It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Middle Reef Times Two

On Sunday, we went to Point Lobos. I was diving with Rob and Kevin, as usual :P The plan was to do one skills dive (ick) and one dive counting nudibranchs for the BAUE nudibranch project. I do not generally approve of doing entire dives dedicated to skills, but it seems like our plans to work on stuff at the end of dives keep getting postponed, due to conditions (on boats) or stupid stuff like not having enough gas. So, to get us over the hump, I allowed a complete skills dive :) I hope I'm not setting a bad precedent!

We brought our 40 cu ft bottles along to try them out. I haven't used one before -- I got it a while ago, but haven't gotten around to using it, I guess because I've been schlepping the stage. And after schlepping the stage for one dive, I never feel like schlepping a bottle on the second :) Anyhoo, I theorized that the 40 would be even less "there" than the 80, so it wouldn't be a big deal to get used to it. That was indeed the case. I was actually thinking during the dive that I can totally see how you could lose the bottle and not notice, because it's like it's not even there! We swam out to about 30 feet of water (we meant to go out to 40, but we got lazy on the surface swim) and did some valve and S-drills at 15 feet. Then we ascended, chatted about it, and went back down to practice playing with the bottles. We practiced switching on and off of them at the bottom and then at 20 feet. All went well. After that, we descended and moseyed on in. What more can I say, it was a skills dive? Well, there was one mildly amusing moment. We had gotten settled in at 15 feet, and Rob starts his valve drill. Then all of a sudden, bubbles are spewing at me from underneath. I look down, and there is a diver apparently laying on his back on the bottom looking up. I have no idea what he was doing. Maybe looking for his buddy, who appeared next to him shortly thereafter. So we regrouped out of his bubble stream and tried again :) 32 feet, 63 minutes, 51 degrees

For dive 2, we did something a bit more fun -- counting nudibranchs. Kevin's drysuit flooded not too subtly on dive 1, so he sat out the second dive. I had a soggy foot but decided that I could suck it up for another dive. We were counting nudibranchs on the two transects that are further out (in about 55 to 60 feet of water). We swam quite a ways on the surface, and finally dropped in about 40 feet. I headed us out on the sand channel and at some point cut over to the reef. I was swimming along, and came to the spot that I thought were the transects. Gave them a look over, and decided, nah, these aren't it. Kept going. After swimming for a while and getting past 60 feet, I decided I must have passed them. I signaled to Rob that I thought we'd gone too far. He said no. I pointed out the depth. He said he would lead. Okay. He swims about 10 feet further, then I see a little light bulb go off in his head and he looks at his depth gauge and turns us around :) We come back to the spot I had looked over, and Rob says this is it. I told him no. Then I ponder it for a while. Swim around, look at it from a different angle, and think, man I'm such a moron. Yea, that was it. I prefer to think that it somehow looks different with less palm kelp along the top of the reef, rather than temporary extreme stupidity.

So, after taking too long to get to the transect, I got right down to counting. I started with the northernmost one. It seemed like I found a lot more nudis on that transect than I have in the past (I guess I've only surveyed it once, so that's not a very impressive sample). I pretty quickly happened upon an Aegires (which, sadly, we don't count in the survey so I didn't get to count it) on an orange sponge. It was the first time I saw one of these and didn't have to do a double take to decide if it was really a slug. Sitting on that orange sponge, it was very obvious! Rob pointed out a Festive Triton to me pretty quickly, and I later found another one, at a slightly funny angle. I felt like it was looking at it from underneath. I also found one Rostanga after searching over many many patches of orange sponge. As I was swimming along one patch of the transect, I was thinking to myself that it seemed like the perfect place for a very well hidden Limacia. A minute later, I found a Limacia! I turned to signal Rob, and when I looked back, I couldn't find it. So I told Rob what I had found, and he found it again for us. Other than that, I saw pretty boring stuff. I hope none of my readers are opisthobranchs who are offended by talk like that.

I moved on to the next transect, and by this time my leg was soaked up to the knee :( Pretty chilly. Actually it was just uncomfortable feeling water swishing around in there. Maybe there is really something to this claim that Argon makes wet Thinsulate feel warmer. I found a bunch of Rostangas, one pretty big for a Rostanga. I showed it to Rob and his eyes looked like they were going to pop out of his head and he signalled "big". I think I have actually seen one bigger before though. Rob also found a rather sad looking Flabellina trilineata. Sad looking, but exciting nonetheless. I don't think I have ever seen one before at Lobos, and I've definitely never gotten to check that box while doing a survey before :) You can see from the picture that it was missing a rhinophore, and some of its cerata look broken or bent. But still a cute little guy. After I finished, I told Rob I had a wet knee, but I could do a quick fly by the wolf eels. On the way over there, Rob found another trilineata on a piece of kelp. It was tiny. In my attempt to hold the kelp for him to take a picture of it, it ended up on my finger :( Whoops! Oh, that reminds me, I actually have seen a trilineata at Lobos once before -- Don and Elissa found one, and while attempting to show it to me, it ended up on Don's glove :)

We got to the area of the wolf eels, and while I was looking for my landmark to find it, I saw the males head just sitting out. He was further out of his crack than usual. Man, he has a giant head. I could see the female back in the crack, but not her head, just her body. After that, we headed out to the sand channel and ascended. Rob insisted on shooting a bag ("for practice") as we were heading up. 63 feet, 75 minutes, 51 degrees

We were kind of far out, but we ascended because we were both getting low on gas. When I popped up, I saw Jonathan standing at the top of the bluff. At this point I was ridiculously cold, so I surface swam as fast as I could. Jonathan offered us help out of the water, but luckily I didn't need it. The tide was low, but I still managed to get out of the water pretty gracefully, for once :P When we got up the ramp, Jonathan had filled our rinse buckets for us and put our tables over by the hose. Thanks Jonathan! He told us everyone was at Black Bear Diner for lunch and headed over there. After we cleaned up, we joined them and I had some tasty French toast. I was freezing for the next few hours, probably because of that leak. I guess it is time for some Aquaseal.

Pictures from the day are here.

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