It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

n3 for some n in {E, Deep-E, D, ...}

On Wednesday we went out with Phil. We were originally planning on the usual Friday with Phil, but a scheduling snafu caused us to switch to Wednesday. Unfortunately Kevin couldn't make Wednesday, so it was just Rob and me. We wanted to go to Ed Cooper's Wall, or thereabouts. Our backup plan was Deep E3. We met Phil at the luxuriously late hour of 9 AM, and after doodling around in the parking lot while someone else launched their boat, we were off. We headed around the point, and just when we decided to start paying attention to the GPS to figure out where we were going, we smelled a whale, literally. In fact there were two. Humpbacks. After watching them for a few minutes, we headed to the site. Rob's GPS was on the fritz (well, actually it was just in some horribly unuseful mode), so this was a bit painful. We finally found the spot and dropped the hook. Not long after that, Phil pointed out that there was a wake around the line and back of the boat. So, some current.

I asked Rob what he wanted to do and he said something like "let's get in". So we got geared up, and Phil deployed us one at a time. I flopped in, holding onto a line and then grabbed one of the loops on the side of the boat, while Phil handed me my scooter. I kept one hand on the line and was kicking constantly, as Phil helped me clip my scooter on and held it in the water until I was on the trigger, and he let go. So, yea, some current. I dropped down to 10 or 15 feet and waited for Rob to appear, which he did momentarily. I couldn't see the line at the front of the boat (or, as Rob would correct me, the "bow"). Once Rob appeared, I looked up to figure out where I was with respect to the boat, and yep, I was still under it. Doh. After another minute of scootering and still being under the boat, we thumbed it. Rob had some scatter-brained idea that we could make it on a subsequent try, though I didn't really see how that was going to work. In any case, Phil gave up on us making it back to the boat under our own power and started to pull anchor. We were waiting for a while and he finally appeared, and told us that the line broke and he lost his anchor. Doh! We got back on the boat, after Rob gave me a quick demo of how not to doff your gear (or, alternatively, how to drown yourself under the weight of a full set of doubles). Then we discussed our options. The current was out of the south, so we figured the E3-area would be protected from it. However, we no longer had an anchor, so we were going to have to deploy and drop live. Fun fun. We headed over there, and got back into our gear. Once we were fully geared up, Phil maneuvered back to where we wanted to drop, and off we went. We erred to the shallow side, so that if we hit sand instead of pinnacle, we would just follow the bottom contour.

We dropped through tons of sea nettles and egg yolk jellies. It was pretty neat. As we got deeper, it got quite dark. Eventually we could see the ripples in the sand below us. But once we were down there we turned in the deeper direction and could see a wall in the distance. So we headed to that. We scootered around it and then sort of skipped from structure to structure, heading deeper. It was dark and murky, so I really wasn't sure at what points we were hopping pinnacles and at what points we were just skipping across a gap where the pinnacle jutted in. We were also never really certain at any point what structure we were on :) We may have been on Deep E3 at some point, or we may have been on the structures to the east of that. Since neither of us has been to Deep E3 before, we didn't really have anyway to know. We saw a few cool, notable things. First, a basket star, munching on a jellyfish tentacle. I found it, and I was very excited because it seems like I never find basket stars, someone else always does :P Rob pointed out that it is the first time he has seen a basket star that wasn't on a gorgonian. Then there was this big tall vase sponge (or, as Clinton would correct me, "boot sponge"). It was tall and shaped like a perfect cylinder. It was covered in the brown sludge that they sometimes have on them. We also found a monster nudibranch. It was white, so at first I thought it was Doris odhneri (there was another one right nearby, which also planted that seed in my mind). But it had big brown splotches. At first I thought it was silt, and I literally tried to wipe it off (which reminded me of how I laughed at Susan when she tried to wipe off Pepper's white spot). No, they were splotches. Then I also noticed that the texture wasn't nearly as bumpy as Doris odhneri, more sandy textured. Rob put his arm down next to it, and it ran from the tips of his finger up to about 3/4 of the way up his forearm. Monster. Every time we see any mystery (or even not-so-mystery) nudibranch in the white-to-tan color family, Rob tries to convince me it could have been Diaulula lentiginosa. I guess he really wants to see one :) This time I actually agreed with his theory though. It looked very much like the top one shown on the Sea Slug Forum. We also later saw a similar-looking smaller slug.

Our plan was to multi-level it, so we eventually headed to the top of the pinnacle we were on, which was about 150'. Then we scootered off into the darkness hoping to find something else that came shallower. After a minute or so, we hit a pinnacle coming to about 120' on the top. I at first thought this was E3, but then I became convinced it wasn't -- it had this strange structure jutting out at an angle near the top, which didn't look at all familiar to me. Also, it seemed a bit too small and pointy. Rob apparently went through the same mental process while we were down there, though after looking at the bathymetry, we really aren't sure. Anyway, after spending a couple minutes there, we decided to try heading in further to see if we could find another shallower pinnacle to start our deco on. After going for a minute or two and finding nothing shallower than 120', we thumbed it and drifted from there. Apparently my spool work met with Rob's approval, unlike last weekend :P As we ascended, it got brighter, and full of sea nettles. There were egg yolks too, but after we got to 70' or so, they disappeared and it was just the nettles. By the time we were at 20', I really felt like I was drifting in the aquarium's sea nettle tank. I could see so far and the seascape was dotted with nettles. But they were not so dense as to cause any serious problems. The deco ticked by, and just as we were almost ready to leave 20', I saw a single, purple striped jelly drifting below us. It was big and beautiful. I immediately started gesticulating wildly at Rob. Unfortunately since it was below us, and we were on O2, we couldn't go get a close up look. But we watched it for a while as it drifted around below us. I was very excited to see that -- I've only seen one before and it was in the throes of death at the Breakwater. We finished up the dive and managed not to nearly drown anyone getting out of gear this time.

No pictures today. Rob wasn't feeling well on dive-day-eve so he went to sleep early and didn't pack his camera. But I think it was a good day to leave the camera behind, since we did a lot of traveling during this dive.

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