For the past couple years I have spent my birthday aboard the Sea Ranger II here in Channel Islands. The research vessel’s schedule has always coincided with the last trip of the year which in late fall. Last year I spent nearly two hours underwater in the kelp forests off the tiny Gull Island. A sea lion rookery teaming with a juvenile posse that roam the kelp like a gang frolicking and wrestling with each other, all playing for the camera. It still ranks as one of the most memorable dives I have ever done, birthday or not.
This year conditions have been about 180 degrees from last. Surge, green turbid waters. Earlier in the week we did a couple dives at Gull Island to try and recapture the magic of that place only to be skunked. The sea lions were there, however the visibility was not. They rolled and played as before but the surge was so great that it was next to impossible to shoot in the very shallow waters. In fact, between you and me the posse of pinepeds had a field day with us. They would strafe the camera, suckering us in shallower and shallower trying to get the shot. Suddenly we was racing across the very shallow water at warp speed as a set of large waves rolled in and built as they approached the island. Although fun while it lasted, I new it was only a matter of time before the waves crashed over us and dumped us on the rocky shoreline. Sure enough, into the spin cycle we went bouncing off rocks, trying to protect the bulky 3D camera and scrambling to get back to deeper water. Roller after roller broke over us. All you could do was cling onto any handhold for dear life while the waves attempted to beach us. As the energy of the water dissipated and withdrew from the shallows we would let go and dift temporarily into deeper water. Over and over again, wave after wave we would repeat, slowely making our way back into deeper water Finally, the crew regrouped in deeper water, our heads spinning and egos (and other things) bruised. As we swam back to the boat, the sea lions again strafed us with what could only be descried as a gleeful countenance about them. They win so I’m not interested in revisiting that place even if it my birthday.