The Delgada Expedition: Part 2

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Posted by Eric S on September 18, 2002 at 19:05:17:

Sunday, September 15th, 2002.

Morning broke and Steve was the first one up. I could hear the coffee pot clanking around as he was getting coffee on. "Excellent, I can lay here for a few more minutes" I thought.
A few minutes later everyone was up and the Vandamme famous super stove (with enough BTU's to heat a house) was fired up under the famous 1/4" plate homemade pancake griddle. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, gourmet coffee...I can't let my friends go hungry!
After breakfast we change out our gear on the boat, load the stuff we need (fuel, lunch, water), break down the camp, and off we go to the ramp.
Another easy launch, and we are off once again. People joke that I am the weight distribution nazi on my boat because I am always getting people to shift around to get the ultimate balance.
Hey, I can get another couple miles an hour some times!
After going through all the shifting we rounded the point and it's full speed ahead.

This morning was also glass flat. Again, no wind and the fog was thicker. I had the waypoint up on the screen and followed the arrow. We were going right back to the canyon but this time we were going to find some thing along the opposite side of the canyon rim to explore.

I should mention before I get too far that while we were camping, 2 curious neighborhood boys rode up on their bikes and wanted to know why we were scuba diving up there. We mentioned about the expedition and they told us that their dad had seen a great white bigger than his trawler 2 days prior, and his uncle had seen one about 14 feet the day before. I'm assuming (if it's true) that the sharks may have been after the bycatch being thrown overboard?

During the motor Steve saw some dolphins off in the distance and I shedded the thoughts of sharks and the rest of the nonsense.
When we approached the canyon I throttled back and we began our scan of the whole territory once more. Yep, it was still there. At least it was nice to know it wasn't just a dream.
Again, the depth started in 300+ and very quickly went right up to 45 feet. I ordered the anchor dropped, we got ready, and in we went. Larry and I were on 36% and at a PO2 of 1.6 that gave me a max bottom of 109 ft.
The water seemed greener and murkier than the day before and this time while I was waiting for the other divers to hit the water, I could only see the line about 3 feet down. There must have been a hell of a bloom.
We all began our descents and within 10 feet of the surface visibility was 2 feet. I flipped my light on and all I could do was just train it on the anchor line and continue down. Dale and Steve were to first down again and at probably 35 feet I remember the water being almost black and then running right into a cloud of silt. I hit the bottom and regained buoyancy while Larry came up beside me. We hovered at the chain for several minutes and let the current remove the silt. Dale and Steve had clipped a reel and were already off down over the edge somewhere. I clipped off my reel took a compass reading to find the edge and we began the exploration. The bottom again consisted of mud and some scattered rocks. Where there were rocks there were dozens of star fish. I looked at my computer and we had descended to about 70 feet. The water now was completely pitch black. There was not an ounce of light penetrating through that muck. The visibility however was slowly beginning to improve as we inched our way further and further down. We started to see some upright rock formations begin to appear about 4 feet away that had those huge metridiums on them. As we moved through and to the other side of those rocky outcroppings the wall dropped straight down, and I mean DOWN. Larry and I, parallel, looked at each other, gave the ok sign, and off we dropped. As we descended slowly, adding more and more air to the bc, I was shining my light on the rocks seeing hundreds or even thousands of those transparent spotted shrimp. The further down we went the more life we saw. The growth on this side of the trench was double of what we saw the day before. Again I was seeing dozens of little lingcod no bigger than 4-6 inches along with many species of baby rockfish. The wall would give way periodically to small shelves that had dozens of fish sleeping on them. Some would scatter as I illuminated them but most just layed there. I thought to myself, Damn, this is the darkest night dive I've ever been on during the day! I looked at my depth - 95 feet, good, the reel was working good, Larry was behind me with one hand on the line and the other on his light checking stuff out.
The growth was now becoming so profuse with the paint factory explosion effect it was bordering on rediculous! More shrimp, massive metridiums, this lumpy ,bumpy wall with all these fish looking at me. There was absolutely no surge and just a very slight current running upwards. I shined my light down the wall and all I saw was black!
I noticed now that I was beginning to get some strange thoughts running through my head. [ All this going on around me, pitch black, 4 foot at best visibility. I was a kid born in Carmel, California to an architect and an overprotective mother. I hated water and didn't learn to swim till I was in high school, (but became a good swimmer). How the hell did I ever move up here, get into diving, and wind up in the most remote part of the state in some god forsaken trench in the middle of nowhere? We may as well be on freakin' Mars man! If anything got us right now nobody would ever find us... I should have gone to college and maybe someone could have put some sense in my brain.]
The thoughts had begun to subside and I found myself shaking from cold and nerves. I looked at my depth guage and we were at exactly 109 feet. I showed Larry my computer and we hung there for a minute while I did a full all around gear check. Bottom time was still ok, gas supply was fine, temperature - 46 degrees. The shakes had subsided now. Oxygen narcosis? hmmm, maybe.
As we were hovering on that wall looking at the life on a small shelf , we noticed a small, very unusual fish. This fish was only about 3 inches long and had a fat little body almost resembling a puffer fish. It had 2-3 orange and white rings around it's tail (similar to an anomone fish in the tropics) which gave way to a tannish variegated body. The head was very wide with flat top and flat sides that tapered into a pointed little snout. It's pectoral fins were very broad and it used those the most to move around. This litle fish could not move fast and it waddled it's body along just like a puffer would when inflated. The dorsal fin was also strange and ran down the whole length of it's back. As we were observing it, it got into a defensive posture and ,facing us head on, began to violently shake it's body as it flared all it's fins, especially the pectoral fins. This was downright bizzaar!

When the show was over we began the ascent up, up ,up. We passed all the weird transparent shrimp, the tiny baby fish and all the over growth of filter feeding organisms. It dawned on me that I had not seen any octopuss or scallops. Even if There were scallops (which there probably were) I would have passed because there was just to much to concentrate on. As we reached the rim we finned for another 50 feet to the chain.
While we were doing our stop on the line, I had formed a theory as to why there were just babies down there of so many species. Sure! the big fish come up that canyon hearded in by the natural walls and all spawn right there at the very closest part of the trench to shore, right where we were. It was essentially nothing more than a giant maternity ward for sea life. That explains all the varieties and the strange things we saw all in one place.
The scallops just were there because the currents swept the larva in from sea to the end of the canyon (or beginning depending on how you look at it). It's a big catch all.
I wonder if any marine scientists know about this place?

I was the first one back on the boat and as soon as I climbed in I gave her a big kiss right on the port gunwale! (I made sure nobody saw)

Well, all diving done and everyone in we motor back to port, again yacking a hundred miles an hour about the dive, "did you see this? did you see that?" Eyes about 3" around.

On the way back we saw more dolphins.

Once back at the ramp the boat gets pulled out, gear get's loaded, a bread bowl of chowder at the restaurant, and we're off.

I am now changed.

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