Friday, September 22, 2017

Whytecliff Park 20/09/2017

What could be better than an evening dive for Whytecliff Wednesdays? The answer, not much!

After the previous weekend beach cleanup organized by Khrista, it was the perfect time to enjoy the newly cleaned surroundings. There were quite a few folks out, probably close to 15 I would say. An excellent turnout.

I was diving with Vlad Chernavsky, and our plan was to do ascent drills and skills, then go on a fun scooter dive. The evening was perfect, and the tide was at high slack. When we brought our scooters down to the beach, John Nunes joked that he was going to throw them back in the water. This was in response to my staged joke picture from the beach cleanup where I pretended to put a side-mount tank into my garbage bag. All in good fun of course!

Our dive couldn't have gone better. We scootered out to 30 meters, deployed an SMB, did two ascent drills, mid-water valve drills, and cleaned up in record time. The visibility was pretty good too, which was a big bonus.

We scootered over towards the plumose garden from mid-bay. On the way, we found some very interesting cartilaginous skeletal remains. It looked like some kind of skate. We also came across some of the largest sailfin sculpins I'd ever seen. I did not take any pictures, but here was good example.

We passed by the plumose gardens and headed North. There were hundreds of juvenile yellowtail rockfish schooling. I'd never seen so many. We passed several groups of divers on our way. Vlad spotted a juvenile black rockfish in a crack which was very unusual.

When we turned the dive, we ascended to about 15 meters and came across a large patch of strawberry anemones. They looked similar to this.

We made a note to come back along that way and check out this patch again. It was not something that you saw often at Whytecliff, and a worthwhile thing to see again.

On the way back, we came across a well camouflaged buffalo sculpin, hiding in plain sight on the sand. Again, no picture, but similar to this.

Back at the plumose gardens, we spent some time investigating a "deflated" giant plumose anemone. It looked like it had just fallen over. Neither of us had seen something like this before. The plumose anemones would retreat back into themselves, but I had never seen them fallen over like this. Previously there were reports of plumose anemones "missing", and just leaving behind black circles where they were attached. We didn't see any of the black circles though. It was very odd.

We also saw only two nudibranchs, a giant white dorid and a white-lined dirona. It must have been in between nudibranch spawning seasons or something.

On the way back, we passed several more groups of divers. It was certainly a busy night!

On our way back into the bay, Vlad saw a pink sea star and noted some lesions on its central disk. Hopefully the sea star wasting disease wasn't spreading further. There were still no sign of the sunflower stars that were so common at Whytecliff. They had been completely wiped out, and were not seeming to recover at all.

All in all a very successful dive, and we saw and learned lots!

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