Great times were had by all at Casino Point Sunday, August. 16th, including a stunning 5 1/2 hours underwater over 3 loooong dives.
My wife Penny and I surprised Dana and Angelique at the ferry terminal (my wife got off work last minute) to catch the 6:15AM ferry. We all brought full HP tanks and weights, and by 8:15AM we were in clear, calm water , surrounded by Garibaldis and Kelp Bass.
Our friend Kalani's wife was getting certified today, so we all came over to help her celebrate the event. Sure enough, she did her 3rd and 4th dives like a pro and we can't wait to dive with her!
Conditions - 68 at the surface, 64 from 10ft-30ft, 61 from 30ft-55ft, 57 below the thermocline; VIS - Nice clear 35-40ft of vis above 40ft depth, dropping down to very poor 15ft vis down deeper at 60ft. Current - no current on 1st & 3rd dives, current picked up on 2nd dive & brought down the vis some.
Marine life - Black sea bass were seen on all 3 dives. Giant kelpfish of 5-6 different color varieties were interacted with, and a few spotted kelpfish were seen. Also - a few sargo, a couple black croakers, 2 octos, 1 moray, 1 bat ray, topsmelt, 1 barracuda, school of salema, many kelp perch, jack mackeral, halibut swimming past us over the algae (very cool) and 3 rare Hypselodoris californiensis nudibranchs. I will never stop being amazed at the beautiful colors and patterns of the quick-to-disappear giant kelpfish. we found so many varieties! 10ft depth in front, or just to the right or left of the stairs seems to be the best areas.
Dive locations - Dive # 1 (101 minutes) was to the Suejack, and beyond (to the infinite), (note to self - swim at 70ft depth to find the suejack in poor vis), a little deeper dive, and then the 4 of us returned to the stairs shallow looking for kelpfish. Dive #2 (99 minutes)- straight out to several small wrecks (sailboat, glass-bottom boat) at 70ft, then to the "wall" to look for morays and octos at 35ft depth. Dive #3 (142 minutes) - went to the left of the stairs looking for schools of fish in the kelp, found Salema, sargo and jack mackeral, then came shallower to look for more kelpfish. It was great having a big tank (HP120) at Casino point, and each time I visit the early morning and late afternoon dives seem to be the best.
Finding the Hypselodoris californiensis :
In the middle of Dive #3 - Penny and I were shallow looking for kelpfish on the 3rd dive, and we got a little bit ahead of our dive buddies Dana and Angelique. Well, a lot ahead, we came past the stairs going to the right, dana and angelique were still to the left of the stairs with the "nudies". They actually swam a distance to find us - dana shows me her camera, and I see a beautiful blue photo of the Hypselodoris , they say "follow me". Penny and I follow them for a few minutes, and then dana and I pass the nudie location. Angelique recognizes the spot and called me back. It turns out Angelique had found the 3 nudies originally. She starts rooting around under kelp, I start looking too and spot 3 beauties. How in the world did she find them? they were on the side of a rock under some kelp/algae. Well, I had been shooting wide angle all day, I signal to Dana/angelique that I'm going up to change lenses, and that I'll be back in 5 minutes. I carefully noted where the spot was, and it turns out it was just 20ft from the stairs! In 8ft of water. Sure enough, I'm fast and change ports/lenses in 5 minutes, and I'm back in the water. As soon as I get in the water, I look to the left, I see an "arch" created by the only invasim sargassum to my left, I swim over the Sargassum in 5ft of water, 15ft ahead there a couple rocks in a clearing, one of the rocks has patches light purple algae on it. I turn left, go 10ft until I find the nudies again. We all start shooting away, yahoo! I think these Hypselodoris like to remain well-hidded (they move fast and were on the edge of a crevice between 2 rocks), which is why we usually don't see them. Angelique only found them because she saw mollusc eggs (not from the Hypselodoris ) and was "rooting around" seeing if she could find the egg-layers. The dive turned out to be 144 minutes long!
We exited the water around 4:45PM. almost everyone was gone, we had to hurry up and make the 6PM ferry. we packed up, got a cab and made it no problem. Home before 8:10PM!
WEBMASTER'S NOTES : Super photo Scott! There you go folks, the most recent sighting of our elusive friend Hypselodoris californiensis is made less then 20 feet from the step entry at Casino Point, Catalina Island! Catalina Island continues to be the only location on the California Coast that H. californiensis is seen with any consistency! I saw three on a SDUPS trip many years ago at Santa Barbara Island but have been batting zero since then. Might help to spend more time in the water! Would love to get HD video of this guy! If any of you have HD of HC and want to share, I would be glad to do the editing and show production for a 720p Podcast presentaiton!-Michael Miller, Webmaster
Scott grew up in New York, and started diving when he moved to California in 2003. His love for marine life quickly led to a camera purchase and enrollment in a marine biology course.
When he is not diving he is either working in the financial field, doing yoga, helping fellow divers with fish id, or doing nature photography topside. He is also an active member of the Los Angeles Photographers Society (LAUPS).
Scott has dove in Thailand, Cozumel, Fiji, Sulawesi, and Costa Rica, but Bali, Anilao and southern California are his favorite dive locations. He has been known to rappel cliffs with his wife Penny to access good dive locations.
Scott shoots with a Nikon D300, Sea & Sea housing, and 2 Inon Z240 strobes - changing lenses as much as possible.