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Me diving

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thumbs Up Project, Day 0

Last weekend, we participated in a BAUE project at Thumbs Up. The idea was to study the pinnacle in various ways (a la the Great Pinnacle project of 2007), including a survey, fish count, nudibranch count, and video and photographic documentation. The main project day was Saturday, but we also dove the site on Friday for some setup. The main goal for the day was to set the survey lines (at 60' and 80') for the survey team to use the next day. We also wanted to take GPS coordinates for the start and end of the survey lines (or more accurately, GPS coordinates for bags shot from the ends of the survey lines). I also wanted to scope out the site for spots to do nudibranch count on Saturday.

We got a nice late start at K-dock, and had an uneventful ride down to Lobos. It was really warm out, but was pretty comfortable once the boat got moving. Beto, Susan, and Karl were to set the 80' line on the first dive, and we were going to shoot bags from the ends of the line. Beto had an idea of where on the structure they wanted to start and end the line -- at a distinctive crack running east-west across the pinnacle not too far from the south end. Due to the dependence, we delayed our entry until about 10 minutes after then entered the water. Beto had given Jim coordinates for where to anchor, to the east of the pinnacle. Jim told us there was another pinnacle to the east of the anchor, so we should make sure we ended up at the right pinnacle. When we headed down the line, the viz was nice on the surface but terrible underneath. By the time we got to the bottom, it was maybe 15 or 20 feet, and very chunky and dark. It was also really surgy. All together, this made it sort of hard to make sense of the structure (as I expected it, based on the bathymetry maps). We scooted to the west once we got to the bottom, and quickly found the pinnacle. We headed north, to circle it counterclockwise. After we turned the corner to come back down the west side, I noticed another little wall structure to my right. I wasn't really sure if this was part of "Thumbs Up" or what -- after a little conference, we decided to backtrack and circle it. When we got to the south end, the reef seemed to just peter out pretty indistinctly. This wasn't really what I was expecting. And we definitely didn't see a crack.

Anyhoo, when we got back to the east side, I sort of gave the guys the "what the heck" sign, since I had seen no sign of a crack. Rob said he thought the pinnacle was the one to the east, so we decided to check that out. We circled it clockwise. At the north, we found a cool crack running north-south, and Rob and Kevin disappeared down it (since they have a very loose interpretation of the "leader" of the team). I was skeptical of the width of the crack, and had a feeling they'd be coming back -- a moment later they popped back out of the crack, apparently they had encountered an abrupt end to the crack and beginning to a wall. We continued on to the east side, and found a crack across the pinnacle near the south side. This is what we were expecting on Thumbs Up, but the depth didn't really match. In any case, there was some nice hydrocoral on the west side of the crack, so we spent most of the rest of the dive there, so Rob could get some pics. After a quick swing past the other pinnacle to look for line, we headed up the anchor line. When we hit the surface, Susan asked if we found their line. After a few minutes of feeling lame, they admitted that they hadn't set the line (I think because they weren't sure about which pinnacle was which either). Jim told us that our bubble trail was circling the proper site at the start of our dive -- we never should have doubted Jim's anchor placement :) 94 feet, 66 minutes, 50 degrees

This left us with more to do on dive 2 than we expected... well, actually it left the other team with more to do :) They decided they would go down and run line and shoot bags. Then we would take GPS numbers on the surface, clean up one bag, and put the hook on the bottom of the other (for our "semi-permanent" downline). Since there were three tasks, we each took one -- Rob would boogie board out to the bags and get GPS numbers, I would cleanup the bag, and Kevin would be hook boy. Sitting on the boat at anchor was making me feel pretty barfy, so I laid down on the bench and continued to feel barfier while we waited. The second bag finally came up, and I crawled into my gear and tried not to barf on Jim's feet while Rob led us through gear checks. We finally got into the water, and I felt somewhat better right away. I asked Kevin who was leading the dive, and then recalled a groggy memory of Rob leading us through gear checks, and figured it must be Rob :) We headed to the first bag, and deflated it somewhat, and followed it down. When we got to the bottom, Rob immediately headed to the palm kelp that the bag was tied to and started fiddling with it. After being chastised by me and Kevin, he stood down and moved out of my way. Always trying to steal my thunder... I reeled in the bag (trying to avoid motion sickness while watching the spool go round and round), and then Rob helped me roll up the bag and stow it.

Then we followed the line to the other end. It was pretty fun to zoom along the pinnacle on the line -- so easy to navigate and keep track of the team :) It was also fun to be in the back so I could watch Rob and Kevin pileup every time the line took an unexpected turn. When we got to the other end, Kevin connected the spool to the hook and found a crack to stick it in. Apparently Rob wasn't convinced it would hold, so he piled some boulders on top of it. Quite the backseat driver. After that, we headed back to the north side of the pinnacle, which was really heavily encrusted in pinkness -- Corynactis, sponge, hydrocoral, etc. I couldn't believe just how pink everything on the wall was. I pointed to the wall and then to my suit to Rob -- I matched quite well! While Rob took some pictures, I poked around looking for nudibranchs. I noticed a bunch of reddish Hermissendas right at the north side of the reef, and then I found a couple of trilineatas on a sponge. I pointed them out to Rob, and accidentally poked the sponge in the process; it was very squishy. We continued on down the east side, and Rob found a nice overhang with a bunch of macaroni-and-cheese sponge. I was trying to set myself up for a shot when Rob came over, waved me out of the way, and placed Kevin in the frame -- ouch! So I poked around some more and noticed something on the back of a hydroid that was seriously flapping in the surge... I waited for it to come back and thought it was a Doto. After quite a bit of frustration, I managed to show it to Rob, and he agreed. It was on one of those mustard-yellow colored fractal-y hydroids. Need to check what that is. I was pretty excited by this find, and hopeful that we would see more while counting nudis on Saturday. We then headed back to the upline and headed up. 87 feet, 63 minutes, 51 degrees

It turned out to be a much longer day than I think any of us were expecting. We got back to the dock with barely enough time to make it to Bamboo Reef and Aquarius for fills, but we managed to get there just in time (although we had to load balance to both shops :P). Then we headed over to the Travelodge, where we were all staying, and hit the new (to me, anyway) sushi restaurant there for dinner. I passed on the karaoke.

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