It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, July 15, 2007

'Branching at Middle Reef

We did some more work on the BAUE Nudibranch Project today. The plan was to go to each of the four transects where we are doing counts, and lay out line to mark the edges of the transects. Then Clinton would shoot pictures of the transects, so people can refer to the pictures to see where the boundaries are. Then we wanted to get in a count on each transect. We were diving in three teams (John and Clinton; Marciano and Mike; and Ted, Rob and I). Mike and Rob were both shooting macro. We decided to split up, and we would do the outlines and counts of transects 1 and 2, and they would do 4 and 5. Then Clinton would come by and photograph our transects after they were done with theirs. I strong-armed Rob into letting me do the counts on both transects (last time, he counted while I watched, and I was very jealous). When we pulled into Lobos, I was glad to see Chuck there -- meant there would be a decently-high tide.

On the swim out (it was quite a swim, those guys like to swim out further than I d0), Mike saw a dead seal on the surface and warned us not to look in that direction. I am happy to say that I didn't see it. As we were about to descend, I turned on my light and it flickered a tiny pinkish light and then went out. Sigh. So I was without a good light. Rob was without a canister light as well, because he loaned his to John (since he doesn't use it that much when he's taking pictures). This was kind of a bummer since I think good lighting makes it easier to find nudis. Anyhoo, I was leading my team, and we followed Clinton out to our transects, since we didn't want to lay out the line and do counts, only to find out later that we did the wrong parts :) Rob and I had counted transect 1 before, and looked at transect 2, but I wasn't 100% sure I could identify them again. The viz was about 40 feet at Middle Reef. The viz was very nice on the whole swim out... you could have snorkeled in the cove, there were lots of senoritas and small blue rockfish out, and we saw a ton of these tiny jellyfish (which I have not identified, but they were like 1 cm in diameter). On the way out, when we were in the rubbly rock area between the sand channel and middle reef, I saw a juvenile vermilion rockfish (again... this is very close to where I saw one two weeks ago). He was about 3 inches long. We got out there and Clinton pointed out the boundaries to us by a little over 10 minutes into the dive. Then the line laying began. Ted did the honors. It was a little more challenging than we expected, because one of the transects is nearly a flat wall, so finding a spot to tie off to in some corners (close enough that the lines actually showed the intended boundaries) was a little hard. After Ted ran lines for both transects, I started my count. Rob was going to be taking pictures (based on what I found, and also he was looking himself), and Ted was mostly going to just keep track of us both and keep us alive (as Rob likes to say). By the time I started counting, we were nearly 30 minutes into the dive.

I started with transect 2. Last time we counted it, it took about 30 minutes, and it is supposed to be doable in about 20, so I figured I would move at a slightly faster clip. I think I felt a little time pressure though, and may have missed some things as a result. I didn't find nearly as much cool stuff as last time -- mostly just some boring dorids :P Okay, so they were Diaulula sandiegensis, Doris odhneri, and a Hermissenda (see top picture). Rob also found a Rostanga (above). I looked for them briefly, but I didn't look that closely because I was trying to finish the transect in 20 minutes. I also found an Aegires albopunctata (right), which I was quite excited about, since I have found a few of those recently and they used to seem impossible to find :) But that is not one of the species we are surveying, so I didn't get to write it down :( I also had found a Cadlina sparsa, the identification for which we debated underwater (Kevin made these cool flip books with pictures of the nudis we are surveying and their lookalikes.) In the end, we didn't know what it was, but Mike id'd it from the picture. Well, we still are 100% sure that that's what it is, but that's the current theory. I ended up spending about 18 minutes on that transect. Then I moved onto transect 1, which for some reason was easier to survey (not sure if it is smaller, or fewer small nooks, or what). There I saw Doriopsilla Albopunctata, Peltodoris nobilis, Cadlina luteomarginata, and Diaulula sandiegensis. I also saw a Cadlina flavomaculata, which I have never seen before! I think I could only recognize this type of nudibranch because I had an email exchange with John Yasaki about them. He mentioned that you can find them at the Anchor Farm, and I told him I'd never seen one before, but that the black rhinophores look really unusual on it, so if I ever saw one, it would stand out to me. So as soon as I look over at this one, I know from several feet away what it was! Thanks John :P I actually thought this was on the list of species to count, so when I went to right it down, I was a bit disappointed to see it wasn't there :) Turns out it is in the list of look alikes that we aren't supposed to accidentally count. Rob also pointed out a little pile of nudis under a ledge, pictures below. We both originally thought they were 2 San Diegos. Upon closer inspection in the picture, there are actually 4, and they aren't San Diegos -- still working on an ID for those.

By the time I was finished counting, we were trying to decide what to do with the line, since Clinton had not yet arrived to take pictures. Then he showed up. Rob stayed with them, so he could cleanup the line after the photo shoot, and Ted and I headed in (since I was freezing, staying still to count nudis is really cold!). For the second dive, Rob and John wanted to practice some skills, but at this point I was not sure I would do a second dive. So I decide to practice a few things on the way in. I also wanted to see how they went when I was cold and my extremities were numb. So around 30 feet, we came to a clearing, and I asked Ted if he would watch me do a valve drill. It went very well, even with my numb fingers. We headed in further, and at 20 feet, I shot a bag and we did our ascent along it. That also went well, although my bag was only half full when we got to the surface (that always happens). But considering how numb my lips were, and we were only in 20 feet, I was pretty okay with that. On the surface swim in, I noticed that my wing kept slowly inflating. The first time it happened, I thought maybe I had leaned on the inflator button. Then it happened again. So I fiddled with the inflator and it stopped doing it -- I figured there was some sand stuck in it or something. After swimming in, Rob was looking at the monkey-faced eel under the ramp, so we went down to check him out. Check out the picture of him below. He was way back in a crack, but I could see his cute little face. He wasn't coming out to eat though, I offered him a variety of kelps. Then Mark (who was diving with Dionna) walked over us (I guess that's the downside of diving in 5 feet of water at the end of the ramp) and a bunch of silt rained down on us. Hard for Rob to take a picture in those conditions, so he left. I did manage to show the eel to Ted though (although all we could really see at that point was his little orange mouth moving). 93 minutes, 63 feet, 50 degrees

After dive 1, we snacked (some people who had forethought ate actual lunches), and we talked to Ryan briefly. Apparently he built a new primary light, from LEDs. Rob fiddled with my light a bit to see what was going on. Until now, my light flakiness always happened with one battery, so we assumed it was a bad connection in the battery; but today, it happened with the "good batttery". Rob plugged the light into Clinton's battery and it still didn't work. Then he plugged it back into my battery and it did. Must be a flaky connection in there somewhere. After some whimpering about how I don't like skills dives, and some talk about spending half of the dive looking at nudis, and then half doing skills, I was talked into going back out. Ted decided to head home. My gas was low, so I had to bring a stage bottle. Swimming out on the surface with an Al80 stage is pretty tiring. I think I finally figured out the optimal way to carry it, but by that point we were probably 2/3 of the way out. So my calf was killing my by the end of the swim. My light still didn't work, so I had to use my second backup (since my first was giving off a very pale glow by the end of the first dive). I guess Clinton and John still had to count one of their transects, so we headed out there. When we first got out there, I noticed that it seemed like I was continuously having to vent my wing. Finally I found a little ledge to hold on to, and after venting my wing, I just waited, at the same depth for about a minute. When I reached back and felt my wing, it had a lot more gas than it had when I started. So my inflator was apparently slowly leaking gas into the wing. I pulled the hose off (actually, Rob did it... I pointed to the inflator to tell him something was wrong with it, and before I knew it, he had popped it off for me). After plugging it back in, the problem went away, though I was constantly reaching back to check my wing throughout the dive. I guess it is time to ditch the Halcyon stainless steel inflator (it is the post-recall model, but I guess they aren't really much better). Rob and I just doodled around near the transect, looking at stuff on our own. Rob saw some Rostangas (and showed me one), and I saw one (which I tried to show to Rob, but couldn't find again by the time I dragged him over). I also saw two Festive Tritons, both very small (well, the smallest I've seen, at most 15 mm long I'd say). Other than that, I just saw tons of Doriopsillas and Cadlina luteomarginatas. Rob and John also pointed out to me the boundaries of that transect, for future reference.

Then, John, Rob and I headed off to do skills. We were in about 45 feet of water, and we wanted to practice stuff in midwater. So we ascended to 20 feet and hung there. We did our bottles switches (well, we switched off of our bottles, to backgas). Then they each did a valve drill and an S-drill. I just watched, because I want to practice this stuff in midwater without the extra bottle first. We did a good job of keeping ourselves in formation and holding our depth. Just as we were finishing up the S-drills, Clinton darts out of the kelp forest, signalling us to come look at something. I knew it must be something really cool. He swims us back to where Mike is taking a picture. I am looking all around for some super cool nudibranch, trying to see where everyone's lights are pointing (but there were too many lights pointing in random places). Finally, I see a wolf eel pointing his ugly little head out of a hole. Actually he was super cute -- I told Rob that he may have been the cutest thing I've ever seen underwater, so cartoonish, like a Fraggle. I have seen a wolf eel once before, slithering around at East Pinnacles, but not up so close -- I didn't get to see his ugly-cute face. I was checking him out (with my lame backup light), when I thought I saw another eye in his hole. Sure enough, there was another eel in there! It was reddish, which apparently means it is youngish. The red one had a pointier face. But the same cute little teeth. Clinton said it was probably his lady, and they probably have a nest in there. So cute! Hopefully they will stay there for a while. After this, we headed in (John at a break-neck speed). On the way in, we saw a big moon snail slithering over the sand -- which I have never seen before (Dionna suggested the ID to us based on the description, which I confirmed from Clinton's site). We swam in to about 20 feet, where Rob shot a bag and we ascended. We swam in, and I insisted on clipping my stage to our buoy because I am too much of a wimp to walk out of the water with it :) The water level was nice and high, so getting out was easy. 76 minutes, 45 feet, 50 degrees

My neck was pretty sore from my neck seal. It seems like ever since I have switched to an Otter Bay hood, my neck seal digs into my neck a bit more. But it is usually just a little indentation with maybe a tiny mark that goes away in a day. But yesterday I got my first "bad enough that people at work will think I tried to hang myself" neck seal hickey. It still looks terrible today (Monday). I am going to give my neck seal a good cleaning and see if that helps.

We went to RG Burgers for dinner afterwards, with Dionna and Marciano. We had the apparently-typical slow service. Rob's milkshake didn't come until we were all finished eating, so Dionna explained to the server that Rob had wanted to drink his milkshake with his fries, so he should bring some free fries (which he did).

Select pictures (from Rob and Mike) can be found here.
All of Rob's pictures can be found here. I love the Rostanga picture (above). I think it really shows how well it matches the sponge it lives on.

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