It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Friday, June 8, 2007

Breakwater Night Dive

We went down to Monterey on Friday after work for a night dive. The plan was to follow the pipe out to the Metridium Field, hang out there until we hit 45 minutes, then head toward the wall, and eventually the beach, for a ninety minute-ish dive. We didn't actually want to dive the wall, we wanted to look for stuff (notably octopus) in the sandy area. Rob didn't bring his camera, so you will just have to live with links to Clinton's pictures instead :) We entered the water a little after 7:30, so by the time we swam out and descended, it wasn't quite dark yet, but almost. I was feeling a little lazy and there was a bit of kelp, so we descended pretty early (15 to 20 feet). Within the first 5 minutes, I found two octopus. Neither of them would really come out of their holes, so we just looked at their heads poking out of the sand. We hit the pipe and followed that out. When we got to the section of pipe that is suspended above the sand, I poked around under the pipe. Last time we did a night dive out here, I saw a nice-sized octopus under there. Also, the last time I dove the pipe, I saw two Hilton's nudibranchs there. I found the rock where the nudibranchs were, and saw a sculpin hanging out there. Nothing else of interest. Under the pipe, there were tons of fish. I suck at fish identification -- as I was telling Rob after the dive, to me, there are a few kinds of fish: rockfish (of which I can properly identify maybe 4 or so varieties), sculpins (which I can't identify more precisely), lingcod, cabezons, and everything else :) So I don't really know what all the fish were... some rockfish and some "everything else".

A little bit further down the pipe, Rob flashed his light at me, and I saw two Dendronotus iris, sitting on the sand. One was the standard red-orange color and the other was maroon (my favorite color D. iris). Then I noticed a tube anemone right next to the maroon one, and realized what we were about to see! We watched the slug slowly shimmy towards the anemone, and then saw it as it prepared to strike. At first, it looked like it wasn't going to be successful, because the anemone retracted right before it pounced. But it managed to get the anemone in the end. Rob was rooting for the Dendronotus the whole time, I could tell. The whole thing was like out of a Discovery channel documentary... when the savage beast attacks its prey. We saw several other Dendronotus in the sand along the pipe, but none of them were feasting. We also saw a lot of Hermissendas, which really glow under the lights at night. This makes them easy to spot too, since as you move your light around, you suddenly see an orange glow. I also saw a bunch of egg casings that I have never noticed before. I pointed them out to Rob and he mentioned that he saw them when he was at the pipe the other day, but didn't know what they belong to. I will have to look into that. I did see one other notable Dendronotus on the pipe -- it was missing almost all of its cerata! At one end of it, there were cerata about a quarter of the way up it, but the rest of its body had none. Alicia said that sometimes when nudibranchs are stressed or in danger, they shed them... not sure if Dendronotus do that though. Anyhoo, without the cerata, the shape of it looked a lot like a sea hare (or maybe it was a rare Dendronotus-Aplysia hybrid :P). All this talk of shedding cerata just reminded me... last night I had a dream that we were diving, and we kept coming across Hermissendas that were shedding their cerata, so there were glowing orange bits floating in the water. That's all I remember of the dream :P

After we left the pipe, I noticed a bit of current going towards the wall. Rob and Dionna did essentially the same dive on Tuesday night (I was bonding with my co-workers on a river rafting trip), and he came back with tales of a stiff current at the Breakwater, and claimed the dive was practically a drift dive. I thought there was perhaps a little bit of exaggeration there, but he wasn't kidding! I think we were over-compensating a bit for the current, so we didn't hit the usual first rock at the Metridium field, and it took us a couple minutes longer than usual to hit some 'trids. But we finally did. They were almost all open, and they looked like they were glowing. We saw the usual assortment of dorids out there, and some rockfish hiding in the crevices. We also noticed several acorn barnacles, which I've never noticed out there before. There were tons of sea cucumbers (oranges and whites), and tons of Kellet's Whelk eggs on the rocks. Rob signalled me and pointed out another little octopus, who was out and about. We watched him for like 5 minutes, slithering around, changing colors. His color changes were pretty impressive -- from sand-colored beige to a really dark maroon. He was crawling over rocks and under kelp, and he finally found a nice hiding place so we moved along.

Not too long later, we headed out of the Metridium field, towards the wall. We basically followed the 50 foot contour most of the way, until I got cold and we turned toward the beach and swam in. We saw a lot more Hermissendas, and several black-eyed hermit crabs. One of them was carrying around barnacles that were bigger than he was! We also saw two that were mating. Hehe. Speaking of which, we also saw some Dendronotus sex. Rob pointed out to me what I thought at first was a huge Dendronotus on a tube anemone. Then I realized it was actually one medium-ish one and one big one, mating. After we had been swimming away from the Metridium field for probably 10 minutes, we ran into a rock covered in Metridium. Didn't know they extended that far east. We found another octopus who was out to play. We watched his color change show for a few minutes, and while doing that, we found another octopus, who stayed in his hole the entire time. We eventually saw two more octopus (for a total of seven for the entire dive). The last guy was climbing a tree. Well, he was climbing around on some sort of stalky plant thing (I am bad with underwater flora), and it looked like an octopus climbing a tree :) A few other critters of note: first, we saw several shrimp that were translucent white, with a blue spot on the tail. They were sort of bug-like, flatter with shorter legs than, for instance, a dock shrimp (which we also saw plenty of, and which I previously called coonstripe shrimp, until John Yasaki corrected me :) ). John Yasaki identified these based on my description -- they are Crangon nigromaculata (blackspotted shrimp). I found an Armina californica in the sand. Only the second time I've seen one (second time for Rob too; he saw two of them on Tuesday, but before that he'd never seen one). And we saw several tube snouts, which I've never seen before. And lots of cusk eels -- we always see a lot of those on Breakwater night dives, but I never tire of watching them burrow into the sand, butt first. It reminds me of when Pepper backs into her tunnel, to protect it from Bob sticking his head in there. We eventually hit the wall in about 8 feet of water. Right around there, we saw a bunch (at least 10) of small-ish red fish that looked sort of surfperch-like in shape. I didn't get a close enough look to attempt to identify them. 95 minutes, 50 feet

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