The second before a diver steps off the boat is often filled with excitement and overwhelming anticipation. With each subsequent dive, we gain a greater understanding of the marine life that captivates us. On March 28th the Ocean Safari Dive Team hosted a trip to Anacapa island aboard the Explorer. The brilliant crimson sea fan captured in this photograph demonstrates the remarkable beauty that awaits divers just under the surface. This elegant red gorgonian (Leptogorgia chilensis) is just one of many filter feeding invertebrates that flourish among the rocks and lush kelp forest. The Blacksmith (Chromis punctipinnis) hover just beyond the divers reach, seemingly suspended in the water as a massive bait ball of smelt swirl around the tall sweeping strands of kelp. These dazzling photographs feed my love for diving. I can’t wait for my next boat trip with Ocean Safari.
Written by Sara Hall
On March 14, renowned underwater photographer Chris Shi, joined an Ocean Safari dive trip aboard the Cee Ray to Bird Rock, located on the front side of Catalina Island. In addition to his SCUBA gear, he brought something very special, his camera. Chris dove with an Olympus E-PL2 equipped with a 8mm fisheye lens. He used a single Sea & Sea YS-250 strobe and cone for external lighting. To achieve these remarkable photographs, Chris fine-tuned his camera settings to F13, 1/125, ISO200. With the help of his equipment as well as several years of experience, Chris Shi was able to capture a wide spectrum of color, painting a striking representation of the underwater world in which he was submersed. Vivid red, rich gold, vibrant green, and deep blue give his photographs an alluring quality and stunning clarity, displaying the brilliance of this dynamic dive site.
Written by Sara Hall
“Go, go, go, go!” Crew members called out as the boat erupted into a flurry of motion. Several divers hit the water in quick succession, creating a staccato rhythm as they stepped off the boat into the current.
The first dive of the morning was a semi-drift dive. After extensive planning, Ocean Safari teamed up with the Explorer to offer this unique semi-drift experience for divers. But, as a novice diver, I didn’t have the skill for this kind of dive yet. I sat perched on the Explorer’s upper deck, my favorite place on the ship, as the action unfolded below me.
I watched in awe as the current slowed, leaving the freshly departed divers bobbing in the water next to the boat instead of drifting. Suddenly, the divers didn’t need to hurry off the boat. The sense of urgency was gone, replaced by a surge of excitement. It was a beautiful day at Anacapa Island and the conditions were exceptional for diving.
The first group of divers climbed back onto the boat and exhilaration hit me like a bolt of electricity. I was ravenous to get in the water. My first dive of the morning was a skin dive lead by Thomas and Norbert. Kelp blanketed the surface thickly, creating the odd sensation of crawling on the water as if it were a solid mass.
This was my first free dive. I struggled to descend against the buoyancy of my wetsuit, flapping my fins helplessly against the surface. Thomas and Norbert made it look so easy! I wanted to be able to do that. What I enjoyed most about the skin dive was that it gave me a little taste of what I could expect once I got back on the boat and donned my dive gear. From the surface of the water, I could see forty feet down to the bottom. I’d never experienced visibility like that.
After gearing up, I hit the water a second time and felt adrenaline rush through me. In seconds, I was surrounded by marine life including urchins, starfish, sea slugs, and countless creatures I couldn’t name. The kelp forest was encompassing, surrounding us like long fingers reaching up from the ocean floor.
As a group, we demonstrated a few skills for Thomas and Norbert including mask flooding and neutral buoyancy. Then came my favorite part, exploring through the lush kelp forest. I quickly became enthralled by the underwater world. There was so much to see!
Lunch was an interesting experience, as it seemed just as exciting for some of us. We had many hungry divers. But, I couldn’t stop thinking about getting back into the water. There was so much wonder and discovery at my fingertips. I wanted to explore. I wanted to see more.
The last dive of the day didn’t disappoint, offering the same remarkable visibility as the previous. I’d never been on a dive where I could see so clearly, so vividly. It seemed endless. It blew me away.
My first trip with Ocean Safari, also my first dive since certification yielded tons of new friends and adventures. The Explorer is an excellent boat with a professional and hospitable crew. I can only describe the day as phenomenal. I enjoyed every minute of it. Ocean Safari is not your average dive shop; they rose above my expectations, striving to offer unique and one-of-a-kind experiences, giving divers the best that California has to offer. The beauty I saw underwater was enough to leave me breathless. Never hold your breath! Oh, right…
Look for me on your next dive trip, lets buddy up!
Written by Sara Hall
Time: 11am-3pm, Saturday, January 10, 2015
Location: Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Irwindale
Participants: Ocean Safari Dive Team members, their friends, family, & pets. (All pets must be on leash)
- Eating, chatting, & relaxing w/OSDT.
- Slide Shows & Video Shows.
- Fishing (The lake is stocked with rainbow trout constantly; please bring your freshwater fishing license.)
- Excellent bicycle and walking trails around the lake & natural area.
- Drawing will be held to give away prizes value totaling over $1500.00
This event is a Pot Luck, so please bring one dish sufficient for serving 5-6 people & beverages for self consumption or to share. (No Alcohol allowed please)
Want to BBQ? No problem! We will prepare a BBQ fire grill at the location. You are welcome to bring different kinds of meat and vegetables to cook over the grill!
There is no charge for our party. However, there is an entry fee of $10.00 per car load for day use of the park. If you wish to save some money, you can car pool.
For everybody’s convenience, please arrive no later than 1130AM
Location: Laguna Beach, California (Crescent bay, Shaw's Cove, Divers Cove, Heisler Park)
By Norbert Lee
Heterodontus francisci, commonly known as the horn shark is a species of bullhead shark found along the coast of Southern California. They play a key role in the ecology of the kelp forsest ecosystem because of they are one of few species that help preserve the kelp forest from becoming urchin barrens. Evolution has made the hornshark the perfect predators against invertebrates with shells in a couple of ways. First, bullhead sharks have the largest bite force to body ratio of any shark. In addition to the powerful bite, the second ecolutionalry feature of the horn shark is the molar like teeth that is used to grind up shells. With these two powerful weapons combined, the sea urchins that decimate the beautiful kelp forests are easy prey for horn sharks. One way we can see if horn sharks incorporates urchins in their diet is by looking into the mouth or the horns at the dorsal fin. The teeth or horn of the shark would have a purple or maroon color from the dye of the sea urchins (See picture).
Now let’s talk about the horn shark habitats and behavior. In order have success in spotting horn sharks, one must be able to understand the best habitat and behavioral patterns of the sharks as well develop a keen eye for spotting prime locations. The sharks are usually found in shallow waters less than 30 ft in crevices that might have some spiny lobsters or at the base of kelp plants with thick fronds covering the rock. Aside from the habitat horn sharks have high site fidelity, which means they generally do not disperse too far. In fact studies have shown that horn sharks can be found 100 yards from the location that they were tagged. The nice thing about horn sharks that makes it easy to find is the fact that they are mostly nocturnal. Horn sharks typically hunt at night and rest in their hiding spots during the daytime. As a researcher, this made the project eaiser since we did not have to chance after an active swimmer.
Now that we understand a bit more about horn shark’s let’s dig into the horn shark diving project. I met Sean Canfield, a graduate student from the University of Hawaii at Manoa on the night of the 8th and he explained to me what I can expect from the 4 days of diving. Measuring and clipping fins were easy enough to understand but how to wrangle the sharks was another thing. Sean showed me his bite marks from the horn sharks and explained that they have one of the strongest bite forces for their size compared to other sharks. I was excited and a bit nervous about wrangling the sharks.
We started the trip of by setting up camp at Caspers Wilderness Park which was not too far from Laguna Beach. We broke the ice with each other and he explained to me the main question of the project. He wanted to create a genetic map of the shark populations around the Southern California coast versus the populations from Catalina Island since there was such a huge distance from the mainland. From this map he hopes to understand the how much genetic differences are there between the populations from the island versus the mainland. This would help us understand if the horn sharks are slowly diverging into a different species from isolation or not.
It was exciting to ride the surgy and shallow waters of Laguna and wrangling the sharks was fun! (Don't attempt this unless you have a scientific license from the department of fish and game!) The trick was to grab them by the tail and gently wiggle them out of their crevice. The sharks that were bigger 60 cm+ would put up a bigger fight but the small ones were the ones we had to be cautious about. The big sharks could not turn wide enough to bite us, but the little ones can. The little sharks had the sharper teeth and getting bit by one was not that painful but a surprising to say the least. Once we controlled and measure the shark, I clipped a thumbnail size portion of the dorsal fin (which is not too important for their survival) and stored them in tubes. Our quota was 30 but we got 29 since it was actually quite difficult to find them at a certain point.
Conducting the series of beach dives was fun but safety was the number one concern. Even though we had a deadline and these were a series of working dives, we had to cancel a couple of dives since the conditions were rough to exit and enter. Hopefully you guys will find some horn sharks of your own. There are a lot in the southern Channel Islands of California for everyone to explore! Be safe and keep diving!