"the mother ship arrives" - Catalina dive park report/photos 8/24

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Posted by scottfiji on August 25, 2007 at 14:24:49:

Penny and I had 3 lovely dives in the dive park yesterday in Avalon, Catalina.

After taking the 6:15 ferry over from long beach, we shared a cab over to the dive park with two divers in town from colorado. they told me colorado had lots of divers because its land-locked. ok!

we suited up and eagerly awaited the 8AM opening of the fill station. And waited, and waited. At 8:30 someone showed up, but we had to wait another 20 minutes for them to set up before we could get 2 tanks. 9am, finally, we were ready to dive!

we entered the clear water into a flurry of waiting topsmelt, halfmoons, and perch. well, hello there! we soon headed east through copious numbers of blacksmith and senoritas of all shapes and sizes. the kelp was laying down and a gentle current brought us towards the corner of the park.

as we descended from 40ft to 60ft, brrr - the temp dropped from 69 to 59, and the vis dropped in half. well we didn't stay deep for too long, and were soon heading back west, after saying goodbye to a couple large sheephead. we passed a nice, small school of sargos in the kelp.

As we approached the stairs, a very large fish swam right up to me, checked me out slowly, and then quickly took off. I was so focused on getting a photo of it, I couldn't id the fish. but of course, it was a white sea bass!

we changed tanks and started our second dive. we didn't see any black sea bass, but I wanted to look again. we entered the water, and guess what arrived. yes, it was the "Mother ship". this baitball of pacific sardines was massive and never ending. they would surround us completely for minutes. we would swim for several minutes, and still be surrounded in all directions, it was surreal.

pacific barracuda was following the sardines, as were large schools of kelp bass. It was fascinating watching the barracudas and kelp bass pierce the school, trying to get a bite. Of course that happened too fast for me to get a photo of the "piercing", I just watched in awe.

we headed east again, into the cold deep waters of GSB territory. penny saw something large. its a shark! her heart was beating fast. its a huge harbor seal! no, its a giant sea bass. scott, look! I saw it, it swam away.

on the way back in, we decided to look for giant kelpfish. during our 3 dives we saw over a dozen giant kelpfish, of all different colors. red, yellow, green, brown. I even saw a spotted kelpfish, sitting on kelp 60ft deep, golden brown, the exact same color as the kelp. it was my first time seeing a spotted kelpfish that color!

our friend Lee joined us on the 3rd dive. we entered the water, and we were immediately surrounded by the "mother ship" again. wow, it was amazing!

we swam through the kelp, and saw a kelpfish trying to get cleaned by a couple senoritas. penny put her hand out, and the kelpfish came over and wanted cleaned by her, how cute. it even opened its mouth and gills for her!

into the deep, cold water. low vis, no GBS, low temps, so we came back to the kelp. what do I see in front of me - a small school of salema. how nice! I started snapping photo. The salemas tried to lumber away from me, but I could aways find them again. penny found a small horn shark, lee and I took some photos.

poke, poke. penny was poking me. I said "follow me". She led me through thick kelp, winding through a path. how did she know where to go? and there it was - the mother ship of salema! oh boy, was I grinning. snap, snap, snap.

then it was back towards the stairs, into the mother ship again. kelp bass, barracuda feeding. me swimming though the baitball until my air gauge read zero. darn, where was my snorkel when I needed it?

what a great day. my sinuses were a little swollen, but other than that, wow! While packing up, we spoke with two divers who had been camped out next to us. they told us about 3 squid they saw in the dive park. Squid, how cool! I told them that was really rare. They described how they found them, and how amazed they were. after a few more minutes, I told them they were octopus, not squid. they then said "oh yeah, I think you are right". market squid, 2-spot octopus? Sorry, I don't see the resemblance!

We did some fishing off the pier with Lee's kids, then ferried back home for a late dinner.

well, that's the story for today, enjoy the photos!


giant kelpfish, right at home in the kelp

two garibaldis. "who's visiting us?"

barracudas, hunting for the "mother ship"

the "baitball highway". you can see a few kelp bass trying to feed in the baitball.

a small part of the "mother ship" at the surface

the mother ship enters "cone formation"

here's a crop of a baitball shot

white sea bass

"please clean me". This kelpfish wanted to be clean, we saw two senoritas trying to clean its gills, and now it wants Penny to clean her. You can see it opening its gills and mouth for her.

"the arch" at catalina. A very special place if you can find it.

"cozy kelpfish"

schooling Salema

"run away, run away". The salema flee my presence. Can you blame them?

Penny and Scott, "self-portrait"

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