I have to admit that I was a little excited leading up to the dive. Iíve certainly done a bunch of deep dives before, and Iíve done dark dives, and Iíve even hunted deep. That said, Iíve never done a deep dark decompression dive with the intent of hunting from a live boat with a new dive partner. No problem though Ė my gear was in good order, we settled on a dive plan, and with my double tanks I had enough air for almost anything. My main goal would be to stay within sight of Rogerís light without getting in his way or scaring away his lobsters with my HID light. My second goal would be to study the landscape, take a few pictures (if my camera worked that deep), and maybe catch a lobster or two.
Previous reports had described the structure as crumbly and somewhat like swiss cheese. I had a fairly good idea of what that would look like from seeing similar reef in shallower locations (those shallow reefs in front of Pt Fermin come to mind). What I failed to visualize was the density of life that we would see.
Roger and I were joined by his 3 wonderful daughters Ė Leah, Jaimie, and Irene. Leah (Capt Nutty) is the oldest and did a wonderful job of piloting the boat to the dive spots. Upon getting to the spot, Roger gave the signal and we back-rolled off either side of the boat. We met up behind the boat and started our descent. I had never dropped onto a target in deep water like that without an anchor line, down line, or something, so I was initially a bit skeptical about where we would wind up. I was impressed when we landed right on the top of the reef at about 135ft like Roger said we would. Vis had opened up quite a bit on the way down and we could see detail for at least 20-30 ft and we could see each others lights from probably 50-60 ft away. As we headed down hill I was amazed at all of the life! The reef was covered with lobsters, ling cod, various rock fish, cabezon, sculpin, sleeping blacksmiths, and a bunch of others I canít identify. The structure had a definite 3D nature to it and it was no doubt that you have exactly one chance to grab a bug properly before it would be back in a hole and well beyond reach. To add to the beauty of the reef, it was covered in a fair amount of red gorgonians, brown cup coral, and some corynactys. It held as many fish and lobster as any reef or wreck that Iíve seen to date, and those of you who do a lot of wreck diving know that is a pretty strong statement. I will clarify that by ďheld fishĒ I mean fish sitting on or in the structure versus swimming around it. There didnít seem to be much schooling action tonight.
We had decided to only spend 15 mins at depth to limit the amount of deco that we would have to do. I probably looked liked a hyper-active kid who had waaay too much sugar when we got to the reef. I wanted to swim around to see as much of it as possible AND take pictures AND catch a few bugs. More than anything I just wanted to soak it all in so I decided on only grab the camera or bugs if it was easy. Two bugs decided to play along and make themselves easy to catch. A ling and a big cabezon were nice and held still for the camera. I could have entertained myself down there for hours but the plan was for 15 mins and I was sticking to it. Roger and I met back up and started a nice slow ascent in the direction of one of the ends of the reef that I hadnít seen yet. My parting view of the bottom was of a couple of little walls that dropped off into the abyss.
The plan was to do a slow ascent and do our deco stops mid-water. The boat would follow our lights/bubbles and be there to pick us up when we surfaced. I could have done the stops with no line, but after all that I had just seen I wanted to put my brain on cruise control. At about 50 ft, I shot my surface marker buoy (basically a big orange lift bag) and stuck my finger through the hole in the center of my spool. This made it really easy to keep my target depth and allowed me to relax and think about the critters hanging out over a hundred feet below us. Just like Roger said, the boat was right next to us when we finished our deco.
All I could think of when I surfaced was, ďWow, that was a neat dive!Ē.
Here are a few pictures from the dive. The backscatter killed me with only a single internal strobe but it at least gives you an idea of what it looked like down there.
It was lots of fun diving spots that few people have ever seen and being introduced to a landscape unlike anything that Iíve seen my other 325+ California dives. I had a great time diving with Roger and meeting his lovely daughters. I canít wait to repay the favor and show him some of my favorite spots from my boat.
Ross O's custom map that he made of the Redondo Canyon. The red line is 130'. The contours
are at 20' intervals and go down to 300'. The things with blue text are DFG artificial reefs.
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