"It was like doing a night dive on another planet".
"That was the wierdest most surreal place I have ever seen.
" Frikin' bizzaar man... God only knows what's down there".
" Holy Sh*t ! "
The Lost Coast From The South
Let me just open by saying that I am different now. That experience changed me. We were at a place that gave me a great deal of respect for the unknown. I think I can say that my other three comrades probably feel the same.
The drive up to Shelter cove friday was not as bad as I had been told it was.
The grade to get down into the cove was steep but not that bad. I had my van
loaded to the gills with gear and the boat faithfully following behind. When
we got there I found the area or town to be much more spread out than I had
pictured. There were some pretty upscale homes mixed with some funky run down
areas. There was a golf course and an air strip.
At about 9:30 pm Dale and Steve showed up and Larry and I had a good fire
going and everyone was keyed up talking about what we might find.
In the morning we loaded the boat, doned our gear and set off to launch. After
a successful launch we headed to the area that I calculated to be Delgada
Canyon. We were heavy. I had to use my super low pitch prop to move that
barge. With 4 guys, 13 tanks, pony bottles, weight belts , other gear, lunch,
20 gals of fuel, I achieved a speed of 8 knots in an 18 ft boat with a 40 hp.
Needless to say it was a long trip. The morning was absolutely still. There
was no wind and the ocean was glass flat. The sky was overcast and you could
see an even heavier layer of fog on the horizon. It was 12 pm, and the slack
low tide was to be in another 30 minutes.
The water was very geen and murkey. I could barely see my fins and as we descended down the anchorline the water got darker and darker. As I inflated my bc I saw the bottom coming up and the vis actually wasn't that bad down at the chain. The techs hooked up their reel and the plan was for Larry and I to follow their reel line down to 140 and return as they continued.
Well the bottom consisted of mud and a few rocks, similar to the surface of
the moon. The bottom got silted out almost instantly and as Larry and I
followed after those guys on the line. The feeling of disorientation was
really weird. I remember the the bottom beginning to slope down steeper and
steeper and I was trying to feel for the bottom, control my buoyancy, watch
my depth. keep track of my gas, not lose my buddy, not lose the line, all in
0 visibility. At 122 feet I pulled Larry around into my face and with my light
showed him the middle finger sign followed by pointing down, then back towards
the anchor chain, (F this! let's go back).
Time and gas where running low now so I gave the turn around sign and we
started reeling in line. When we got back to the chain I signalled that I
wanted to keep going and see what was across the other way. We went a ways
and all we saw was more of the same steep wall of mud and sediment with a
few small rocks strewn about. There were some bigger rocks with some big
anemones and tons of star fish. at this point I figured we were about at
the very beginning of the canyon where it starts from shore.
When we got back to the chain we ran into Dale and Steve returning from their adventure into the real abyss. We all did our obligatory series of stops and in due time returned onto the boat giddy with what we had just discovered. Dale and Steve said that they saw just masses of these spotted shrimp about 4-5 inches long. They said at one point there were so many that if you had a rake you could have filled the trunk of a car.
After a lunch and a 2 hour interval, we decided that we must dive this spot again! This time however, we will all four go laterally along this overgrown rock wall and continue on from where Larry and I left off.
It was strange, but when you looked at shore it seemed so darn close, but yet that trench was so damn deep right there. A person could literally surface swim from shore no sweat to get to this spot. I had envisioned it a lot further out, but not as deep so fast.
On our second dive we all got down to the chain and I clipped my reel off
again and we were on our merry way to the same wall. In short order we
reached it and I could see that Dale and Steve were amazed. We saw all the
same stuff. The little octopusses and all the fish. We found more and more
scallops and couldn't resist but to take a few for dinner. These scallops
Dale got one over 8" I think we took about 6-7 between all of us and they
were sauteed in butter and garlic that night. What a treat.
Once back on the boat, the anchor is pulled, and we all rejoice that that was
definitely worth every penny coming up here!
Back at camp it's nightfall and we crack a beer and salute to a successful first day. (We nievely have no idea what in store for tomorrow!)
After cooking and incredible meal and having our little white striped friend visit us again (this time he came so close to me while I was sitting next to the fire I could have reached down and petted him) we crashed out in anticipation for tomorrows dive.
Sunday, September 15th, 2002.
Morning broke and Steve was the first one up. I could hear the coffee
pot clanking around as he was getting coffee on. "Excellent, I can lay
here for a few more minutes" I thought.
This morning was also glass flat. Again, no wind and the fog was thicker. I had the waypoint up on the screen and followed the arrow. We were going right back to the canyon but this time we were going to find some thing along the opposite side of the canyon rim to explore.
I should mention before I get too far that while we were camping, 2 curious neighborhood boys rode up on their bikes and wanted to know why we were scuba diving up there. We mentioned about the expedition and they told us that their dad had seen a great white bigger than his trawler 2 days prior, and his uncle had seen one about 14 feet the day before. I'm assuming (if it's true) that the sharks may have been after the bycatch being thrown overboard?
During the motor Steve saw some dolphins off in the distance and I shedded the thoughts of sharks and the rest of the nonsense. When we approached the canyon I throttled back and we began our scan of the whole territory once more. Yep, it was still there. At least it was nice to know it wasn't just a dream.
Again, the depth started in 300+ and very quickly went right up to 45 feet. I ordered the anchor dropped, we got ready, and in we went. Larry and I were on 36% and at a PO2 of 1.6 that gave me a max bottom of 109 ft.
The water seemed greener and murkier than the day before and this time while I was waiting for the other divers to hit the water, I could only see the line about 3 feet down. There must have been a hell of a bloom.
We all began our descents and within 10 feet of the surface visibility
was 2 feet. I flipped my light on and all I could do was just train it
on the anchor line and continue down. Dale and Steve were to first down
again and at probably 35 feet I remember the water being almost black
and then running right into a cloud of silt. I hit the bottom and
regained buoyancy while Larry came up beside me. We hovered at the
chain for several minutes and let the current remove the silt. Dale
and Steve had clipped a reel and were already off down over the edge
somewhere. I clipped off my reel took a compass reading to find the
edge and we began the exploration. The bottom again consisted of mud
and some scattered rocks. Where there were rocks there were dozens of
star fish. I looked at my computer and we had descended to about 70
feet. The water now was completely pitch black. There was not an ounce
of light penetrating through that muck. The visibility however was
slowly beginning to improve as we inched our way further and further
down. We started to see some upright rock formations begin to appear
about 4 feet away that had those huge metridiums on them. As we moved
through and to the other side of those rocky outcroppings the wall
dropped straight down, and I mean DOWN. Larry and I, parallel, looked
at each other, gave the ok sign, and off we dropped. As we descended
slowly, adding more and more air to the bc, I was shining my light on
the rocks seeing hundreds or even thousands of those transparent
spotted shrimp. The further down we went the more life we saw. The
growth on this side of the trench was double of what we saw the day
before. Again I was seeing dozens of little lingcod no bigger than
4-6 inches along with many species of baby rockfish. The wall would
give way periodically to small shelves that had dozens of fish sleeping
on them. Some would scatter as I illuminated them but most just layed
there. I thought to myself, Damn, this is the darkest night dive I've
ever been on during the day! I looked at my depth - 95 feet, good, the
reel was working good, Larry was behind me with one hand on the line
and the other on his light checking stuff out.
As we were hovering on that wall looking at the life on a small shelf, we noticed a small, very unusual fish. This fish was only about 3 inches long and had a fat little body almost resembling a puffer fish. It had 2-3 orange and white rings around it's tail (similar to an anomone fish in the tropics) which gave way to a tannish variegated body. The head was very wide with flat top and flat sides that tapered into a pointed little snout. It's pectoral fins were very broad and it used those the most to move around. This little fish could not move fast and it waddled it's body along just like a puffer would when inflated. The dorsal fin was also strange and ran down the whole length of it's back. As we were observing it, it got into a defensive posture and ,facing us head on, began to violently shake it's body as it flared all it's fins, especially the pectoral fins. This was downright bizzaar!
When the show was over we began the ascent up, up ,up. We passed all the weird transparent shrimp, the tiny baby fish and all the over growth of filter feeding organisms. It dawned on me that I had not seen any octopuss or scallops. Even if There were scallops (which there probably were) I would have passed because there was just to much to concentrate on. As we reached the rim we finned for another 50 feet to the chain.
While we were doing our stop on the line, I had formed a theory as to
why there were just babies down there of so many species. Sure! the big
fish come up that canyon hearded in by the natural walls and all spawn
right there at the very closest part of the trench to shore, right
where we were. It was essentially nothing more than a giant maternity
ward for sea life. That explains all the varieties and the strange
things we saw all in one place.
I was the first one back on the boat and as soon as I climbed in I gave her a big kiss right on the port gunwale! (I made sure nobody saw)
Well, all diving done and everyone in we motor back to port, again yacking a hundred miles an hour about the dive, "did you see this? did you see that?" Eyes about 3" around.
On the way back we saw more dolphins.
Once back at the ramp the boat gets pulled out, gear get's loaded, a bread bowl of chowder at the restaurant, and we're off.
I am now changed.Back To Home Page