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3 Days and 5 Dives at Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island


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Posted by Frank Lukowski on August 15, 2009 at 18:40:53:

As we made our way across the channel, I knew conditions were going to be nice. The ocean was almost lake like, with very little swell. When we arrived at Scorpion Anchorageís pier I looked off the side to spot Garibaldi and various Rockfish swimming around the pylons. After packing all our gear the half mile to our campsite, I quickly setup my camera system and suited up. We tried our first dive over the left end of the cove heading towards the Sea Cave known as Marge Simpson, named for its silhouette. Patchy reefs over a sporadic kelp forest and sand channels were found on this dive. Pink and Red Gorgonians were abound, in very shallow water. Saw various Nudibranchís, including San Diego Dorid, Yellow Dorid and Spanish Shawls. Visibility was 15ft but lots of particulates plagued the water. For the last two summers before this Iíve experienced better visibility here, but was still quite ample for diving. On our way back I found a huge Lobster under a small ledge. It was one of the largest I've ever seen, its body was close to the girth of my thigh! This dive really put the Channel Island waters into perspective for me. Life you usually only see in the deeper depths on the Palos Verdes Peninsula was found in only 20ft of water.


On the second dive we descended directly below the pier and found a new Nudibranch species. My first Catalina Triopha's! Being a Nudibranch fiend I was really excited. The pier also hosted a variety of other invertebrate life and some interesting rockfish. We then headed into the cove and came across a sand barren. While free-diving here for the past two years, Iíve found huge adult Bat Rays. Some of the biggest specimens Iíve ever observed, close to a 5 or 6ft wing span. This year they were nowhere to be found. We did find a couple young ones but none of the large adults I am so used to finding here.

For our third dive we were going to try heading out on the right side of the cove, but luckily decided to make the long surface swim out to the closest Scorpion Rock. Turns out this Scorpion Rock lays in about 40ft of water and is part of a gorgeous under pinnacle system. This area was full of life. Schooling blacksmith, countless rockfish, Treefish, Calico Bass, Garibaldi and much more were found here. This is why I came here. This is true Channel Island diving at its best. Brittle, Bat and Fragile Stars were in every nook and cranny. Bluebanded and Black Eyed Gobies darted back and fourth on the pinnacle wall, making the cold inanimate rocks squirm with life. Large male Sheephead kept just out of direct sight, making sure to give us bubble breathing behemoths a wide berth. We spiraled around the pinnacle for most of the dive, only venturing off its extending reef system for a few minutes before surfacing. This was an extremely fulfilling dive for SpKelpDiver and me. It is one I will soon not forget.

On our fourth dive we descended down just outside Scorpion Rock and hung around the outer extending reefs before heading 150 degrees toward shore. As we came into the shallows we hit another reef system in which we took a parallel heading towards Scorpion Anchorage. This reef system, though shallow, was very lush and full of life. We encountered a very friendly harbor seal which was kind of enough to perform some acrobatics for my camera. Another very enjoyable dive in this underwater paradise.

With only half a tank of air we decided for our final dive of the trip to head over to the shallow reef system on the right hand side of Scorpion Anchorage. This is where we encountered the playful harbor seal the day before. We found some very large adult Male Sheephead, but no seals. With our current heading keeping us too shallow, Charlie signaled to head directly out away from the Cliffside above. This dropped us down on to a lower reef system. This area was mostly an urchin barren, but we found some very large worms and other interesting creatures. Right before heading back into the shallows, we encountered a large pinnacle. We hung around for a few minutes before heading back into the cove.

While scuba diving was my main focus on the trip, itís only half of the story. When we werenít making bubbles, we spent our time kayaking through sea caves, hiking and free diving. On our free dives in the adjoining coves and inlets surrounding Scorpion Anchorage we encountered the best visibility of our trip. Between now and our next excursion, we are going to brush up on our scuba kayaking skills. That way we wonít be limited to scuba diving within swim distance of Scorpion. The trails around the Anchorage are spectacular. Charlie and his girlfriend headed out on the Potato harbor trail which we did last year together. This path leads you along the edge of the coastline and brings you to some spectacular overlooks. I on the other hand took the Scorpion loop trail which brings you deeper inland. This trail winds you past a Cypress grove, old ruins of a small oil derelict and brings you to some scenic overlooks of Smugglers cove and Montanan Mountain. Both Potato harbor and Scorpion loop trails are two hikes no camper at Santa Cruz should miss. On our second night there we were blessed with a 45 minute window of clear skies in which we observed several shooting stars. Itís these types of experiences which make life worth living.

Iíve attached a link to my video as well as some pictures below:
[URL="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdOuoVNCb4E"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdOuoVNCb4E[/URL]
[IMG]http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii38/FrankPro666/IMG_2766.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii38/FrankPro666/IMG_2731.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii38/FrankPro666/IMG_2654.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii38/FrankPro666/IMG_2747.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii38/FrankPro666/IMG_2759.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii38/FrankPro666/IMG_2690.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii38/FrankPro666/IMG_2751.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii38/FrankPro666/IMG_2673.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii38/FrankPro666/IMG_2694.jpg[/IMG]



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