3-Day trip report (4th of July weekend)

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Posted by Ken Kurtis on July 06, 2004 at 08:55:41:

My oh my!!!!! What a great weekend we had on the Great Escape on our 3-day Fourth of July trip.

First off, the diving was very nice. We started on Saturday at San Clemente, doing the first dive at 9-Fathom Reef, and then working out way down the backside, ending up in Seal Cove. Probably the most spectacular dive was Seal Cove Wall, which is a sheer drop-off, there's purple coral on the wall fairly shallow, and the vis was running 60-80 feet. We also had a great dive at Swiss Cheese and then an interesting night dive in the cove. Water temps ran 58-63.

Sunday we had hoped to start at Begg Rock but the swell was up a bit too much and Captain Tim thought it best to start at Nick proper. So into the water we plopped at 7:30 . . . only to discover that the nice, balmy water we'd enjoyed at Clemente was replaced by 52 water at Nick!!!! Brrrrr!!! (Though it DID get a lot of people thinking about those Mobby's drysuits we like so much . . .) In fact, SO cold that the group voted after the first bone-chilling dive to leave Nick (since we couldn't get to Begg) and head to Santa Barbara instead. It was a good decision. We had a nice afternoon at SBI diving Black Caverns, Arch Reef, Sutil Cove, and Ken's Cave, where we also did the night dive, and where Hal Greenberg & myself and my NAUI Advanced students saw a HUGE halibut (Hal swears in the 50-pound range, though I think somewhat smaller), cusk eels, a nice octopus (in the midst of brittle stars), and a couple of hundred small squid.

Monday we opted to stay at SBI (to avoid boat traffic at Catalina) and dove a new pinnacle that Tim found, which is halfway between the Arch and Sutil. Not only some interesting exploratory diving was enjoyed there, but a couple of folks got a fleeting glimpse of Black Sea Bass. After two dives there, we moved the Three Sisters, where we enjoyed good vis, plenty of sea lion activity, and even some leopard shark sightings.

But perhaps one of the most unusual encounters we had all trip came not from fish, but from birds. On Sunday evening at SBI, we had not one, but TWO pelicans land on the deck and decide that divers were okay and they simply hung out with us for well over two hours. (In fact, one of them spent the night perched on the bottom run of the ladder down to the swim step.) They allowed us to feed them, pet them, pose for pictures with them, while they just strolled willy-nilly around the deck. (And yes, there are pictures - link is below.)

On top of all of that, later in the afternoon on Sunday, we got another avian visitor in the form of an Ashy Storm Petrel, a small dark-gray bird that's usually nocturnal. This guy flew on to the boat in the later afternoon and decided to stay for a while. He seemed a little disoriented &/or tuckered out and he sat around the top deck of the boat. We didn't see him later in the evening and assumed he'd flown off. So we were a bit surprised to find him again in the morning, tucked in behind a gas can where he'd apparently spent the night. Since he seemed shivering and a bit out of it, we placed him in a warm place (my camera bag), gave him some water, and tried to help him recuperate.

He seemed to get better as the day wore on and I got hold of a Department of Fish & Game Warden to ask what we should do with him. We decided to try to and go leave him at the Ranger station on the island, so before we left SBI, I hiked up to the station with the bird (in a paper-towel lined box by now) to leave him with the Ranger. Unfortunately, probably due to budget cutbacks, the Ranger wasn't on the island, hadn't been seen (according to some hikers we ran into) the whole weekend, and probably wasn't due back out anytime in the near future.

So we took the bird back on the Great Escape, left him in the box, and took him all the way back to Long Beach. I contacted the DF&G Warden again and asked if there was someplace other than the County Animal Shelter that the bird could be taken. (My concern was they'd simply euthanize it, even though it's a threatened species.) The Ranger gave me the number of the International Bird Rescue Research Center at Fort MacArthur (San Pedro). Turns out that one of the bird rehabilitators knows me from the Aquarium and the bottom line on all of this is that the Petrel spent the night with me (in his box) and I will take him down to San Pedro this morning.

If you'd like to see the pictures of all of our adventures, both above and below the water, both fish and fowl, then simply click on this link: http://www.reefseekers.com/thisweek/this_week.htm

Bottom line was that we had a great time, Tim and his crew did a fantastic job, and we're looking forward to our second multi-day trip of the year, August 21-22 on the Encore.

That's about it for now. Time to take the bird down to San Pedro.

Ken Kurtis
NAUI Instr. #5936
Co-owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.
Beverly Hills, CA

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