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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Cordell 2022 Day 2: Quillback Ridge

For the second day, we checked out a new site that Rob found on the bathymetry, and that he and Kevin did a short recon dive on the previous day. It looked big on the map, and was a sort of crescent shaped ridge coming up to 140’ or so, and dropping to a bit over 200’. It was not too far from Northern East Ridge. On the way down, the water did not seem as warm. It was pretty clear and blue on the bottom, but not as bright as the previous dive. The water was also a little schmutzy. There was a little bit of current, which seemed variable as you moved around the site. The site was more like a plateau than a pinnacle. I spent pretty much the entire dive on the plateau, with just a very brief foray down the side to about 170’.

The first thing we noticed when we got to the structure was the lack of fish. Or at least, no big schools of fish. There was a little school of young of year around, but nothing nearly as impressive as northern west ridge. The other thing that I noticed right away was that this spot really reminded me of Northern East Ridge — different shades of pink corynactis with lots of white elephant ears sponges (covered in brown hydroids) and some biggish heads of light pink hydrocoral. There is a picture that Rob took our first year at Northern East Ridge, which is the picture in my head of that sight, and it looked so much like that.

Although there was no big impressive school of fish, there was some notable fish life. There were quite a few lingcod, though they were all relatively small. There were tons of rosy rockfish. Clinton got a picture of like twenty of them piled up in a crack. But the coolest fish pile was a group of around ten quillback rockfish hanging out in an otherwise boring flat open area. They blended in so well, it seemed like there were one or two but then your eyes would adjust to the background and more and more would appear. Definitely the most quillbacks I’ve ever seen at once!

At some point, Rob pointed out one of those holes in the reef. We also briefly headed down the side to look at another quillback perched on a little ledge on the wall. The wall drop off was very vertical below us but probably only dropped another 50 feet to the sand. One other nice sighting was a siphonophore with its head attached.

The deco did not have as dramatic of a warm layer, which was a bummer since I had a leak in my left arm. A mola passed us once on deco. It was a very nice fly by but he didn’t stick around. When we surfaced and I was scanning around looking for the boat, I saw a whale less than 100’ away. Apparently there were five whales swimming very close to our bag for most of deco. Sigh.

It was Sunday, and Monday's forecast looked promising, but unfortunately several of the divers had to head back to work, and Nick had to head home.  But Rob and I stuck around with Jim to try to eek out another dive on Monday.

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