See, I don’t Only Shamelessy Promote Myself

Two of my colleagues, Clinton Edwards and Cliff Kapono have a plan to travel to surf breaks around the world and map the coral reefs beneath them. This is pretty important because it will show surfers and the surf industry how important healthy reefs are for epic waves. To do this they need you help though. Follow this link and vote for them.

http://expeditiongranted.nationalgeographic.com/project/through-the-surface/

I just hope they decide they need a translator when they go to map Salsa Brava.

There haven’t been many surfable waves on the Great Barrier Reef, but we’ve been having a lot of wind and swell lately, which makes the diving more challenging than it has been. There have also been a lot of inquisitive gray reef and silvertip sharks lately. So far I haven’t seen any that have been big enough to be scary and I hope it stays that way.

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Posted on the Living Oceans Foundation Website

G’Day Everybody

Australia remains amazing, but it’s hard to upload photos to the blog, because the internet connection on the boat is pretty slow. Anyway, if you would like to read about my encounter with a truly spectacular Pavona clavus colony and see some pictures of it taken by Ken Marks and myself you can follow this link.

http://www.livingoceansfoundation.org/encounter-amazing-pavona-clavus/

You will also find lots of other great postings and photos by other people on the expedition.

Cheers

Corals and Other Reef Creatures

Today is my first day on the Great Barrier Reef with the Khaled Bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. We did a short checkout dive and I used the opportunity to take some pictures and practice my coral identification. The good news is that the Great Barrier Reef is a sufficiently photogenic environment that it makes my pictures look good. The bad news is that I needed a certain amount of help to identify these species.

A gorgeous Pachyseris spp. colony.
A gorgeous Pachyseris spp. colony.
Sea cucumbers don't actually eat coral, but this guy sure looks like he's thinking about it.
Sea cucumbers don’t actually eat coral, but this guy sure looks like he’s thinking about it.
Red emperor snapper looking very regal.
Red emperor snapper looking very regal.
Small Gardinoseris spp. colony.
Small Gardinoseris spp. colony.

Baja, El Mar

Monument designating Todos Santos Bay a World Surfing Reserve.
Monument designating Todos Santos Bay a World Surfing Reserve.

 

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Female sheephead fish peeking around kelp.

While Northern Baja California is so well known as a surf destination that Todos Santos Bay has been designated a World Surfing Reserve, diving has been less celebrated. One of the reasons may be that when novices visit this region, roll off the panga, and knock their fins together a few times, they immediately realize that they’re not in the Caribbean anymore. Strong upwelling in this region ensures that water temperatures rarely rise above 60ºF and the high nutrient concentrations in this upwelled water feed phytoplankton, which blocks visibility. Finally, the same swells that bring surfers careening to the beaches from Southern California and beyond can create challenging amounts of surge, particularly on shallower dives.

Anemones and sponges on a rock wall.
Anemones and sponges on a rock wall.

To divers experienced or crazy enough to brave these conditions, however, diving in Northern Baja California can be very rewarding. The upwelled, cold, nutrient-rich water creates ideal conditions for healthy kelp forests, an underwater environment that rivals coral reefs in terms of beauty and complexity, even if the kelp forest is less colorful. Kelps fed a once highly productive abalone fishery and the ones who evaded every fisherman can still be occasionally found hiding between rocks. The same viz-blocking phytoplankton forms the base of an impressive marine food web, which supports a lot of big fish including rockfish, kelp bass, sheephead, and halibut. Filter feeding organisms can also be found clinging to every rock: and one can discover sea slugs and shark eggs nestled between anemones and sponges.

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Shark egg with visible embryo.

Some might describe Northern Baja California as a “South of the Border Monterey Bay”, but that only describes part of its appeal. While it’s true that Baja offers a Monterey-like ecosystem much closer to San Diego, it also offers a sense of venturing into the unknown that cannot be found anywhere near Cannery Row. Diving in Baja California may be the closest marine equivalent to backcountry camping; challenging, uncrowded, and dirt-cheap.

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Lone red abalone hiding in a rock crack.
Photo in a bar at La Bufadora showing that large abalone used to be much more common.
Photo in a bar at La Bufadora showing that large abalone used to be much more common.