Like any good diver I listened to our divemaster’s instructions, and followed the anchor line to the bottom. Just as advertised the entrance to the cave was directly to the right of the anchor. I dropped to the bottom of what appeared to be a 10-foot pit and stared into nothingness as the cave disappeared into blackness. Switching on my light revealed rock walls that were brilliantly colored in hues of red, yellow and orange.
Brian’s Crack is located just offshore and west of Pescadoro Point at the northern tip of Carmel Bay. This spot is named after Brian Nelson, captain of the Beach Hopper II. Some years ago Brian dropped his divers on this spot, not knowing about the cave, and his regular customers named the site in his honor.
This cave is actually a steep-sided crack that begins about 60 feet deep and runs roughly south to about 80 feet. The shallow end of the crack starts with a small bulbous depression (really a large overhang) that is open to the sky. It then closes up after about 20 feet, and develops into a long tunnel. Although it is technically open at the top, it is too narrow for a diver (or small fish) to fit through. The crack opens up again after about 30 feet and runs open-topped for another 40 feet.
At the shallow end, the cave resembles a small fish bowl. Here you will frequently find a number of rockfish trying to find a bit of piece and quiet in the solitude under the overhang of the cave. When you turn around and begin to drop into the main body of the cave, the walls seem to come alive with color. Orange, red and yellow sponges line the walls of the cave, and create a tapestry-like covering for the rocky walls. Look for nudibranchs, small blood stars and bryozoans among the colorful sponges.
The walls of the cave are not smooth, but are fractured with deep, narrow cracks. Within these cracks are found a cornucopia of small fish and crustaceans. Black-eyed gobies and snub-nosed sculpins peer out at divers from the safety of the cracks. Most cracks have a number of dock shrimp and a few are home to kelp and decorator crabs.
While the cave is an exceptional place to explore the reef around the cave, it is also interesting. The fish life around Brian’s Crack is abundant and diverse. Small lingcod are commonly found sitting on top of small outcroppings or back in the many caves. A school of blue rockfish is often found just outside of the kelp bed, and numerous rockfish are found in plain view or back in cracks. Numerous black-eyed gobies, kelpfish and greenlings may be found just outside the crack. The invertebrate life is diverse if not abundant. There are a few solitary trees of hydrocoral, many large fish-eating anemones, and lots of sponges and tunicates.
There are numerous caves in this area. The most well known (and a bit smaller than Brian’s) is a bit west and south of Fire Rock, and there are smaller caves/cracks to the left and right of Brian’s Crack. The caves and cracks in this area provide a bit of variety to the Monterey Area dive experience, which is not known for its abundance of caves. Those who are not interested in caves will find the marine life as diverse and abundant as any of the better Central Coast sites.
Location: Brian’s Crack may be found off Pescadero Point at the northern point of Carmel Bay at N 36° 33.527′ and W 121° 57.083′. Fire Rock is at the northern point of Carmel Bay at: N 36° 33.556′ W 121° 56.975′. Nearby is another cave many call the Cavern at N 36° 33.544′, W 121° 57.069′. Brian’s crack is 127 feet from the Cavern at 190°.
Access and Entry: This is a boat dive only.
Depths: 20 to 80 feet.
Visibility: Generally good, 30 to 40 feet.
Hunting: This site just outside the Carmel Bay State Marine Conservation Area. Although game hunting is permitted, it is way too close to the boundary to risk taking game.
Photography: Great fish photography, and wide-angle images of divers in caves.
Hazards: Watch for boat traffic, swell and thick kelp.
Charter Boats Serving the Area: www.montereydiveboats.com