Farnsworth Bank: Purple Hydrocoral and Much More

The engine was off and the Conception was anchored when I awoke in the wee hours of the morning. I rolled out of my bunk and stumbled topside. The ocean was calm, with only a slight swell, and there was no other boat in sight. Off in the distance I saw the outline of familiar mountains. We were anchored on the backside of Catalina, on a fabled site called Farnsworth Bank.  While conditions appeared favorable, it was early. When the sun rose we might find […]

Rock Quarry

I visit some dive sites with high expectations. Some meet these expectations. Other dive sites don’t have a big reputation, but they grow on me over time, eventually becoming one of my favorites. The Rock Quarry at Catalina Island falls into the latter category. The Rock Quarry lies west of Long Point and Goat Harbor, but east of Sea Fan Grotto and Two Harbors. Because it is well protected, conditions are usually calm here. I like to divide this dive site up into three areas: […]

Wreck of the Toro

On the night of November 21, 2004, a sudden and powerful storm came up out of the northeast heaving the seas into massive turbulence at the normally calm Isthmus Cove on Catalina Island. The skipper of the 37-foot Bertram yacht Toro became frightened for himself and his four passengers and decided to head for the backside of the island. The skipper did not give his radar a chance to warm up properly and underestimating the power of the wind, the Toro was driven up on […]

Little Gibraltar Reef

I just love underwater pinnacles. Jutting up from the bottom they create a vertical surface that bask in the currents where marine life thrives. Offshore and to the west of Little Gibraltar Point on the frontside of Catalina is just such a spot. While the site is generally calm and protected, divers rarely visit here. The location is on the small side and can generally be covered in just one dive. It is actually a pair of pinnacles, one topping out at 33 feet and […]

Twin Rocks

Sometimes when you’re out on an underwater photo expedition you want to target one species. On this particular dive trip I wanted some photos of the giant black sea bass (Stereolepis gigas). It had been awhile since I’ve had the opportunity to swim with these magnificent creatures and booking a trip recently on the Sundiver Express was one of my specific goals. I was not disappointed. I was in for the best encounter I’d ever had with these great creatures. We rocketed out of Long […]

Avalon Underwater Park

The Avalon Underwater Park is like the sampler appetizer platter. It has a bit of everything so that the diver can taste what Southern California diving has to offer. There are kelp forests, mini-walls, small pinnacles, wrecks, sand flats, shallows and deep diving all in one place. And all these environs are chock full of critters, big and small. The waters are clear and it is easy to get to, easy to dive and, for the most part, inexpensive. When I am approached by somebody […]

Farnsworth Bank

I peered over the side for a better look and watched the reef drop away to a vertical wall. Even though the visibility was well over 80 feet, I could not make out the bottom below. When I switched on my light I was dazzled by the color—purple hydrocoral, orange sponges, and pink gorgonia. Just then an enormous school of bait fish swam up the wall and over my head. Another great dive at Farnsworth Bank. Farnsworth Bank is a sea mount located in open […]

The Jester of Torqua Springs

It was a fairly “ordinary” dive. Pretty, lots of fish, a few lobster, but most were short. No matter, I was taking pictures, hoping to capture the last remaining soupfin shark or black sea bass before they moved on to their winter stomping grounds. Seeing neither, the dive, however, deteriorated into a half-hearted lobster hunt just the same. Near the end of the dive, I was off looking into a particularly promising lobster hole while Kim was nearby poking around as well. There were at […]

Little Geiger Cove

The big, grand dive sites around Catalina Island get all the press. Ship Rock, Isthmus Reef, Bird Rock, Eagle Reef—these are all incredible dive spots but rarely does a weekend go by where they’re not visited by several dive boats. I personally have an affinity for smaller, lesser known coves. All along the frontside of Catalina are dozens of calm little coves, perfect for just one charter boat or a couple of small boats. Little Geiger Cove is just one such gem. Little Geiger Cove […]

Church Rock

Although Church Rock is just around the corner on the backside of Catalina, it seems like a world away. It often has the feel of the outer, remote islands — rough and rugged. There is plentiful game here, a fascinating reef to explore, and occasional surprise that is truly remarkable. Church Rock gains its name from its appearance at a distance with its rocky fingers looking much like the spires of a church. Its congregation must be birds and fish. On the rock, birds perch […]

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