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“Baby Shark” Spotting Off Monterey Bay—What It’s Like to Be a Citizen Scientist

Baby shark. Doo doo doo doo doodoo. Since its release in November 2015 the original “Baby Shark” video has had over 2.2 billion YouTube views and the song is on the Billboard Top 100. Toddlers everywhere are snuggling baby shark plushies and adults are wasting lots of time at work uploading #babysharkchallenge posts. Most divers love sharks, but the “Baby Shark” phenomenon has taken shark-loving mainstream. Through the wonders of social media, I learned about a guy named Eric Mailander, who’s something of a real-life […]

A Retirement Retrospective

This year marks my 35th as an underwater photographer and author. It has been an enjoyable and memorable career, and this seems to be a particularly good time to look back and reminisce about where I am, and how I got here. It all started during the summer of 1977 when I arrived in Berkeley, began my graduate studies, and immediately enrolled in a scuba class. This turned out to be the first of three events that dramatically changed my life. Back then most of […]

Aquarium of the Pacific’s Aquarium Holidays — through December 23rd

The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach is celebrating Aquarium Holidays, which features special holiday décor, a display of gingerbread houses, daily Penguin Parades at 10 a.m., holiday shopping, snowfall in the Great Hall, a special holiday menu in Café Scuba, and daily appearances by Santa Diver and the Aquarium characters in their holiday outfits. On weekends the Aquarium will have a snow play area, photo opportunities with Santa, and Hanukkah storytelling with opportunities to play dreidel. Santa Diver will be delivering an ocean […]

They’re on the Move Again: Encountering Pacific Gray Whales 

I know of no other wildlife excursions where seeing an entire animal is rare and viewing parts of it are exciting, photo-worthy events. Better yet, there is an entire industry devoted to it. It’s called whalewatching.  Like tens of thousands of others, I have stood on the deck of many a rocking boat hoping to see such clues to whales’ identities as tails, pectoral fins or heads. I constantly scan the horizon for blows. And I hope to see/photograph a whale breaching, the lone occasion […]

Mixing It Up at Santa Cruz’s Quail Rock

It was a strange sensation. It was like one minute we were diving the far reaches of the Northern Channel Islands, and the next, we were at Catalina Island. Water temperature had changed little but the marine life most certainly had. We were in the transition zone that often typifies diving Santa Cruz Island. Transition zones are great places to dive. One of the best off California is in the Northern Channel Islands chain, and Santa Cruz Island seems to be the epicenter. In this […]

A NorCal Coastal Treasure: Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary By Jennifer Stock 

It was 1977 when avid diver, career scientist and intrepid explorer Dr. Robert Schmieder spotted Cordell Bank on a nautical chart. One sounding on the chart indicated that it was potentially diveable even though most of the bank was surrounded by deeper water. Schmieder saw an adventure, something to discover, and something very challenging that, to his knowledge, no one had done before. Scratching his “itch” to do more than just dive for fun, Schmieder set out to explore and discover a place that up […]

Sharp and “Spiny Skinned”: California’s Sea Urchins 

My introduction to sea urchins — on my first scuba dive — was a learning experience. I learned how easily their sharp, brittle spines pierce the human body. Most importantly, I learned to avoid contact with sea urchins, which is easy because the animals are sedentary, slow moving and not aggressive. Sea urchins are classified as Echinodermata, which means “spiny skinned.” The 6,000 member phylum also includes sea stars, brittle stars, sea lilies and sea cucumbers. Seashore Animals of the Pacific Coast defines sea urchins […]

A New Discovery Off Carmel Bay’s Outer Pinnacle: Exploring the Horseshoe

What makes a great dive site? Clear water? Varied topography? Lots of fish? Colorful invertebrates? While most great dive sites have many of these things, few will have them all. One that does have it all is a seldom-dived site in Carmel Bay that divers call Horseshoe. Horseshoe is best described as one of the outer, outer pinnacles and is a bit further offshore than the Outer Pinnacle in Carmel Bay. This site was first “discovered” using US Government bathymetry data. This is the modern […]

Crowd Control: Now’s a Great Time to Enjoy Catalina’s Cherry Cove 

When the crowds of summer have gone, divers can safely get into nooks, crannies and reefs of Isthmus Cove that are usually jammed with pleasure boaters during summer months. Perhaps the most popular mooring area is Cherry Cove on the west side of Isthmus Cove. There are more than 100 moorings in the cove (controlled by the Isthmus Harbor Patrol) and a Boy Scout Camp on shore. On the north side of the cove is the popular dive site known as Lion Head. On the […]

Tunicate Tales: “Simple” Sea Squirts are  Surprisingly Complex 

Of all the marine animals in the world, tunicates are vetebrates’ closest relatives and that includes the class Mammalia (us). Both tunicates and mammals are members of the phylum Chordata. Both have a notochord (a cartilaginous skeletal rod) when they are embryos. The notochord is lost as most tunicates grow older but it segments and turns into a backbone in mammals and other vertebrates. Tunicates further belong to the subphylum Tunicata and the class Ascidiacea. The latter includes 2,500 to 3,000 species, about 90 of […]

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