It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Seattle Night Dive

Saturday we met up with Kirk for a night dive. I'd never met Kirk, but Lynne had set us up to dive with him, and I'd heard about Kirk before from the MoCal cave diving crew. We met at Redondo Beach just after sunset. Unfortunately it started raining on the way there :( After we met up, we got a site briefing (in the rain). We would enter down a set of stairs that go right into the water. My kind of entry :) Then we'd walk over to a little sand channel and swim out on the surface a short while before dropping at the end of the pier. At the end of the pier, there is a rope on the bottom that leads down the slope. We would follow that down, then come back up it partway, and then head off of the line parallel to shore to see some rocky structure. Scott had virtually promised us a GPO siting on this dive, and Kirk told us where along the dive we would see the resident GPO (under the hull of a boat in about 60 feet). At the bototm of the rope, there is a "bottle field" with old glass bottles, where Rob wanted to look for Pacific Spiny Lumpsuckers (PSL). Other critters we hoped to see included grunt sculpins, sailfin sculpins, and gunnels. Kirk also mentioned that we would probably see stubby squid, which I had never heard of before.

The slope was pretty significant. Before you know it, we were poking around a boat hull looking for the GPO underneath. There was of course a pile of crab shells and the like sitting just outside of the octopus's den. We each took a turn looking down the hole that was the entrance, where we could see big octopus tentacles. This was the first time I have seen a GPO in the wild (outside of the aquarium, that is). Then we continued to head down the line, eventually leaving it to head toward the bottle field I guess. Along the way, I found a little nudibranch on a tire, and realized it was the nudi that Scott had photographed the day before -- Onchidoris bilamellata. Before you know it, I had found a bunch more, including several that were mating. They were all over this set one big tire. And their egg ribbons were all over, including on the inside of the tire! Later while we were poking around on another boat hull, I found another new-to-me nudi, Acanthadoris nanaimosis, on the inside of the hull. Very cool. We also saw another GPO under that boat hull (this one was in about 85 feet).

We didn't manage to find any PSLs, but there were plenty of other interesting fish. There were a bunch of these long sort of eel-like fish (Blackbelly Eelpout) sitting in the sand that had serious baby face. We also saw two sailfin sculpins (my first!), the second of which even sort of allowed for photos. And we eventually did run into a gang of stubby squid. I immediately knew that's what they were, since the name is so appropriate :) They were really cute to see swimming, but as soon as they were in the light, they sort of squatted down in the sand and did an impersonation of a red octopus. One of them became almost purple in color which was pretty cool. We eventually made our way to this big pipe, and we swam along it, looking at the critters huddled under it. There were lots of green gunnels under there. At the end of one pipe, there was some metal scaffolding-type structure hanging off, and I found a grunt sculpin lurking in one of the corners. I couldn't believe I had found one! It was pretty well hidden in the corner, hard to get a good luck at from any side. But eventually it must have gotten annoyed with the lights in its eyes, so it swam (if you can call it that) out of that structure and plopped down on the sand. Those fish are so funny looking. Not long after that, I called the dive, because I was cold.

We headed up the slope until we hit the pier pilings. I found more gunnels cowering under the pier, and there was this huge school of tubesnouts, probably a thousand of them, and they were totally spazzing out in our lights. It was crazy how many fish there were! Just as were were about to head away from the pilings to ascend, Rob spotted a nudi on one of the pilings -- an Acanthadori pilosa. We also found another A. nanaimosis on the sand right there. After some photos, we ascended. The wind had really picked up while we were in the water, and the water conditions were almost sporty. Kirk told us that it was basically as bad as this site can possibly get, but it was just surface chop -- climbing up the ladder was no problem at all (with Kirk directing me as to which rocks to put my foot on to get up the first step, which is a couple feet high).

When we got up to the parking lot, we ditched our gear in Kirk's truck (since Rob's key was in his undergarment pocket), and we enjoyed the big thermos of hot water that Kirk had brought... it was very nice poured over my head :) My gauge read between 42 and 44 degrees on this dive (and all of the dives during the trip, actually). While that doesn't sound that much colder than the 46 to 48 that we get at some times of the year, it really is a lot colder! Those PNW divers are hard core.

All of the weekend's pictures are here.

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