Nudibranch safari to Outer Channel Islands, aboard re-built Conception

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Posted by Dick J on December 07, 2005 at 16:54:59:

Great diving is so accessible to us along the California coast that sometimes we forget it is also world class diving, with top-rate dive boats available for multi-day trips. It was nice to be reminded how fortunate we are, this past weekend during a three-day trip aboard the Conception out of Santa Barbara. This was to be only the second multi-day trip for this beautiful vessel, since the bizarre theft and grounding that nearly destroyed her earlier this year. It’s a pleasure to report that the Conception is back, and better than ever. Practically everything has been re-done or upgraded, including completely new engines and an additional layer of wood on the exterior of the hull. And everything was so clean and shiny - it was like going out on a brand new boat.

I met up with some photographers for an outing organized by Ken and Rita Ashman of California Digital Diving out of SLO-town. We were scheduled for a three-day trip to the Outer Channel Islands from December 2nd through December 4th, 2005. The weather forecast for the first day didn’t look too promising – a strong Pacific cold front was to pass through the night before we left Santa Barbara, and a full day of rain was expected afterward. The wet and cold weather came as predicted, but had surprisingly little effect on diving conditions. We had a smooth crossing to the back side of Santa Rosa Island, and dove all day at various sites in Bechert Bay. It rained cold and hard throughout day, but the wind and sea were very calm.

We spent the second and third days at various sites along the back side of Santa Cruz Island, including an entire day diving off Gull Island – a small, rocky islet about 1/2 mile off the south coast of Santa Cruz. Water conditions were exceptional, with visibility always 50ft or better. Every dive could have been a wide-angle photo op due to the excellent conditions, but the quantity, and variety of species of nudibranchs that could be found made one reluctant to keep the wide-angle lens on for very long. Personally I made only one wide-angle dive, I was having so much fun searching for, and photographing nudibranchs with a macro lens.

All in all it was a fantastic trip, with a really great bunch of folks. Enjoy the photos posted below!

On the first day it rained steadily, but the wind and sea were calm.

For the second and third days the weather was perfect; back side of Santa Cruz Island.

Spanish Shawl nudibranch, and Black-Eye Goby.

Clown nudibranch.

Nudibranch hunter at work.

Festive Triton nudibranch, Blue-Band Topsnail, Red Gorgonian soft coral.

Black-Eyed Goby.

Spanish Shawl laying eggs.

Very small White Spotted Porostome nudibranch, and extremely small Three-Lined Aeolid nudibranch

Rockfish and Red Gorgonian soft coral.

Sea Cucumber and Purple Hydrocoral.

Hermissenda Crassicornis nudibranch.

Sculpin, Bat Star, and MacFarland’s Chromodorid nudibranch.

Blocky reef on back side of Santa Cruz Island.

Brown Cup coral.

Painted Greenling and Spanish Shawl.

Blue-Band Topsnail, Purple Hydrocoral in background.


Very bright Green Anemone.

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