It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mount Chamberlin SW Loop

Sunday we were back on the Escapade. After our excellent dives on Saturday, we were excited for more of that great viz. I was a little concerned about the extreme cold, so we rejiggered the bottom profile a little to shorten the deco by 5 minutes (yes, I realize it is sort of silly since that's basically in the noise). When I went to sleep on Saturday night, Rob and Kevin were negotiating the site, which I already knew would be the southwest loop of Mt. Chamberlin, since that was the site of our epic dive fail on Kevin's birthday. When I woke up on Sunday, sure enough, that was the plan. This plan worked out nicely because there was some lost gear from Saturday that Jim was hoping we could recover. When we headed out, it was a bit overcast and definitely not as pretty of a day as Saturday. There was a chance of thunderstorms in the forecast, but Michael assured me that a lightning strike on the water would actually be less hazardous than on land (sorry, I'm not buying it). The water was calmer than it was on Saturday, so we had a nice easy ride down to Yankee Point. I did, however, regret the fried jalapenos that I consumed the night before -- those are definitely on the pre-dive blacklist from now on. I think they were already on the list, but I forgot.

We got to the site and let Joakim and Karl splash first. Then we hopped in and after resolving some bubbliness, we were off. The water was amazingly calm on the surface. We used the same numbers that we used last time, so again we landed on a hump at around 150 feet. Once again we were greeted with stellar viz. We headed down the slope to the sand, and just like last time, we headed across the sand to the north side of the little cove that we were in. We came upon the same little rock where we saw two basket stars last time, and we started scouring the rock for basket stars, and sure enough we found one. We continued on along the little wall of that cove, this time without any gear failures to sabotage our dive :) Kevin pointed out a starry rockfish (I think) which was kind of orangey colored. Eventually we got to the end of the cove and headed over to the wall on the west side, that drops into the abyss. We made it down to about 250' and could not see the bottom of the wall (not that the viz was bad, but it is dark down there!).

Kevin signaled me and I came up the wall to see him pointing at some strange eel-looking thing. I had no idea what it was, but I knew it was an cool find! Rob came over and took some pictures (wrong lens, but we at least wanted to ID it). Turns out it is a pacific hagfish. From my research on this species, it seems that around here they are typically seen below 300'. I guess he followed the cold water up :) Before you know it, it was time to move along and get shallower. We headed around toward the south wall, skipping along from peak to peak. Eventually when we found a spot in the 150' range, we hunkered down for a bit more bottom time. I've always thought that the 150-ish areas of Mt. Chamberlin are prettier in terms of colorful reef than the deeper spots. As we were coming around the corner to the south wall, it was amazing how the reef suddenly became more colorful. So I guess it is not a depth thing, just a matter of which side of the Mount you are on. We headed north towards K2, but didn't take the usual chute that we follow up from the South Wall. I think we were one chute to the west. On the way in, I found another basket star, which was pretty closed. At about 120 feet, I saw Kevin's light swoop across the reef and light up a ratfish. I couldn't believe it when Kevin just kept going -- I wasn't going to stand for that! I signaled the boys and had a nice little encounter with the ratfish, until they came over and scared him away. Rob whipped out his camera and the fish actually swam right in front of him, but he was having some technical difficulties so didn't get a shot :( Meanwhile Kevin was signaling that it was time to head shallower (he's such a downer), so we had to say bye bye to the ratfish. We scootered in to the 70' peak at K2, where we promptly located Jim's lost ball and line. We switched to our deco bottles and then put up a bag on the line attached to the ball. Once that was sorted out (and we'd rotated bottles -- hey, why not do it over a hard bottom if you can?), we put up our own bag and started to drift.

Just like yesterday, we saw a variety of jellyfish on deco, including a Scrippsia pacifica, a few sea nettles, some comb jellies, sea gooseberries and a variety of tiny nameless (to me) jellies. It was a really really cold deco. When we got back on the boat, the crew told us that just after we got into the water, the skies opened and it was pouring. But by the time we came up, it had cleared and was a nice blue-skied day. The ride back was calm and nice, and we encountered a huge pod of dolphins that included (at least) white-sideds and northern right whales. We watched them jockeying for position under the bow for quite a while, and eventually headed back to K-dock.

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