It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Almost Solstice Dive

Photo by Vanessa Young
Last year, we (accidentally, I think) did a night dive on the summer solstice, which is a great way to guarantee a really late return home.  Vanessa told me that she and Clinton were planning an almost solstice dive (a day late) this year, so of course I invited myself along.  Actually I waffled about it for quite a while, but I always like to do night dives when Rob is out of town, both to make him jealous, and because I have nothing better to do (lame, I know), so why not?  And I even convinced Matt and Leah to come along.  The only annoying thing about Rob being out of town, and my being unable to convince Ted to come along, was that I had to make the drive down to San Jose during rush hour by myself.  Yuck.  After an hour in traffic, I eventually managed to get to Matt and Leah's house, and after a quick dinner, we were off.  We got to the Breakwater a bit after 8:30, which seemed late, but was pretty good timing with respect to the sun going down.  Despite our driving arrangements, I was diving with Clintessa.  I got dressed and walked my tank over to their car, and waited for them to finish getting ready.  Before I got dressed, Vanessa was bragging about her new Santi undergarment and base layer.  Now she was stuffed into her drysuit in her too-puffy undergarment.  I guess the drysuit was cut a bit too well for her old undergarment :)  We dubbed her the burgundy Teletubby.  It wasn't clear if she'd be able to get her fins on by herself, but once in the water, she did manage to do it.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
On the swim out, the viz didn't look too good, but it wasn't horrible either.  We swam out and dropped a bit earlier than usual, because Vanessa found it uncomfortable to swim in her Teletubby suit.  We dropped in a little over 20 feet.  The viz was pretty bad on the way down, and only slightly better once we got to the bottom.  Although it wasn't totally obvious to me at the time, the viz got quite a bit better once we got to 40 feet (it was obvious to me on the way back in, when coming up the slope from 40 to 20, the viz suddenly got much worse).  We meandered out in the usual direction, and ended up over the red kelp salad.  We happened upon a couple of random rocks, where we made our first cool find, a muppet-fish, which smarty-pants Clinton calls a midshipman :)  Clinton followed him around for a bit, but didn't manage to produce a picture, grumble.  While he was harrassing, err, photographing, that fish, I also found a nice red juvenile cabezon.  From there, we continued on over the kelp salad, not really seeing much for a while.  There were a bunch of big Dendronotus iris, including a big purple one that was free-swimming in the water.  Not terribly interesting, but who doesn't like a big fluffy purple slug?  We saw not a single octopus, which was sort of weird, but I guess not that weird, since we weren't really over the sand at all, that damn kelp salad!

Photo by Clinton Bauder
So I felt like this was a pretty unproductive critter peeping dive, until about 30 minutes into the dive, Clinton signaled us and was pointing at something.  We had finally sort of gotten off of the kelp salad, and there were  patches of sand, so I was expecting an octopus.  So I was pretty surprised when I swam over and found a shark under his light, a swell shark.  I don't think I've ever seen a swell shark before!  He was sitting on the sand, nestled under some big kelp leaves laying on the bottom.  He tolerated our inspection for a minute or two, and then he started to swim a bit, weaving his way through the kelp leaves.  But eventually he settled down again, half under a blanket of kelp, and just stayed there.  We ended up hanging out with him for 25 or 30 minutes.  I suspect he was terrified of us, and more paralyzed with fear than happy to hang out with us, but it is hard to say.  Clinton was not exactly carrying the right lens for this subject, but luckily Vanessa had brought her camera along too.  So she and Clinton were passing cameras back and forth, taking turns taking pictures with each camera.  Clinton got some nice eye and teeth shots, and Vanessa got a nice shot of (nearly) the whole shark.  So that was super fun, and definitely made up for the lack of critters up to that point.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We eventually pried ourselves away and meandered about a bit longer.  Clinton found a nice Triopha maculata, on the bottom of a little piece of kelp salad flapping in the breeze.  It was a pretty good-sized orange one, with spots.  It seems like I usually see either tiny orange ones with no spots, or big yellow ones with spots, so it's a treat to see an orange one with spots :)  I eventually called turn on the dive, based on gas, and not having a super good idea of how far out we'd gone (the problem with the meandering dive).  On the way in, I found a slug of my own on the underside of a flapping piece of kelp -- a Dirona picta.  I've only seen these guys once or twice before (other than at the aquarium), so that was pretty cool.  A nice way to cap off a great, but somewhat different, night dive at the Breakwater.  Once we got to the top of the slope up to 20 feet, we surfaced, and swam in from there.  Vanessa was still fretting about her Teletubbintess on the swim in, and whether she'd be able to de-fin when we got back to the beach.  I promised we'd drag her out of the water if necessary, but it turned out not to be a problem :)


Photo by Clinton Bauder

About five minutes after we exited the water, Matt and Leah appeared on the surface, and they were back on the beach a few minutes later (they surfaced a lot closer to the beach).  In contrast to our dive, they saw loads of octopus.  I guess they found the sand.  We packed up, and after a quick stop for drinks and junk food, we headed back to Matt and Leah's house.  I finally made it home around 1:45.


Clinton posted a few more pictures from the dive.


2 comments:

Lynne Flaherty said...

Did you have to go to work the next day?

You are making my whiny reluctance to face an hour and a half of stop-and-go traffic to dive at Cove 2 on weekdays look awfully wimpy . . .

Lynne Flaherty said...

Did you have to go to work the next day?

You are making my whiny reluctance to face an hour and a half of stop-and-go traffic to dive at Cove 2 on weekdays look awfully wimpy . . .