Up North: The Monterey Breakwater.

After successfully completing our IE, Shane and I stayed at the Monterey Breakwater to go out for a “real” dive. Neither of us had ventured this far north before and we were interested to see what lay beneath their sea. Monterey is known for colder temperatures than Los Angeles, and for some rough seas. We were warned that our test conditions were probably going to be less than ideal. However, as mentioned earlier, we could not have asked for calmer weather. It was chilly and overcast on land, but the ocean temperatures were in the mid 50’s which, unfortunately, has been normal for us in LA this year.

We were advised by some of the other folks in our IE group to enter from the middle area and swim down along a large pipe towards the Metridium Field. This is a large field of Metridiums, which are basically huge white anemones. While they are fairly common from Washington down through California, for reasons unknown a large patch of them grown in this one location off the Breakwater beach. Now please excuse me, if I go Star Wars on you at some point in this article, as I was unfamiliar with these animals, and my brain immediately changed the name to Midichlorians and I still confuse the words! Yes I know, these massive anemones are not the organisms that create the Force, but my mind wanted to make them so.

We were given instructions and a heading to take in order to find the pipe, and set off for adventure. The visibility was not the best, but it was decent and we dropped down into about 20′ of water and swam out in search of the large pipe that was described to us. First we found a small pipe, and unsure began to follow that down into deeper water. We explored around it as we swam until it abruptly ended. Shrugging at each other the unspoken consensus was, “well lets just dive around and see what we see”. A few minutes later I swam over a large half buried pipe. This had to be what we were originally searching for! I signaled to Shane and we once again were on track swimming deeper and further out into the ocean.

The life up in Monterey is very similar to our home in Los Angeles, though there were definitely plants and fish I hadn’t seen before. We had seen otters playing in the water from the surface and while I hoped and hoped that one would just swim by us on our dive, we had no such luck. While being adorable, I was told that the otters are more of a menace to the dive instructors, as they will get on and inside the dive floats, tossing out weights and rope you may have stored inside and sometimes even popping the float itself. As one person told me, “its annoying when you’re trying to teach and the next thing you see is your float slowly sinking behind your students.” Having not experienced that, the idea made me chuckle. Another creature that was very prevalent up in the colder Monterey waters are Jellyfish. As we began the dive in the shallower waters we’d see a few of these jellies, Sea Nettles, I believe. As we went deeper and deeper, they grew in numbers. There would be times that I’d be studying a rock area, or watching several fish swimming around, then I’d look up to swim forward and stop short as there was a jellyfish right in front of me. At one point in the dive, I looked up as we swam along and the water above me was dotted with jellies, large and small, everywhere. I just wish I had a better camera system that could light the darker water so I could show everyone just how many there were, but my little strobe wouldn’t reach and my photos came out black. There was so many though, that a couple times during the dive I had to stop kicking because I couldn’t see a safe route through them. I knew I was mostly safe as every inch of  me was covered in neoprene. Every inch except for some very important ones in the face region. The last thing I wanted was to return to LA with a face full of jellyfish stings! Luckily neither Shane or I had a run in, and we made it down to the Metridium field safely.

Getting close to the field was supernatural at best. These anemones are so starkly white that the seem to glow under the water, so as we neared, the water lightened and slowly the large blurs began to take shape. They were beautiful. Large white columns that exploded at the top in a burst of small, fine tentacles. The field was exactly that; a huge grouping of metridiums that started abruptly and ended just as quick. It was a large rocky patch absolutely covered in various sized metridiums. Some stood alone, others bunched together in a sort of miniature underwater forest. I would have loved to explore them for awhile, but unfortunately it was a long swim to get there so we had to turn back after a few short minutes and start the trek back to shallower waters.

So we swam back through the masses of jellies as we followed the pipe. Once in shallower depths we explored some of the kelp, though stayed mostly in the rocky reef area until our air supply was up and we surfaced. It was a fantastic dive, and whetted my appetite for more northern adventures, though possibly after a purchase of a drysuit, especially as our dive took place at the end of summer when water temperatures are probably the warmest. Thanks Monterey for the memories, can’t wait to return!

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