I was thinking about what a Marine Reserve might look like in a while...

Outer Bamnks diving on the Great Escape Southern California Live-Aboard Dive Boat

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Posted by seahunt on December 06, 2002 at 10:17:48:

Do you know that sometimes a story just wants to be written? Well, I wanted to write
about something I had thought of with the MPA's and this story just came up and
demanded to be written. What could I do? I think it's funny and maybe I have a bit
of time on my hands. Now, the historical fiction is considered a respectable genre
of literature, especially based on the accuracy of the time period being written
about. Well, this should be a pretty accurate picture of what you might have seen
not so very long ago. It would have been incredible. Letís see how you are at making
visuals. Besides, you should all know by now that I like writing weird stuff and
every so often.... I do.
I hope you enjoy it, seahunt
The other day, I was lounging with my koi when who should appear, but Mr. Peabody.
We made our usual pleasantries and of course scrupulously made no mention of the
recent sorry events involving Sherman. Childhood stardom does so often end in tragedy...
We made small talk, but really, I had requested that Mr. Peabody ("Mr." seems somewhat
presumptuous for a dog) show up. I wanted a trip in his Way Back Machine and because of
what I knew about his past, he would do almost anything for me. While he tried to pass
himself off as a respectable conservative member of the canine intelligencia, I knew
that before he hunted with the hounds, he used to run with the foxes. He had secrets
and would do almost anything to keep them private. The trick was to get what I wanted
from him without risking too much. While traveling time, I could well be dangerously
in Peabody's power and I did not want him baring his fangs at me at such a time.
Peabody knew though, I had taken out insurance with Vito.
As a minor note, traveling in the Way Back Machine does not risk changing the future
like the tesseract that I usually employ. The Way Back Machine goes to a "local" copy
of time. Anything you do there ceases to exist in no more than 24 hours.
In any case, I had him set his Way Back machine for the August 1, 1850. 1 year before
a large El Nino year. Location, Long Beach, just off shore in my boat, The Island
Breaker. We would start our journey there and continue to Catalina Island, via Palos
Verdes, Diving along the way. But first something else.
Darn. I hate the feeling of time travel. It makes me want to hiccup uncontrollably.
See, what this was all about is that I wanted to see what the sealife was like in
the places I boat and dive at now.
We arrived in calm water at the first glow of dawn, about 1/4 mile off shore from
what would be called Long Beach. We could see the movement of bait fish on the
surface so I started throwing jigs to see if I could get some interest from the
local bluefin tuna. 300 pound tuna were common just off shore here at this time.
At this time, tuna fishing around Los Angeles and south was some of the best the
world has ever seen. It was relatively easy to catch smaller ones in the surf.
Mr. Peabody just lounged with his glass of Crown Royal and said something about
cat food. Under the boat the water visibility was great. I could easily see the
occasional streak of brilliant blue and green opalescence of tuna in the
My fishing gear was a short stick stuck in a full lap plate with a
Penn Imperial 8/0 reel loaded with 100 pound monofilament line. I wanted to make
this quick. It can even be cast if ya got the nerve. I was pulling in a blue and
white feather as fast as I could when it hit. Dang. Just a 20 pound skipjack. I
horsed him up to the boat and unhooked him in the water. It was going to be hard
to get the hook past the huge schools of smaller skipjacks to the fish I wanted
to catch. I kept casting and finally got a hit that was no skipjack. The short
stick, basically a small fiberglass telephone pole, was just for this. Sure it was
flexible, but it was also willing to bend only so far and then there is nothing
but line between the fish and me. The line went out. The line went in. It's always
fun at first, but after the first 30 minutes of fighting a big tuna, it gets to be
a lot of work. This is why Mr. Peabody likes me along. He gets to laugh at me.
Heck, he's gonna get tanked at this rate.
Just over an hour. That's pretty good for what looks like a 250 pound fish. I'm
lucky I didn't hook into one of the really big ones or I'd have been here all
day. I got the hook back and we went up the coast with the Island Breaker wide
open. Then I had my hands full navigating. There was a tremendous amount of kelp
all along the Long Beach and San Pedro coast. There were just patches all over
the place near and far from shore. This was the Horseshoe Kelp. There is probably
a hundred square miles of sand bottom with small isolated reefs and rocks strewn
through it. Some of the reefs go on for 200 feet rising as much as 8 feet. Most
are 15 to 30 feet long and rise 2 feet. The shear size of the area makes for
a vibrant ecology and all the sea life gets amazingly concentrated on the small
reefs. Oh, I had forgotten about that entire area. Last time I was there, no kelp
reached the surface any more and though it still has its vibrancy on the reef,
but it has felt the same impact of the LA metropolis as did the tuna.
Up to now I have had to keep a sharp eye out for surface swimmers that I don't
want to hit. There are Mola Molas out here and large sharks, mostly blues, are
seen every couple minutes of the trip.
Then it was time to slow down and think. Ahead of me was Palos Verdes, but
before that came one of the larges, thickest kelp beds I've seen. Well, the boat
was set up for that.
I wanted to dive Palos Verdes because legend has it that in the time before the
impact of a growing Los Angeles, Palos Verdes was the lushest of all the kelp
forest ecologies in California. It was badly damaged, especially by pollution
that has thankfully been controlled. Now it is a beautiful place, but really
most of the life is gone. Where is the thick algae covering the rocks? Why are
there so many small urchins everywhere? What makes it appear so bizarre is that
a diver can't help but think, with the rock structure here, this place should be
crammed with life. Instead it is the life you would see on flat rocks. It's
there, but it's thin. Again, in a place so capable of sustaining life,
intertwined with the vitality of cold water reef life, life is still going to
persist and there is beautiful diving there, even co-existing with Los Angeles.
Luckily, the Angelinos have decided to try to protect it and it is
That was then, this is now. I could have made a dive near the outside of the
kelp in deeper water, but I wanted to go inshore to where the life is at its
thickest. That is also what the first divers here saw when they started visiting
these reefs.
We moved in shallower, fairly near to shore. White seabass could be seen sunning
As I suited up, Mr. Peabody started pouring again, but this time he wasn't using
any ice. I entered the water and it was dark like a deep forest, but with flashes
of bright light reflected at odd angles through the water. I picked this time of
year for the good visibility and the day for historically calm conditions.
This dive had a number of objectives. Mostly it was to see what the "undisturbed"
(minus otters) ecology looked like and also I had a double sided caliper measure
of 10 inches and 11 inches to see if I could find a brudongous sized abalone. This
is where the world record green abalone came from that was over 10 inches. Going
down I was amazed at the number and size of the fish. There were swarms of perch,
calico bass as well as huge sheepheads.
Upon reaching the thick growth on the bottom, the first thing I noticed were the
large Red urchins strewn like leaves from a tree. They were everywhere. Since
they are often cover for other animals, I looked behind them as well and sure
enough there was a large scallop behind any urchins with room behind them as well
as other life hiding in the protectio of the urchin.
There were lobsters everywhere. Most of them were big. Very big.
Sure enough there were abalone everywhere, especially greens in shallow and lots
of big black abalone in near shore. Most of the greens were in the 9 inch range.
I went back a bit deeper to the thermocline and looked for red abalone in the
shelves. I measured just a few before I found a 10 incher. It was time to just
look around.
Wow! I came up a large rock and in a flat spot was the reef master. This monster
lobster was over 20 pounds and was not interested in hiding. Heck, checking him
out, he was willing to attack me.
What a dive. I got back to the boat and Mr. Peabody seemed comatose. Sometimes
these pet stars have a hard time coping as well and I know what an identity
problem Mr. Peabody has. I also think that he has demons in his past that I
don't even know about, but I know him well enough to have little pity.
I dumped my gear and set off straight towards the front side of Catalina Island
that was clearly visible in the distance. Within only a few minutes. Mr. Peabody
was chucking his dog biscuits over the rail. That was one sick puppy.
I was going here to see two things. I wanted to see how what the Marine Reserves
might look like in a few years and I wanted to see where sport diving started in
California. The shallows of Catalina was the place.
As I anchored in a shallow cove a fair sized blue shark was nearby on the
surface. I just couldn't resist and gave an easy kick to Mr. Peabody's butt. OVer
the rail he went with a howl like a wolf that had lost his soul. You say cats
don't like water. You should see a soft, spoiled puppy hit the cold wet.
I entered with no scuba, like the first divers. Unlike them, I did have a snorkel
and a wetsuit. There was no need to be primitively uncomfortable about it.
I moved in shallow because diving started out in mostly less than 15 feet of
water both because it is warmer and also because there was no reason to go
deeper. In the shallow sunlit water, the emerald greens of the eel grass and the
golden browns of the laminareas were brilliant. Fish were everywhere. There were
clouds of smaller fish as well as huge calicos and sheepheads. 20 pound
sheepheads were common. Big ling cod were out in the open on the rocks. Most
were over 30 pounds. And talk about huge sculpin. As I went along the edge of
the reef, I even saw a squadron of Black Sea Bass. Like at Palos Verdes, the
reef life was thick, but here there were lots of pink abalone as well as greens
and blacks, but no reds were to be seen. The big urchins were thick and sea
cucumbers were on most flat rock surfaces. This was more lush than anything I
had ever seen. I swam for hours, totally entranced by all the sea life. Harbor
seals buzzed by occasionally and baitfish balls were everywhere near the surface.
I even saw a school of bonita.
It was time I had to go. I swam back to the boat where Mr. Peabody had my three
band spear gun loaded and aimed. He was snarling. I called out that Vito would
put him in a cage with a well fed mountain lion that just wanted to play. That
chilled him, but then he looked like he wanted to chuck again.
It was a calm ride back to our starting point. The Way Back Machine requires
less power if it doesn't have to compensate for spatial displacement. I knew
it took Mr. Peabody's private fusion reactor to power it, but there was no point
in making things difficult and I loved a quick trip in the Island Breaker.
Well, it was the end of a great day of diving. Mr. Peabody looked mellow again
with glass in one hand and his reeking pipe in the other. Hiccup time. Frizzle
frazzle, frazzle frome. Time for this one to come home.....

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