It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Italian Christmas

For obvious reasons, we didn't go anywhere for Christmas or New Year's this year.  But my company had off for a full week and a half (and I added two days, too make it a nice round 2 weeks off), and Rob rather ambitiously scheduled several days of diving over that period.  Ambitious in the sense that, well, it's December, so the likelihood of cooperative weather is low.  We've done some great dives over the Christmas holidays in past years, but we've also been blown out a lot.  Well I can't say we were totally successful in our diving efforts over the holiday (more on that in a future post), but our most ambitious plan of all was to go back to Italian Ledge the day after Christmas.

As I mentioned the last (and only) time we went to Italian Ledge, it took quite a few tries before we managed to get there.  We've been trying to get back ever since; I think we made a serious attempt last year in September and then again over the summer this year.  Well December 26th seemed like an unlikely day to be able to go there.  And the weather forecast did not look so good in the run up to the date.  We'd rescheduled our Christmas dinner to Christmas Eve, which I regretted when I saw that forecast.  There was supposed to be big scary swell and some wind.  But it seemed like there might be a window in the morning before it actually got big.  The day before the dive, I told Rob that if it was borderline at all, we were not diving.  We had once before made it out to the dive site and had an argument about whether it was diveable (it was not!) and I didn't want a repeat of that.

When we got out to the site, it was dead calm -- definitely not borderline!  The color of the water also looked pretty good!  We took our time dropping the line and getting geared up, and then we jumped in and started the long scooter ride down to the bottom.  The water was clear and bright quite a ways down the line.  Around 150 feet, the line went from being pretty much straight vertical to bending at a slight angle.  There was a teeny bit of current from that point down.  When we finally got to the bottom, it seemed like we had landed on a relatively barren section, compared to our previous dive.  The viz was 30 to 40 feet.  So we followed the structure down to the bottom and around it, and eventually we found some crinoids.  Phew, finally something worth coming to see :)

We ambled around on the bottom, and came back around the structure to find a school of Bocaccio hanging out above the structure (with a bunch of olive rockfish mixed in).  While we were watching them, I suddenly heard a noise, like a very loud humming noise, and then after a moment I realized it was whale song.  I asked Rob if he heard it and if that's what it was.  It was quite intense and we could hear it on and off for the rest of the dive and throughout deco.  I could not believe how loud it was.  I felt like a whale must be about to swim by at any moment!

When we came around the structure, we saw a monster cowcod.  I would have estimated it to be like 4 feet long, though Wikipedia says they only get to 39 inches :)  Maybe it was because I was under the influence oof whalesong.  But seriously, even more impressive than the length of the cowcod was how tall it was.  It was just enormous.  Later in the dive, we saw two more cowcods, which were just normal sized.  Still exciting to see, since I've only seen them once or twice before!

We also saw some big yelloweyes and one flag rockfish.  Last time we saw several flag rockfish.  This time we didn't find the one until pretty late in the dive, so I was just glad to see one at that point.  Overall, this was not as much of a star-studded dive in terms of all of these exotic "deep" rockfish, but I suppose it was a pretty good showing overall.  One super bummer was that Rob had some kind of camera problem that caused a button to stick on, preventing him from changing the focus on his camera.  So he got just a few photos early in the dive, but none of the exciting fish that we found later in the dive :(  Luckily you have my excellent description of the dive to paint a picture of that ;)

When we headed up the structure before starting our ascent, we passed some sections that were more encrusted with corynactis.  This was like the prettier spot where we happened to land on the way down last time.  Rob whipped out the reel and put the bag up and we started our ascent.

We had a very long deco, but it was not that boring.  First of all, the viz was crazy good.  The water was super blue and clear and bright.  And there were lots of deco critters.  No sea nettles, but lots of random singleton jellies and salps and stuff.  Just a steady stream of things drifting by that we could swim over to and look at to pass the time.  I really don't know how the time passed so quickly, but it really wasn't a bad deco at all.

The highlight of the deco was at 30 feet, when a school of bonito swam by.  I couldn't believe it when I saw them just as we were approaching the 30 foot stop.  I wish I had my GoPro for that!  They circled us a couple of times.  So cool!

When we got to the surface, it was still nice and flat.  Phew, we timed it perfectly!

According to Greg and crew, they didn't see any whale spouts at all the entire time that we were down.  So I guess there wasn't a whale about to swim past us during the dive.