Occupation: Facility Assistant
child of the Channel Islands and San Gabriel Mountains
October 14, 2019
Every so often, Ocean Safari hosts night diving trips- single-night excursions solely for those who love the thrill of the underwater world after the sun has gone down. This night happened to land on a full moon, and the 26 divers aboard the Bottom Scratcher were fortunate enough to dive under it at Catalina Island.
With lobster season opening just a few weeks prior, the main objective of this trip was to try to catch and hunt our local bugs- California Spiny Lobster. It's usually easier to find and catch lobsters during the night considering they're nocturnal creatures that usually hide in crevices and rocks during the day. Although it might be tempting to bring back the more easily caught undersized lobsters, it's crucial to leave them be so that they can grow bigger and help maintain healthy seabed communities (not to mention that a hefty fine awaits anyone who brings back an undersized bug).
Our first dive took place right after sunset at Black Rock, a site located at the western end of Catalina's frontside. Although it was dark and nearly impossible to tell, the rocks poking out of the water around here are all black, hence the name "Black Rock". This site was pretty shallow, with most of the diving taking place between 15-30ft of water; The deeper reef below was rocky and created many crevices and holes for the lobsters to hide inside of, but the ground slowly transitioned to more of an open space with smooth rocks and pebbles as we got shallower. This shallow area was active with round stingrays, hermit crabs, and other nocturnal bottom-cruising creatures. The sandy bottom nearby was a feeding ground for dozens of baby calicos- a type of juvenile fish that we rarely see during the daytime.
Next on the agenda: Parson's Landing. Next to Black Rock, this site was also located at the western end of Catalina's frontside. Bountiful amounts of palm kelp and seagrass sheltered the crevices and rocks here which made lobster hunting a little more challenging, but much more fun. Often, blacksmiths would be hiding in these crevices, waiting for the sun to rise again so that they could congregate back into schools. Although visibility would be 80ft here during the daytime, our true visibility only went as far as our flashlights would shine. But that wasn't a problem; The light from our dive lights really exposed the beautiful colors that decorated Catalina's reefs- from yellow gorgonian corals to red southern kelp crabs, diving here was the furthest thing from dull.
Our last dive of the night took place at Arrow Landing, a site east of Parson's. The lush kelp growth here provided a reliable food base for all the surrounding life, creating a large community with healthy diversity. Large abalones were flourishing and black sea hares were out and about wandering the reef. We encountered larger, fully-grown fish that had avoided us at the two sites before. As we started to ascend towards the end of the dive, thousands of bioluminescent pyrosomes (free-floating colonial tunicates) surrounded us, like nature's confetti falling from the sky. Against the black backdrop of the dark water with soft rays of moonlight shining through the ocean surface, nothing was more captivating in that moment.
After all the divers returned back to the boat at a little past 2:00, it was time for the boat ride back to San Pedro Harbor. The excited talk between all the divers proved that although night diving is slightly colder and less comfortable than daytime diving, the unique experience and lasting memories are worth every shiver.
October 2, 2019
Whether it be your phone charging beside your bed or your dive light battery recharging on the boat, there is no doubt that batteries follow us everywhere. Albeit relatively safe when used properly, it's still important to educate ourselves on how to use batteries correctly and cautiously. Attached is a google slide presentation link on battery safety that includes our newly created "Battery Fantastic Four"- these four important points will help you identify and remember the most common signs of battery failure and danger. This acronym, "C.H.E.S.S." is easy to memorize and will act as a simple reminder to live and dive in a safer manner.
Cracked/ripped outer plastic wrapper
Hard and Excessive dropping
Smart chargers and smart batteries
September 22, 2019
Standing roughly 33 nautical miles away from the mainland as one of the smallest Channel Islands, Santa Barbara Island is a tiny, isolated piece of land poking out from the wraparound blue. Often a target for unforgiving currents and swell, it’s not every day when you’re greeted with near-perfect conditions at her frequently sought-after reefs. Mother ocean was probably feeling a bit generous this day, as we were fortunate enough to be one of the few lucky divers.
Our first two dives took place at Sutil Island, a massive rock laid southwest of Santa Barbara Island. Standing at over 300ft tall, Sutil could be spotted more than 30 minutes away from arrival. Its tall cliffs provided the perfect backdrop to our healthy, kelp-filled site and clear blue waters. With basically no current, 68°F waters, and 60ft visibility, diving here was easy and enjoyable for first-timers and experienced divers alike. We were happy to see that healthy and plentiful kelp dominated the site. The occasional token sea lion was spotted every so often, blowing bubbles and somewhat teasing their much slower and less agile human friends.
Our third and last dive site of the day was Sea Lion Rookery, an epicenter along the coast of SBI for hundreds of playful pinnipeds that you’re guaranteed to spot while diving. Although hunters and collectors couldn’t take anything in this marine protected area, the flourishing sea life was a reminder to enjoy all the healthy diversity Santa Barbara Island has to offer. Huge bull sheepheads patrolled the reef and scallops could be spotted on practically every rocky surface. The highlight of the site were the underwater arches that that only the most adventurous would dare to enter. It is critical that conditions have to be perfect in order to successfully swim through the tunnels; dangers of being sucked up and onto the rocks are high when the surge is strong. Holes in the tunnel ceilings that led to the surface created skylights: soft beams of sunshine that illuminated a warm glow into the contrasting dark cave. These beautiful arches were also home to thousands of lobsters and various other marine life. Sea lions danced and played in these tunnels with complete and utter fluidity, displaying that they were completely in their element.
After everyone finished their last dive at 1 pm, it was time for the 5.5-hour boat ride back to the mainland. Once we arrived in Ventura Harbor and started to load our dive gear back onto the truck, the sky was transformed into a bright orange and pink painting before our eyes, concluding another unforgettable day at Santa Barbara Island.