It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, June 27, 2010

One Fish Two Fish Dead Fish Blue

On Sunday, Rob and I were diving at Lobos. We decided to head out to the Road to Twin Peaks for a little slug hunting, followed by some more slug hunting on the transects for the BAUE nudibranch project. Matt, John and Clinton were also there, with the same agenda, though we weren't actually diving together. Ted and Ben were also diving at Lobos, and to our amazement, they actually arrived at the same time we did (were behind us in line at the ranger station). After the usual chit-chat, we started moving gear down to the ramp. I wasn't in a huge hurry, since I knew the tide was coming in, and it was at an undesirable level when we first showed up. While Rob was doing something on the ramp (I really don't know what, but I assume it was related to putting gear on the float), he managed to slip on the ramp and his foot landed in a pothole, putting a little hole in his turbosole. Doh! That's like 3 weeks with the new suit before he managed that. After quite a bit of pouting, Kenn gave him some Aquaseal, and he did his best to patch it, not that there was really enough time for it to cure. Then while he was letting that cure, I was stuck with the task of moving our bottles to the float. Luckily Matt, Clinton, and John were also loading up their float, so Matt walked bottles down to me while I swam to the float. Then in exchange, I swam Clinton's camera out to his float. There was quite the little float farm by the ramp.

After a little more time had passed, and a little more water had crept up the ramp (and Rob's aquaseal got a little more dry), we got geared up and headed into the water. I noticed that when Rob went to put his doubles on, Kenn and Ted were falling all over themselves to give him a hand, and while I got into mine, I was totally ignored -- what the heck!?! Anyhoo, we headed over to the ramp, and as I was waddling down right about where the slope changes, Rob totally wiped out a few feet down the ramp from me. I considered the likelihood of me going down too if I rushed over to help him, so I called Ted and Kenn (who were fully suited up) over. Rob actually managed to get up without an assist, but I was so traumatized by watching him fall that I made Kenn walk me into the water. Hehe. After everyone was in the water, and confirmed that we still had all of our fingers and toes, we got our bottles and scooters and headed out on the surface. We dropped down just a bit to the northeast of the worm patch, and found ourselves atop the south end of middle reef. We headed over to the sand channel, and continued out that, in pretty un-stellar viz. Around 40 feet, the viz got even worse, when we became enveloped in a cloud of mysid shrimp, or whatever they are. When we got to Hole in the Wall, I was hoping the viz would imrpove, but then we came around the corner and it got really dark (due to the kelp cover), so now we were in bad viz and it was dark. Hmph. Well, I'm glad Rob was leading. The viz was crap all the way out to the Sisters. I was starting to doubt the likelihood of finding anything, when we found a structure that seemed like it could be the first sister. I groped my way up to the center and found the tell-tale hydrocoral. Phew. I was resetting my time and average depth on my gauge when Rob started giving me the rapid Okay. Yes, I'm okay, but I trying to reset my damn gauge. Then I realized he was rapid okaying something... a wolf eel, out in the open, on the structure. Woohoo. Rob sheepishly asked if he could take some pictures and of course I said yes.

Once he was done with the photo shoot, we headed out over the sister 2 and then out along the road. Once past the Sisters, the viz opened up to an acceptable level. Rob has this strange inability to recognize any of the structures on the road, so at some point he asked if I wanted to stop or keep going. I said let's keep going a little bit, since I had a spot in mind. He told me to take over leading and like 1 minute later, we found a nice spot to kick around on. I must admit, it didn't seem like that good of a slug-dive at the time, though at the end of it all when I go back over what I did find, it was pretty productive. There were, of course, the usual Spanish shawls and Dendronotus albus (there have been a lot of those lately). There were also a bunch of Diaphorodoris (again common these days). Eventually we ended up in a spot with 4 Doriopsilla spaldingi within about 10 feet of each other. I was pretty excited, but when I showed one to Rob, he was uninterested (what the heck?). There was also a Hopkin's rose right next to one of them, and Rob wouldn't come and take a look because he thought I was pointing out the Doriopsilla. I finally managed to get him to come over and look, and he was pretty interested in that. While he was shooting it, I found two more, though neither was as photogenic as the first one. I was getting a bit chilly, so I called the dive a couple minutes early. As we were scootering in, about a minute or two later, I saw a ratfish meandering along a pinnacle. No way! I signaled Rob in a rather enthusiastic manner and showed it to him. He was excited and asked if we could possibly stop so he could take some pictures. Of course! Then I watched Rob engage in some pretty amusing contortions to get some pics of the ratfish. Well worth it, I think.

From there, we headed further down the road and then eventually cut over toward Beto's Reef. I like to make it all the way back to the Sisters before heading over there, but Rob likes to cut the corner and head straight there. So that's what we did. We eventually made it there, right about where the wolf eel lives, though we didn't stop to say hello. Instead, we headed straight down the reef and over to Sea Mount. A bit south of that, we stopped to switch onto our deco bottles. After switching, I had a little trouble unclipping my scooter from my chest D-ring, because my fingers were absolutely frozen! I had to ask Rob to unclip it for me. Not my proudest moment. From there, we continued in until we hit a hard bottom of 70', on the big rock north of HitW, and hung out there for a few minutes. Then we went across the sand channel and spent 60' at transect 1, where Rob found a tiny Limacia in a crack. Then we motored in to 50', and spent the time looking in another familiar crack on Middle Reef. At 40', we visited the warbonnet, and 30', we visited the wolf eels. Man that guy has a big head. The viz had definitely improved on middle reef since we went out (ahh, high tide), but it was getting worse as we got further south. As we approached the worm patch, we agreed to continue in further. We were scootering along pretty slowly within arms reach of each other because of the bad viz. Every we split around a kelp stalk, I was relieved when I came out on the other side and Rob was still there :) Eventually we found a hard bottom at 20' and decided to repose there. I made an exaggerated attempt to lay on the sand, which Rob was not pleased about (and I found not particularly comfortable). After killing some time there, we continued in. I had asked Rob at 20 feet if he wanted to shoot a bag (since there was some boat traffic) or scoot in. He said he wanted to scoot in directly to the float, but as we continued in, the viz got so bad we abandoned that plan and shot a bag from 10 feet. It takes a lot of gas to shoot a bag from 10 feet :) We came up about 30 feet from our float. The tide had come in nicely for an easy walk up the ramp.

After a little lunch and some bragging about our ratfish encounter, we headed back in for a second, slug-surveying dive. Rob confessed that he was jealous that I usually survey while he takes pictures, so today we split up the surveying and each took a transect. So Rob didn't bring his camera, even though I knew he would live to regret it if he didn't :) I led this dive, not that it required much leadership to make it to the two shallow transects on Middle Reef. I was counting transect 5, and we went there first. It took a couple of passes to find the transect... I was sure we were on it, but couldn't find the hole in the reef, so I headed north, then realized I'd gone too far and came back to where we started; oh, there's the hole. All of the kelp there made it hard to get my bearings. Once there, I started surveying and at first was feeling pretty disappointed with what I saw (which was next to nothing), but then I found a much more productive area and before you know it there were slugs everywhere. I basically saw a few of "everything" (that one would typically see on Middle Reef) plus a Hilton's and a... Cuthona divae! I was very excited by that find, since I don't think I've ever seen one on a transect (and for that matter, don't think I've ever seen one on Middle Reef at all). For the first 10 minutes or so I didn't see any Rostangas, which was surprising, but in the end I found a few.

From there, we headed to transect 4. Just as we were turning the corner to get to the transect, Rob's scooter died. So lame -- why can't Rob show up prepared for the dive? Once we got there, I piddled around near the bottom for a few minutes and then went into the little channel between the west and east side of middle reef to look there. It's usually pretty fertile Limacia territory, though I didn't see any today. Eventually I meandered to the top of the right side of the transect and was looking through the kelp, since there are sometimes interesting slug finds there. I was not disappointed, as I found a tiny orange Triopha maculata up there. Yay! I showed it to Rob, and he was pretty excited too. I also found an Aldisa sanguinea (in the red-orange color, with those big brown circles) up there. But the coolest find of all was near the end when Rob called me over to show me two slugs. As I swam over, I saw a yellow dorid, and thought "why are you showing me a Doriopsilla?" then when I got closer I realized they weren't that at all. The slugs were almost translucent yellow, with a very bulbous-shaped, curled up gill plume. They were both on that burgundy salad kelp, and one had very distinct burgundy dots on the tips of its rhinophores and some of the tubercles on its back. I thought the translucent aspect of it had a really familiar look (like from an ID photo) but had no idea what it was. Rob was definitely regretting not bringing his camera. Once we were finished, I asked Rob if he wanted me to tow him, so he said okay and got into towing position. It seemed like we were barely moving and then after about 30 seconds, my scooter started making the tell-tale putt-putt noise of near death. So I shook Rob off and told him my scooter was dead, and we kicked in from there.

After a chat with Clinton and some internet research, we believe the two slugs were Hallaxa chani. Apparently the "goblet-shaped" gill plume is characteristic of Hallaxa.

No comments: