Posted by Patrick on November 12, 2013 at 13:21:04:|
Last week I was fortunate to participate in in the yearly NOAA, National Park Service monitoring of submerged cultural resource sites in the Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary. During the course of the week we surveyed eight shipwreck sites (one visited by divers for the first time) and two aircraft sites spanning in depth from 16 to 130-feet. Ranging from Anacapa Island to San Miguel, conditions both above and below were quite good. Surface conditions found sunny skies and moderate to no wind and, depending on the site, moderate swell and current. Visibility ranged from10-50+ feet with the better visibility being predominant. Temperature was mostly in the low 60s with the coldest location being on the backside of Anacapa at 55-degrees. Kelp was healthy and very dense on some sites, and there was no indication of the starfish wasting event that has been noted in other areas along the coast.
After arriving home on Friday night and taking a day to sort out gear on Saturday, seven o’clock Sunday morning found Cindy, Kevin and I heading out on Capt. Elliot’s 33-foot dive vessel, Encore. We dropped into the water on the wreck of the African Queen to admire the wonderful ecosystem this little wreck supports. Vis on the wreck was in the 25-30 foot range – clear but still with a lot of particulate, and the temperature was a pleasant 61-degrees. As we were hanging for our safety stop, we were visited by a five dolphin fly-by. They circled us three times and apparently found us lacking as entertainment and headed in the general direction of Catalina. It was an amazing experience that rarely comes and would have been totally missed in lesser visibility.
Next dive was on the gambling ship Johanna Smith. Visibility here was a bit less, 15-20-foot, but much better than is usually experienced on the site. Massive numbers of Barred Sand Bass (Paralabrax nebulifer) along with Blacksmith (Chromis punctipinnis) and an amazing number of 2-to-5 inch long juvenile Sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher) were roaming the wreck. A respectable California Halibut (Paralichthys californicus) was seen as well as a few Ling Cod (Ophiodon elongates). The amount of growth on the site is impressive and the dive was enjoyed by all.
Last dive of the day was on the wreck of the Monfalcone. Typically the visibility on this wreck seems to run from 6-inches to three feet, but given the excellent visibility along the coast we thought it worth a look. Visibility on the site was in the milky-green 10-foot range, but allowed us to actually get a few photos on the wreck. Areas on the wreck had virtually no visibility at times, not due to poor water conditions, but because of the huge, dense schools of Blacksmith (Chromis punctipinnis). This is a favorite hangout for Sculpin (Scorpaena guttata) as well and though not quite carpeting the wreck structure, there were enough to where you had to be very careful where you placed a hand on the wreck. Temperature on the wreck was 59-degrees.
So at this point, still not quite dive satiated after 18 dives in seven days, I opted for some bug hunting in the Santa Monica Bay on the D/V Moby Kate. The artificial reefs at the north end of the bay provided a nice limit of bugs in two dives, so dive three was my opportunity to shoot some of the beautiful incrustations and inverts that are on the structure. Along with the spectacular Corynactis, there were a multitude of crabs who allowed their images to be captured. My best find for the dive was a very cooperative Southern Kelp Crab (Taliepus nuttallii) who seemed to have given up kelp for a plush California Golden Gorgonian (Muricea californica). Visibility on the sites ranged from 20-30 feet and water was a cushy 61-63 degrees.
Currently, gear is cleaned and drying, but if the conditions allow, I will be underwater again soon to take advantage of the great conditions we Southern California divers currently have at our front door.
Get out and get wet!