It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Well, at Point Lobos anyway. But I guess that qualifies, since it seems to have become our home base for diving. We met up with a bunch of people to dive at Lobos today (Clinton, John, Mike, Dave, Sami, and Josh), and also ran into several other people who happened to be there as well. The plan was to do some nudibranch counting, and then just some fun diving. Not that nudibranch counting isn't fun :) Rob, John and I dove together. For dive 1, we planned to survey two of the transects (4 and 5) on Middle Reef, which I have not surveyed before. We also wanted to visit our wolf eel friends' love shack. It was a really nice day topside. On the drive down, there were some very ominous clouds over Monterey, but along the coast it was sunny and pretty warm. Warm enough to be a little uncomfortable gearing up once the drysuit was zipped. Rob asked if I wanted to bring a stage bottle along, and I asked him why the heck I would need that, since we were planning two dives on Middle Reef. After I moodily told him that not every dive has to be 90 minutes long, and we could do two 70+ minute dives on backgas, he dropped it.

John led the dive, since neither Rob nor I were certain of the location of transect 5. We swam out not too far on the surface (phew... usually John likes to take us on death surface swims). I guess that's a good thing about surveying transect 5, it's not very far out along Middle Reef. So, he took us to the site, and outlined the boundaries of it for me. The visibility at this point was amazingly good -- probably around 40 feet. The water was very blue and clean, and it was very bright. Basically the best viz you can hope for on Middle Reef. We had planned for me to be the primary counter, and John would just sort of watch and point out things that I missed, while Rob took pictures. It turned more into John and I looking in parallel (but I kept the count), and pointing things out to each other so there would be no double-counting. It was actually more fun doing it this way, than just counting while Rob took pictures. This way if I found something cool, I had someone to show it to without having to disturb Rob if he was in the middle of framing a shot. I was relieved to find that John didn't find much that I think I would have missed (I was a little worried since I had low numbers last time, that I am a sucky nudi counter). On the first transect, we saw Rostangas, Doriopsillas, Cadlina luteomarginata, and Berthella. I was happy to see the Berthella, since I don't see those on every dive. I also saw a couple of Cadlina flavomaculata (which are not on the list to count), and I think some Aegeris albopunctatus, although I didn't look too close since it was not on the list to count. I was glad that I found some Rostangas, because I spent a lot of time looking on the orange sponge for them. Usually, once I see one on a bit of sponge, there are lots more around it. But this time, I kept finding them in spots where there was only one. Hmph.

After that, we took a break from counting, and went to find the wolf eels. As I probably mentioned in an earlier post, a few weeks ago when we were diving Middle Reef, Mike and Clinton found a den with a wolf eel in it. While I was looking at it, I noticed a second one in there. So it's a male and female and they seem to have made a little love nest there; they have been sighted several times since. We found them (well, Rob did, actually, but there's no I in team), and Rob took pictures of them for a while, John and I piddled around.

Then we headed back to transect 4, for some more counting. We didn't see as many nudis here, but it was still a fun spot to look around at. We saw Peltodoris's, San Diegos (one gigantor), two Limacia cockerellis, and a Rostanga. The Rostanga was really big, the biggest by far that I have seen, and it was a lighter shade of orange. It also had some blacks specks on it, so I wasn't completely sure it was Rostanga. However, it was on top of eggs which I believed to be Rostanga eggs, and it just seemed like a Rostanga overall. So I had Rob get some pictures so we could get Clinton's opinion (and he agreed it is a Rostanga). I looked in Eastern Pacific Nudibranchs, and the color range is wider than I thought, and it also mentions that they can have minute dark specks. The Limacia's were nice; the one that John found was pretty big, and a really pretty specimen. I found a smaller one that was curled up a little bit, so it wasn't as easy to inspect without some magnification :) By the end of counting the second transect, I was freezing (I actually wonder if this affected the accuracy of my second count -- I was getting so cold at the end, I don't know how well I was concentrating). So we headed in. I could tell Rob was sad, but in addition to being cold, I wanted to save enough backgas to do another approximately one-hour second dive on Middle Reef. 48 feet, 75 minutes, 51 degrees

When we got back to the ramp, Rob and I dropped down to look for the monkey-faced eel that lives down there. Rob found him right away. He wasn't too far back in his crack, and he popped his head out a few times to eat some kelp that we offered to him. He's such a cutie. I was starving during the dive (not sure why), so I was glad that Rob insisted that we get up 15 minutes early (to which I threw a minor temper tantrum) so we could stop at Safeway for a sandwich. We had lunch with everyone, and discussed the plan for our second dive. We had originally been planning to do a second dive at Middle Reef. But since the conditions were so great, we were thinking of going somewhere a bit more exciting. Rob suggested Granite Point. I have never kicked out to there (just done it on a scooter once), so I wasn't really sure how far it was. John said it was only about 10 minutes past Middle Reef, so we decided that would be good. But I'd have to bring my stage bottle along, so I told Rob he got his way :)

John led this dive too, since he knows the way there better. We surface swam out as far as the kelp would allow us (which wasn't that far -- we dropped in maybe 45 feet of water). John took a slightly different way than I have taken before, not too different, but it got us there faster and we were shallower when we got there. That explains why I thought it was farther away than it really is -- when I went there before, we took a longer route but it put us further out along the wall. Anyhoo, one downside to Granite Point is that the swim out is over sand, which isn't very interesting. But today I was looking in the sand, and there were some neat snails and hermit crabs, and some cute little fish. So, not totally boring. John is a really fast swimmer (or maybe I am just really slow), so I had to tell him to slow down for me; so I guess it probably took us longer than the 10 minutes past Middle Reef :) Just when I was getting tired, and thinking I might have to ask John to go even slower, we got there -- phew. Just as we got there, I saw a pretty big vermilion rockfish. The conditions were spectacular. The viz out here was at least 60 feet, and the water very blue. It was also extremely calm. We looked around for a bit at that first rock formation, and saw mostly the usual stuff (usual nudis, ring snails, etc.). I found a Limacia, but then I swam over to Rob to get him and when I came back, I couldn't find it again. Hmph! As we headed further out, we came to some hydrocoral (Rob's favorite). It was too bad he was shooting macro. But he likes to look for little critters in the hydrocoral too. There were some blue rockfish hanging out along the wall, but their density was not as impressive as it typically is at the further out sites at Lobos. Suzanne and Gary had gone to Granite Point on their first dive, and they told us that they saw a huge cloud of baby shrimps in one area, that was covering the site like a curtain of fog. We came around a corner (much like they described), and saw the same thing. It looked like the rock just stopped and then it was sand. But actually it was the cloud of shrimp. It was pretty cool looking. I've run into those clouds before, but this one was really big, covering probably a 4 foot by 20 foot (at least, didn't actually see how far it continued) swath.

Shortly after that, John asked if we wanted to head in. We took one last loop around a rock that had some gorgeous hydrocoral -- really bushy, and the purple was a really dark, intense shade of purple. We headed back along the wall, and then when we got to approximately where we had started, we switched off of our stages, and headed back over the sand. The swim in was fairly uneventful; we were over sand most of the way, so nothing too interesting to report. The viz had gotten worse than it was in the beginning, and a bit more cloudy around middle reef. We eventually ascended at the edge of the cove and swam in. As we were ascending, in about 10 feet of water, there were a bunch of blue rockfish hanging out with us. They were actually decent-sized and there were quite a few. When we ascended, I asked Rob since when do blue rockfish in that size and number hang out in the cove? They must have been confused :) 72 feet, 82 minutes, 49 degrees

Afterwards, we went to the Hula Hut (over in the same plaza as RG Burgers) with Mike and Clinton. We mentioned we'd never been there, and they said we had to go and try the "addictive" sweet potato fries. I actually hate sweet potatoes; they generally make me feel like I am going to gag when I swallow them. But in some forms they are okay, so I figured I would give them a try. They really were addictive!

Selected pictures from the day from Clinton, Mike and Rob are here.
All of Rob's pictures from the day are here.

No comments: