I’ve had a few weeks and over that time, I’ve done a few dives. Pretty quick after the initial attempt, I hit the mark and found the main wall. I made two dives back to back and apparently had great luck. Since then I’ve made quite a few more, but haven’t seen as much stuff (I’ve still seen plenty) on any of them as I did those first two dives.
Sand Dollars for Days
Descending I found myself over a huge sand dollar field on the first dive. I returned through it on the second dive too. There is lots of tiny fun stuff to find and see in the sand dollar field. I could spend an entire dive there with a macro lens.
These crabs are all over. They sit like this guy, or bury themselves in sand.
If you get to close, they explode out of hiding in a random direction.
They also put their claws out wide to make themselves look bigger… I’m not sure that is going to help against something 1000+ times their own weight, but I appreciate the gesture.
The tiny flounder found elsewhere on the sand flats are here too. They stand out more swimming over the purple (due to iodine) sand dollars.
And of course, there is whatever this thing is…
I spotted it out of the corner of my eye swimming over and at first thought it was just a clump of grass tumbling in the surge. But as I watched it, it became apparent it was moving intentionally, if stealthily. Upon closer inspection, I could see it’s mouth and mandibles.
I put wall in quotes because the walls out here (at least those I’ve dove) aren’t really real walls like one finds in say Belize where coral falls off into a 1000’+ deep abyss. They are more like landscape terraces breaking up the sand as it begins to slope more steeply into deeper water.
There are a lot of black eyed goby, on the flats and also against the wall. They sit on the sand near their hole.
If they feel threatened they will retreat and glare at you.
It appears to be egg laying season (more below). There are eggs and egg sacks everywhere. This is a tiny patch of white lacy goop that I’m assuming is eggs. It has been stuck to the top of a small crevice on the wall.
And of course there are lobsters all over the place. Some are small, others are huge. This is the only lobster picture I’m putting in this post but I’m sure you can extrapolate. If there is a largish hole in the wall or under something, there are lobsters hanging out in it.
This is the point and it is covered with cold water corals, the same you’ve been seeing in the pictures above. Lots of little stuff hangs out in the coral so it is fun to look at it closely.
The “wall”, being only 1 to 4 feet high, ended up being a brief part of the dives. I swam along it for a minute on the way down, and longer on the way up. The center part of my dive was dropping down into the “canyon”. The walls are slopped pretty shallowly. They are basically slumped sand sitting at it’s angle of repose. The wall is probably much larger but is buried in sand.
One of the first things I ran into on the slope just below the wall was a octopus sitting on the sane. That is surprising because they are normally nocturnal.
Dead Sea Grass Day Care
Mats of dead sea grass and kelp collect in troughs where the slopes converge. These dead mats are alive with, well, life. Again, I’m assuming the white stuff is eggs.
I found this interesting delicate mesh of white filaments attached to some sea grass and assumed it was eggs again.
This is Awkward
During the second dive I came across a couple of smallish (1.5″ long) sea slugs making the beast with 27 backs. One of them appears to have a white mesh attached to its underside. Mystery solved (or it seems so). I guess that is what the eggs from a sea slug looks like.
Tiny Fish Schooling Fish
Lots of fish and other small creatures hang out around the mats of dead material.
Judgy Sarcastic Fringehead
Nearby, where some more solid material was exposed through the sand I found what I took for an eel initially. He turned out to be a sarcastic fringehead. I’m not sure he is so much sarcastic as judgmental.In any case, he is not an eel, but just another boring regular fish in a hole.
Of course, I didn’t know that if I harassed him, he would do crazy things with his mouth.
The Sand Flats
My dives here last between 45 minutes and an hour. I normally hit a maximum depth for 80 to 110′, but most of my time is spent above 40′. I might spend 10 or 15 minutes total below 40′ and only a tiny part of that at my maximum depth.
At La Jolla Shores, that means most of my dive (as much as 45 minutes) is spent on the sand flats, mostly slowly swimming up onto the beach along the bottom. Luckily the sand flats are pretty interesting if not super photogenic. There are a lot of critters employing camouflage (see my previous post for a tiny flounder photo). I have to swim back into shore so I might as well look for interesting critters.
I found a couple of bat rays digging (for lack of a better word) in the sand just above the top of the wall. They appeared to be hunting for buried food (crabs, fish, etc). They are pretty shy and once they noticed me, the first swam off at speed. The second hung out for a few seconds more which let me get close enough to actually take a clear picture.
The round sting rays are very plentiful as you get into shallow water (<15′). They are also hard to see until they shoot off. They are normally buried in the sand and on high alert. Normally I just see a cloud of dust and a shape fading into the distance. This time, I got close enough to get some photos before this sting ray noticed me.
I think the only reason I got this close was that this sting ray was distracted digging and not on guard.