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Me diving

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Bottom of Twin Peaks

On Saturday I went to Twin Peaks with John and Clinton. Rob and I had this dive date to Twin Peaks with John on the calendar for a while, but got called away to video a class on short notice. Clinton had asked about dive plans earlier in the week, so I figured it was the perfect chance to talk him into a scooter dive (since Rob's scooter would otherwise be stuck at home, washing its hair). It didn't take too much convincing (possibly because his camera is in the shop). The plan had been to go to Twin Peaks and look at the sea pens in the sand at the bottom. I always hear about the sea pens, but never make it to the bottom of the peaks (usually due to our gas choice not being quite right for that). So we wanted to make a point of going out there and making it down to the bottom.

After a brief standoff with John, I offered to lead us out there. After a quick briefing of the features specific to an X-scooter, and a review of the map, we staged our gear on the float (I got to swim, woohoo) and then got geared up and into the water. As we were retrieving gear from the float, someone noticed a stream of bubbles spewing out of John's scooter, from one of the o-rings around the body. Not good. John schlepped that bad boy back out of the water, and debugged the leak. Turned out there was a piece of debris under the o-ring, which was easy enough to fix. After drying stuff off and tinkering a little, John decided that the scooter was good to go, or at least if it wasn't, would likely make that known early in the dive :) While he was tinkering with his scooter, Clinton took the opportunity to descend right by the ramp and figure out the right length for his tow cord. Oh, did I mention that the viz was pretty good right by the ramp? :) After bobbing in the water for quite a while, we finally got going. I really should have insisted that John bring me a snack when he got back into the water. We scootered out to the start of the sand channel, and dropped there. We were within site of Beto and Rob's crew where we dropped.

The viz was quite good in the sand channel, I would say at least 30 feet. It only got better as we headed out. The patch of kelp just north of the lone metridium had stellar viz, and it was incredibly bright. Almost as soon as we left lone metridium, I could see what I thought was Sea Mount off to my right. I was doubtful at first -- I can *never* find Sea Mount on the way out, it seems like it only appears when I am on the way in. So I headed in that direction to check it out and after passing it, we hit Beto's. We scootered out along Beto's and then turned left to go toward the Sisters. I love the ride from Beto's to the Sisters on a good viz day. It seems like you can see forever over the open expanse of sand and rubble when it is bright and clear. Before you know it, we hit the Sisters and headed up the Road. As usual, there were various small and juvenile rockfish hanging out on the Road near the Sisters. Clinton found some sort of rockfish that he couldn't identify (which John and I were of course no help with). I gave him the big shrug and then we continued out. We stopped along the way to look at a couple of Medusa jellyfish, but we were otherwise on the trigger pretty much non-stop. About 2/3 of the way out along the road, we came upon a school of blue rockfish, and not long after that, a school of olive rockfish. The olive rockfish were neat, since I don't usually see them in those numbers out there. After marveling at them briefly, we continued out until we got to the big peak.

We headed to the bottom of the northeast tip, to look for the sea pens. It was my understanding that this is where the sea pens were (which John confirmed on the map). Apparently this isn't actually the spot that is known for the pens, but there were several there. I pretty quickly decided that the sea pens were quite unexciting, considering there was a big wall with various colorful life forms within sight. So after just a couple of minutes looking for stuff in the sand, I headed to the wall, which we worked our way up slowly for the rest of the time there. Clinton found some slug on a red sponge, which I thought was a pretty common slug out there. I thought it was an Aldisa sanguinea, but it turns out it was actually an Aldisa cooperi (which has spots down the center). I am still pretty sure we have seen those before, but I didn't know the spots were significant. The first one he found was on a red bumpy sponge (which are pretty common in the E3-ish area, and I would like to know what they are...), but there were several others nearby, and some egg bundles too. Clinton was clearly very excited about the find (which made no sense at the time, since I thought they were A. sanguinea). I guess these are not generally known to be around here (they are a northern species), hence his extreme excitement.

After working our way up the wall, I came over the top and down the other side of it. I love the view down the face of that wall, especially when the viz is so nice. With such excellent viz, I realized that spending all of my time at Twin Peaks looking for small critters is really sort of a waste. The wide angle view of the northeast-facing wall was gorgeous. It was time to leave, so we got on the trigger and headed back. We scootered in shallower off the reef, with a nice view of the topography below us. We stopped in the vicinity of Lone Metridium to switch to our deco bottles, and hung out there for a few minutes, before continuing to our next stop. Once we made it to the sand channel (after our 60' stop), we were mostly on the trigger the whole way down the sand channel. Around 40', Clinton pointed up and I looked up to see a school of some kind of perch. There must have hundreds of them, which was surreal to see in the sand channel. There were also lots of smaller schools of tube snouts along the sand channel.

When we got to the worm patch, we decided to keep going, because the viz was awesome, so why stop there? Eventually I found a little clearing in the kelp at about 20', so we hung out there for the remainder of that stop. Clinton whipped out his wetnotes to brief us on the "new" nudibranch (complete with a cute little drawing of the nudibranch and its spots). The wetnotes chat was a good way to pass the time, since we were all pretty cold. I think bobbing on the surface for so long before the dive definitely took its toll. When we were finished with that stop, we headed in until we found the line for our float. I clipped my scoot off and we waited out our last stop. It seems like when I am leading, we almost always end up ascending at the worm patch. So I was relieved that I actually found our way all the way back to the ramp :) Rob was impressed. I think he was also impressed that I led us out to Twin Peaks and back (he apparently thinks that I can only navigate when he is there to send me telepathic hints about whether I'm going in the right direction).

When we first got out, everyone was pretty cold, so we pulled our gear and float, thinking we probably wouldn't do a second dive. But then after we reflected on the crazy good conditions (in addition to the viz, the water was dead flat), we decided another dive was in order. There was also a little bit of questioning certain team members' manhood involved in the decision to do another dive (by Rob actually -- backseat team member!). We discussed the various options for the dive, and Clinton wanted to count nudibranchs. It wasn't the most popular idea, but since we did talk him into scootering with us for the first dive, I figured we should go along with the nudi counting. After warming up for a little while (the topside conditions were awesome too), we waddled back into the water. Walking in with a stage bottle (sans float) is such a hardship. Swimming out on the surface with a stage both (sans scooter) is even more of a hardship. Clinton and John are just too hard-core for me. I had called transect 5 (since it always has more nudis, which makes counting more fun), and Clinton was counting transect 4. Poor John, he didn't even have a camera to hold while Clinton counted :) We headed out to transect 5 first, and Clinton did his count. I poked around mostly in the little channel that cuts across to the east side of the reef. I noticed a lot of Rostangas in that area. John found an Aegires in that area too. I also visited the resident warbonnet, who I was relieved to see (since I hadn't been able to find him several times recently). I was getting rather chilly while Clinton counted, so I was glad when he was finished. We stopped by to check out the wolf eels on the way. I saw them the last time I was at Lobos, but what I hadn't seen was the eggs that everyone else apparently had seen recently. So I specifically wanted to look for those, but they were no longer in there. I did get a good look at both eels though.

After that, we continued to transect 5, and I did my thing. I found a ton of slugs, though not much that I would consider exciting -- one berthella (which I like, since their little spots look like twinkling stars). Finally at the very end, I found a Limacia -- phew, a certifiably "exciting" slug :) I also found an incredible number of Rostangas. On one little patch of reef, I counted 7, including two mating pairs. There was also one mystery nudibranch that I really couldn't decide if it was a Rostanga or an Aldisa sanguinea. It really didn't look right for a Rostanga, but it had none of the tell-tale characteristics of an Aldisa. I called Clinton over to consult, but he was waffling on that too. He really needs to get his camera back into service :) The plan had been to hop over to the east side to play around when the counting was finished. However, when I finished Clinton gave me the "I'm cold" signal so we headed straight in. Clinton was swimming like a madman (even more so than usual). I guess without the added drag of the camera, he can really motor. We ascended right by the ramp, and after I caught my breath, I waddled up the ramp.

We had a late lunch at RG Burger, which we haven't been to in a while (Phat Burger seems to have gained favor in recent times). We had to put up with the usual slow service, but the milkshakes were good.

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