Monday, November 29, 2010

How could you be so beautiful, yet still so cold?

OK, maybe not what you’re thinking…

San Miguel
Sea gulls resting on the kelp
Two weeks ago I took a two-day trip to San Miguel, Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands. The trip was organized by Underwater Photography Guide and so was catered towards U/W photographers. ...and WOW, was there a ton of great gear laying around on this boat! This was my first trip to the Northern Channel Islands, so I was not sure what to expect. We boarded the Peace on Saturday night, for an overnight crossing. Swell charts were showing some large swells, the night we departed, so we were expecting a pretty rough crossing to San Miguel. Being the farthest west of the Channel Islands, San Miguel is most exposed to the often, harsh conditions of the open ocean. It is also exposed to prevailing northwest winds.  So getting to San Miguel can be hit or miss, in exchange for one of the calmer spots on one of the neighboring islands. But after a mostly sleepless night with a moderately bumpy crossing, I awoke Sunday morning to sunshine and glassy seas!
Crew helping divers into the water.

I was one of the few "lunatics" on the boat to want to dive out here in a wetsuit. (Me especially, who likes to be toasty in a 3 mil in warm tropical waters.) Most of the seasoned divers on our trip were using dry suits and I soon found out why. The waters of San Miguel are usually also the coldest of all the Channel Islands. Water temps on this first day hovered just around 50º F, which was apparently quite normal, if not a little cooler than usual for San Miguel. I’m used to mid to upper 60’s this time of year off the coast here! ...But I really wanted to get in the water to shoot a little, as well as check out some new dive sites. Well after 3 dives, I was sitting out the rest of the day in the hot tub, to thaw out! Those who dive with me know I hate to sit out dives, but they also know I like to dive warmer waters. And on this trip, though the visibility was not great and the water was a little green, it really sucked to miss out on dives, because San Miguel offered some of the better diving I have ever done on the California Coast.

In fact, I was amazed by the color of the marine life in this area. We dove a site called Wyckoff Ledge, which was a wall covered with pink strawberry anemones and filter feeders. 
Feeding barnacles among Corynactis anemones.
Hermissenda crassicornis
With the abundance of colorful fish and invertebrates and given the limited visibility, I chose to focus on macro photography for this trip. I was rewarded with lots of beautiful subjects to photograph. In fact, Wyckoff Ledge could rival some of the warm water reefs I have visited, in terms of color and diversity. Another favorite was Gull Island off of Santa Cruz. More nudibranchs in this area, than I have ever seen in local waters and purple hydrocoral in shallow water. 

Flabellina iodinea
All in all, the diving in the Northern Channel Islands was really great and the crew on the Peace was excellent. Would I do it again? CERTAINLY! Just hope I can be diving dry the next time!!     
Sunset at San Miguel

You can check out more photos from the trip here


  1. Your picture 'Fabellina Iodinea' is awesome. I actually thought it was an 'Eagle Landing at Sunset'. Bravo!

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