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Me diving

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Underwater Parks Day at Point Lobos

On Saturday, we helped out at the Underwater Parks Day at Point Lobos.  This is the second year in a row that BAUE has participated, by putting together a marine life display in Whaler's Cove.  We do an early dive to collect some (hardy) specimens from the water, and then put them in tubs of water, so that the visitors can look at and touch them, and ask questions that we try to answer correctly :P  This is only the second time we've done this for the Underwater Parks Day, but we do a similar presentation for middle schoolers from Carmel once a year, so we've pretty much got the whole process down to a science at this point.  The water was super flat and it was a nice high tide, so a good day to be schlepping collection gear in and out of the water.  The water was also super clear in the middle of the cove, though it was a bit stirred up on the bottom further out and along the rocks on the side of the cove (where we did most of our collection), due to a long period swell that was just churning up the sand.  I was mostly videoing my buddies (Jason and Oleg), who were collecting.  But eventually I got bored with that and so I collected a couple of nudibranchs :)

We surfaced near the ramp, handed off most of our specimens at the ramp, and then went over to the little rock near the ramp, for some Hilton's hunting.  It was quite productive, and in a couple minutes, we had collected 3 of those.  Soon after that, I noticed a stream of very small bubbles coming out of my video light, which is never a good sign :(  I got it out of the water as quickly as I could, gave it a freshwater rinse, packed it in rice, etc.  In the end, it was still toast, boohoohoo, so it's now back at the manufacturer (so no videos for a while).  Anyhoo, I digress.  We brought our nudi samples back in, and setup the specimens at three different stations.  There was a pretty good flow of people, though it wasn't quite as good as last year.  I think last year was the first year that they did the event, so perhaps there was more interest.  For some strange reason, people seem to really like the keyhole limpets.  I guess they are big and weird looking, but not really my first choice for things to look at.  They liked the nudibranchs too, of course, since we had specimens of all different colors and shapes.  Someone even managed to bring back a Hopkins rose this year!  The one thing missing from the spread this year was a  sunflower star.  They are always a big hit with both the kids and adults, but they have sadly been decimated by the sea star wasting disease.  So we decided in advance that we would not collect any, even if we found some (which we did not).

After the presentations, we returned the critters to the water.  Then I went for a fun dive with Rob and Jon.  We wanted to go back to Beto's to look for the GPO that we found on Christmas Eve, and then we also planned to just do a bit of a scooter tour of that side of Lobos.  First we headed out to Beto's.  The viz was a bit churned up in the sand channel, but it was excellent once we were past about Hole in the Wall.  For some reason, my scooter seemed a bit slow today.  Jon has a fast scooter, so at first I chalked it up to that, but I was slow even compared to Rob (who was in the lead, while I was in the back).  We went to Beto's and found the GPO without too much difficulty.  I am pretty sure he (she?) is actually in the exact same crack that the wolf eel(s) used to live in.  He didn't come out to play or anything, but he was clearly visible.  Also, he seemed a bit bigger than when we last saw him.  I don't know how fast they grow, but he was a pretty small one when we first saw him.

After amusing ourself with the GPO and looking around at Beto's, which featured several MASSIVE lingcod, and a nice little school of blue rockfish hanging above the reef, we headed over to the Sisters.  Those barnacles have really done a number on the Sisters, again.  In particular, I noticed that on the first sister, the hydrocoral shrub that is right in the center is totally covered in barnacles.  Little bastards.  They did seem to be in the dying phase of barnacleness though.  We headed from there to the second sister, hung there for a bit, then over to the third, where there were some more blue rockfish.  We eventually meandered past there to a fourth little pinnacle (maybe a stepsister?) before deciding to head in shallower, toward Lone Metridium, etc.  We stopped at Lone Metridium, where Rob was shooting some pictures.  I put myself up above for some silhouette shots, and eventually he had me position WAY up above.

After a few minutes of that, we continued in.  There had been some discussion of going to the east side of middle reef, but for some reason, we were on the west side of the sand channel.  I questioned Rob about this, so he told me to lead, and I took us over to the top of middle reef (at which point, Rob suddenly and magically became captain again, and took us over to the east side).  I posed for  some more silhouette shots at the sort of north east corner of middle reef, and by the time that was done, I'd had enough with posing and holding my breath, etc.  So then we just headed in along the east side, which was very nice and clear.  It was much nicer viz than the sand channel side.  Now if only a whale would swim by... The viz in the cove was pretty murky on the scoot in, but we made it nearly the whole way in to the ramp anyway.  By the time we got out, the ramp had become a wee bit sloshy with that long period swell, though the tide was still high enough that getting out wasn't a problem.

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