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Dive Catalina - Kelp Forests and a Thousand Lobsters


With the warmer water we have been enjoying snorkeling and diving in the crystal clear waters of California's Channel Isles.  Water temperature is about 70 F and visibility often exceeds 40-50 feet.

I did two scuba dives, one at Emerald Cove just north of Two Harbors on the north side of the island.  The other was in the waters just off Bird Rock at the north entrance to Isthmus Cove.

I was awed by the kelp forests at Emerald Cove.  I saw a couple of kelp trees under the waters off of Santa Cruz,  but this was a forest with hundreds of trees.  The trees are thick bands of greenish and pale yellow translucent kelp.  The diameter varies anywhere from a few feet to ten feet.  The trees are attached to the ocean floor and reach up toward the water's surface.  The kelp gently undulates with the motion of the water.

In the clear waters of Emerald Cove you can scuba dive to the bottom of the trees and stare up to see them spiraling toward the surface.  Swimming and floating amongst the trees, I feel like a bird flying in a forest as I twist and dodge among the feathery soft trees.  I can't resist diving into any hole in the kelp and sliding out the other side.

We were accompanied by dozens of small fish of all colours.  I spotted a Ray sleeping on the bottom.  Lobsters peered out from their underwater liars, antenna twitching and eyes watching.  The lobsters abound in groups of ones, twos and threes. Up at the surface, a school of Barracuda swam lazily by.  Underwater distances can deceive but I guessed them to be small Barracuda - maybe 2-3 feet long.

A playful seal nips at my flippers and follows me.  I turn and chase him in and out of the kelp and around rocks.  He can swim much faster than me,  but I can stay down longer.  The seal seems to be having as much fun as I am.  Could this be the same seal I helped yesterday?

As our oxygen supply begins to wane,  the dive skipper lowers an underwater speaker and plays tunes from the Dark Side of the Moon.  A magical touch.  The dive leader guides us to the anchor chain where we slowly ascend pausing for a safety stop at 6 feet.

"That was great" I shout as we break the surface.


Bird rock is a bit different but a glorious dive just the same.  The kelp trees are thinner,  but the rugged underwater terrain makes for interesting swimming as we float and fly over the ridges and valleys.

A good scuba diver can hover in the water, and ascend and descend by controlling the air in your lungs.  Once your buoyancy control vest is set properly for the depth, breathing at the top of the lungs will cause you to rise.  Shallow breathing at the bottom of your lungs causes you to sink.  It really feels like I am flying!  Very cool.

I spent a fair amount of time in an inverted position as I find really neat shells and other interesting things on the bottom.  Peering behind one rock shelf, I am shocked by what I find.

As I shine my big light into the inky void,  the whole inside of the shelf seems to jump and flow.  I am frightened for a second until I realize my light has disturbed hundreds of dozing Pacific Lobsters.  Every where I shine my light,  I see tiny pairs of Lobster eyes looking my way.  I imagine the biggest lobster saying to his friends - "I think we can take him,  come on guys he will be our lunch."

Retreating for a moment to get in touch with reality, I call my dive partners to have a look.  Nobody has seen this many lobsters all in one place.  To bad they are out of season!

Toward the end of this dive, am getting a tired as buoyancy control seems more difficult.  I start thrashing a bit and my air drops quickly to 500 lbs.  Time to find the boat and surface.  At the safety stop,  sucking air seems difficult so I surface.  I can't seem to fully inflate my BCD.  Air is at 200 lbs - should be OK.  Struggling with the snorkel to swim to the boat.  I consider dropping my weight belt,  but it is just a hard swim so I tough it out. 

I should have been more rested for the second dive but the end did not spoil it. 

These were without a doubt the most exhilarating scuba dives of my life.  Of course I've only done 20 odd dives.

Dive Santa Catalina - It is a paradise. 

Thanks Jacques Cousteau wherever you are - for making the underwater world so accessible.