures of, which was undulating in the water column. After some correspondence with the "worm nerds", it turns out that these "worms" were actually synaptid sea cucumbers. Apparently they typically hang out buried in the sand, filtering food from the sand (I guess), but they can take flight into the water column, after purging their gut of the sediment. The ones that they got pictures of each also had a scaleworm along for the ride. To cap it all off, someone found a Pacific staghorn sculpin. I think it's cute how they burrow into the sand when they get shy. It seems quite cat-like. Unfortunately, after all the fun that we had on the way to the wall, we didn't quite make it there before gas considerations required that we head straight back in towards the beach. So no Dendronotus subramosus for Rob! We schlepped out of the water in equally lake-like conditions, and packed up all of our gear before heading home. We stopped at the Del Monte McDonald's (conveniently 24x7, probably about the only place to get food in Monterey at this hour). I was disturbed by just how good my Quarter Pounder tasted in my extreme state of hunger. After that, we had a pretty uneventful trip home. Rob didn't even get pulled over for driving with sleepy. And amazingly, I got to work earlier than I had all week on Friday. I guess the dive was refreshing :)

All of the night's pictures are here.

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