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Me diving

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Birthday Dive

On Wednesday, we took the day off for a birthday dive, and coerced Matt into coming with us. The M/V Phil Sammet was not available due to some BBC otter harassment, but Jim (and his able mate Ed) were nice enough to take us out on the Escapade for a dive. It was Matt's first post-T1 tech dive, woohoo! Not since Rob and Kevin finished T1 have I seen anyone argue with such conviction about the placement of a single minute of deco -- Matt is clearly an honorary Kitty! Seas were incredibly calm, so we could basically go wherever. We discussed Mt. Chamberlain, but decided to try a spot we hadn't been to before, and went to Forgotten Pinnacle, which is just off Cypress Point. It is a pinnacle that ranges from about 100' to about 170'. One side (the east-ish side) has a more dramatic drop-off than the other. The water was dead calm on the ride down -- so calm, that I didn't even notice it when we rounded the point.

When we got to the site, we got geared up pretty leisurely, since it was so calm. We hopped into the water, and when we got to the line, it was like completely vertical. We headed down which took a looong time (I was a bit congested from the tail end of a cold I picked up in Boston), but Rob and Matt were very patient (or at least Matt was). When we were at around 80', a sea lion zipped past us. We finally made it down to 100', and then I started to swim us in one direction (counterclockwise), but Rob suggested going the other way. So we did, to a little splinter pinnacle off to the west of the main pinnacle. It was kind of tall and skinny with a lot of Corynactis growing on it. I pretty quickly picked a spot to linger on, since by that point it had taken us so long to get down and get going, and I wanted to find a spot for Rob to take some pictures. In hindsight, it may have been better to scout a bit more before picking a spot. Anyway, the highlight of that spot was definitely all of the juvenile rockfish. There was a big group (maybe 100) hanging out off of the pinnacle, and as I was looking at the pinnacle, I noticed that the reef was littered with more little juvies just hanging out on the rock. I am fairly sure these were widow rockfish (thanks to Tom Laidig for helping to train me in juvie rockfish ID). I also saw several tiny rosies, probably the smallest I have ever seen, which for some reason are, to me, the most adorable of the juvie rockfish that we see (with perhaps the exception of this blue-eyed beauty). And I saw at least one mystery juvie which I thought might be an olive, but Tom says is probably a yellowtail, based on depth. In addition, there was a big school of blues and olives (adults) hanging off of the pinnacle.

One kind of strange thing I noticed was that there just didn't seem to be many slugs, or at least not interesting ones :) The one notable thing was that there were a bunch of Hermissendas, but almost all of them had very red cerata (my favorite color of Hermi). After Rob shot a few pics of Matt at that initial spot, we continued on in the clockwise direction. We eventually came over the top of the pinnacle and found a small canyon that was sandy, with two rock walls around it. There was some hydrocoral on the tops. I noticed that a lot of the hydrocoral wasn't in very good condition -- there were broken pieces of hydrocoral on the rocks near many of the stalks. That didn't stop me from posing for pictures behind a few pieces. Matt saw a big lingcod (which apparently swam right past his face), which I guess Rob caught a glimpse of too, but I missed it. Eventually we continued on, and finally made it to the steep dropoff side, which had more hydrocoral on it (but nothing stunningly big), and then it was time to go. For some reason right as we started our ascent it felt like we drifted a bit, but from then on, there was barely any movement. The deco was pretty uneventful, other than me imagining some funny noises coming from my deco regulator when I first switched to it. I figured at least if my bottle exploded, Matt was pretty well practiced at sharing a deco bottle :) 152 feet, 66 minutes, 51 degrees

When we got back on the boat, Jim said that some of the whale boats had reported seeing Dahl's porpoises in the bay, so we headed up there to take a look, eating cupcakes on the way. We never did find them, but we came across a big mola basking on the surface. We hung around with it for a while, and it didn't seem bothered, so Rob decided to jump in and try to get some shots. I jumped in too, but the mola quickly decided it didn't want its picture taken, and demonstrated to us just how quickly it could really swim. Jim got a nice surface shot of it though. After that we motored around some more and eventually found a big pod of Risso's dolphins with a few common Pacific dolphins mixed in. I think Jim said he saw some Northern right whale dolphins too, but I didn't see them. While we were having fun with the dolphins, we did briefly see a humpback whale kind of far off. After quite a long sightseeing cruise in the bay, we headed back in.

Thanks to Jim and Ed for a great day out on the water!

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