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Attack of the Purple Sea Urchins: What Happens When Nature is Out of Balance

Anyone who has dived California’s reefs in recent years, or has read this magazine or the mainstream news media is aware of the unprecedented changes our local reefs are experiencing. Right or wrong, the evil villain in many of these accounts is the purple sea urchin. In this article I describe a bit of urchin biology, how they fit into California’s reef community, what is going wrong, and how divers and citizen scientists can help. Sea Urchins 101 All sea urchins are members of the […]

Diversity Not Far From Shore: Malaga Cove Has a Lot to Offer

Malaga Cove lies where the long sweeping beaches of the Los Angeles South Bay end and the rocks and cliffs of Palos Verdes begin. This makes for an interesting dive site offering diverse environments of sand, rock reefs, and kelp beds all in the same general area. The juncture of these underwater terrains offers not only more areas to explore but also a differing set of marine life. In the rocky areas, lobster is not uncommon although most are small. This spot is a consistent […]

A Diving and Paddling Paradise: Vamme State Park

Californians can easily appreciate the pristine beauty of our beaches and coastal parks as they gear up for a dive. However, it may be difficult to believe that in the past our dive sites were once centers of intense commercial activity. Nearly all of the dive sites in Mendocino County were once lumber ports that provided the timber to build the growing City of San Francisco. Van Damme State Park is an example of a great dive site with a lot of history. The landing […]

One Big Family: A SCUBA Show Retrospective

Disco was history and it was time to move on. After a successful career in commercial diving, with a deep love of California waters but little publishing experience Kim and I started California Diving News. It was 1984 and our office was the first generation Macintosh computer in a small bedroom. It was so stressful early on that within hours of selling our first ad I ended up in the hospital being treated for exhaustion. I was 27 years old. At that time Kim held […]

They Look More Like Snakes Than Fish: California Moray Eels 

Stats  (Gymnothorax mordax)  Phylum: Chordata   Subphylum: Vertebrata  Superclass: Gnathostomata Superclass: Pisces Class: Actinopterygii Order: Anguilliformes Family: Muraenidae  Subfamily: Muraeninae Genus: Gymnothorax  While watching a documentary on freshwater eels, I was surprised to learn that European and American freshwater eels are born in the Sargasso Sea and migrate to the freshwater rivers, lakes and estuaries where they grow up. They return to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.  No one knows for sure where California morays spawn. Scientists believe SoCal waters are too cold for reproduction. […]

Spotting the Two-Spot: All About the Two-Spot Octopus 

While two-spot octopuses are not uncommon in Southern California waters, they aren’t always easy to spot. They are usually wedged into a crevice. Thus, when I came across one sitting quietly on top of a ledge, I took a photo. I expected the animal to flee when my strobe flashed but it did not. I took another photo and ventured closer. That’s when I noticed there were two octopuses, so well camouflaged they blended into the substrate. The cephalopods were about eight inches apart, linked […]

San Miguel Island’s Wild Side: Exploring Tyler Bight

At-A-Glance  Skill Level: Intermediate and above. Kelp diving experience recommended. Location: South side of San Miguel Island. Wyckoff Ledge N34°01.007’, W120°23.276’. Markers Reef N34°01.294’, W120°23.757’ Access: Boat only. Depth Range: 25 to 80 feet Conditions: Currents and swell Visibility: Good, averaging 30 to 40 feet Photography: Good macro and wide-angle photo ops Hunting: poor Cautions: Current can come up suddenly but is generally not strong. Thick kelp. Cold water temps.  Once we’d descended through the thick kelp and through a cloud of black rockfish, we […]

Beyond Basic Dive Gear: Gadgets and Gizmos that Up Your Game 

When I hit the dive center for tank fills I inevitably find myself cruising the equipment area, marveling at the display of gadgets and gizmos designed to improve my diving experience. Over the years I’ve dropped a few coins on scuba accessories, and I have to admit, only a few of these gadgets have become permanent additions to my gear bag and dive kit. The rest have ended up in the dive gear storage area of our garage, in a box labeled, “Misc. Dive Gear.” […]

A Monterey Marvel: Metridium Mountain

At-A-Glance Skill Level: Beginner or better Location: Offshore of Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove at 36° 37.327’ N, 121° 53.982’ W. Access: Boats may be launched from the public ramps at Monterey Breakwater or between Fisherman’s Wharf and Wharf #2. Facilities: None Entry and Exit: Only boat access Depth Range: 48 to 65 feet Conditions: Predictably very calm Visibility: 10 to 30 feet Photography: Great macro photography even when visibility is poor. Great wide-angle photography of anemones when visibility is good. Hunting: None, this […]

Making Sense of Seaweed: The Mysteries of Marine Algae, Part One

Red Algae Stats Kingdom: Plantae Class: Florideophyceae Subclass: Corallinophycidae (Calliarthron cheilosporioides) Rhodymeniophycidae (Gloiocladia laciniata) Order: Corallinales (Calliarthron cheilosporioides) Rhodymeniales (Gloiocladia laciniata) Family: Corallinaceae (Calliarthron cheilosporioides) Faucheaceae (Gloiocladia laciniata)   Brown AlgaeStats Kingdom: Chromista Infrakingdom: Heterokonta Class: Phaeophyceae Order: Dictyotales (Dictyota coriacea) Fucales (Sargassum muticum) Family: Dictyotaceae (Dictyota coriacea) Sargassaceae (Sargassum muticum)   Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part installment on marine algae.   Writing and taking photos for this column has been a journey of discovery and enlightenment. I had learned the […]

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