It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Deep Deep Shale

We went on the Escapade on Sunday afternoon to do some dives on the deep shale. I think some people use that term to describe the shale in the 80' range, so I will refer to our site as the "deep deep shale" :P The boat was inspired by our 100' dives for Tech 1, where we had just long enough to see some cool nudibranchs (Tochnis, in particular) before an airgun would go off in our ears. We have been wanting to go back out to that area and look for Tochnis, and other stuff, so Rob put together a boat. Jim and Clinton had a particular site in mind, which I guess Kawika had found, which goes from about 110' to 130'.

After a short ride out to the site, we got geared up and Rob and I got into the water first. I brought my 80 cuft bottle along, and I was relieved to find that I could actually stand up from the bench with it clipped to me :P I didn't feel like doodling around at the swim step having the bottle handed down to me. It was a very pukey shade of green on the surface, and the viz was terrible. I was leading, so I had to descend into the muck first. It was creepy. I descended in touch contact with the line, since I figured in this viz, if I lost it, I was not finding it. Around 70 feet, I started seeing bright splotches below me, and I realized they were blue rockfish reflecting my light. We finally got down to the reef (it was the slowest descent in the history of the world), and dropped off of the line before we got to the anchor. Beneath us was a garden of gorgonians. We headed down the side of the structure and started swimming west-ish. The first thing I noticed was the abundance of fish. Every time I moved my light in any direction, I would light up a scene of tons of fish hanging in the water. It would have been quite a sight if it weren't so dark (the viz improved on the bottom, but that murky layer left it night-time dark). There were lots of blues and olive rockfish (BIG olive rockfish), and many others that I am too feeble-minded to identify. There were also a lot of rosies of all different sizes, down to the little tiny ones. Rob also found and got some pictures of a small-ish white and tan/brownish rockfish that we couldn't identify. Clinton ended up getting two pictures of the same kind of fish, and the current theory (according to the vast network of rockfish geeks) is a sharpchin rockfish. Rob also found a really cute little white fish, with bright blue eyeshadow, curled up on a sponge. It is allegedly a baby squarespot rockfish.

Rob was shooting macro, so there was also quite a lot of staring at the reef looking for little stuff. We saw lots of Spanish shawls, one simnia snail, and other than that mostly pretty "boring" slugs (errr, I mean, all slugs are beautiful creatures). No tochnis :( Boohoo. We meandered between the various patches of reef, and just poked around. There were some patches of metridium, but most of them were closed or half closed. We crossed paths with John and Clinton a couple of times, and then just when we were about to ascend, we crossed paths with Mark and Dionna. I shot the bag, which seemed to take forever to unspool from 120' and we headed up. The ascent was pretty uneventful (although trying to spool at 30 ft/min was... interesting), until we got to 50', and I saw something white in the distance, and I thought it might be a moon jelly. We kicked a little in its directions, and they were white tanks! It was Mark and Dionna. What a disappointment :P Above about 50', the viz was super bad again; we could basically see each other and that was it. Then at 20', my foot hit something. I really didn't want to look back to find out what it was, but phew, it was Dionna's fin. Hehe. We waved hello and then it was about time to move. The one good think about the nasty top layer was that it was delightfully warm! It definitely made up for the boring long 20' stop. When we got to the surface, we were about 100 ft from the boat, which was still anchored. We swam back over to the boat while John and Clinton heckled us about how they saw a Tochni right by the anchor :( (That's what we get for not checking the anchor, as we were instructed to do). 128 feet, 77 minutes, 48 degrees

On the surface interval, we jetted out towards the edge of the bay for a little whale watch. We watched several humpbacks out there (no bad breath, phew). It was kind of sporty out there! We then headed back in towards the less-deep shale. We went to the old anchor farm site (which now has a pile of chain but no anchors), which I've never been to before. It was a nice site. The viz was surprisingly good on the bottom there, and it was not super dark. We checked out the Metridiums on the chain pile, and then headed west along the ledge there. We really didn't get very far at all. As we were heading across the ledge (so we could look under the ledge), I found a decent-sized octopus hanging half out of his hole. He literally looked like he had just stepped out and froze when I saw him. He stayed there long enough for me to show Rob, but then he quickly retreated. There were an amazing number of Hermissendas, all big and bushy and pretty. They were everywhere! I found a pair of them mating, and pointed it out to Rob. Then I continued poking around under the ledge. I found a little rockfish that I didn't know what it was (it was a very pretty shade of maroon with some green and cream splotches), and I waited with it for Rob to come over. And waited and waited. I guess he was really into those mating Hermissendas. All this time, the fish managed to not be scared off by me while I inspected him. Then Rob turned toward me when he was finished taking his pictures, shined his light directly at me, and the fish skittered off, scared of Rob's light :( I did manage to quickly point it out to Rob before it retreated into a hole. Clinton ended up getting a picture of the same kind of fish, so now I know it was a young vermilion. Very pretty fish!

We turned the dive (I think we had made it far enough to be like a 3 minute swim from the anchor line :P), and as we headed back we came across Clinton and John. They were hovering over a starfish with a half eaten fish under it. Yummm. Rob and I headed to the line and headed up. That was uneventful except that I kept getting blown into the line. Rob told me afterwards that I was "awfully cozy with the line" or some other condescending thing. Next time, he gets the bitch spot and he can back kick to stay in position! The nice thing about diving at the shale is the quick trip back to the dock. Not too quick for some Escapade snacks though! 79 feet, 41 minutes, 48 degrees

All of the day's pictures are here.

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