Farnsworth’s Yellow Wall

Go to Jerusalem and you’ll want to see the Wailing Wall. Go to China and you’ll want to see the Great Wall. Go to Tavenui, Fiji, and you’ll want to see the White Wall. And when you go to Farnsworth Bank on Catalina’s backside, you’ll want to see the Yellow Wall.

The Yellow Wall is a section of the reef at Farnsworth that’s covered with small, yellow anemones (Epizoanthus scotinus). And they’re everywhere. They start at a depth of about 80 feet, extend down easily to 140 feet (or more), and are about 60-70 feet wide. The Yellow Wall presents you with an explosion of color at Farnsworth and presents a really nice contrast to the purple coral that’s abundant there.

Getting to the Yellow Wall is fairly simple, but you have to start at the Farnsworth High Spot. That’s the area where most of the boats try to anchor and is the part that comes up to a depth of about 54 feet. From that spot, set your compass heading at 100° and believe in that heading. As you swim over the top of the reef and seem to be going out into the blue, stop. You should now have arrived at the Yellow Wall.

And you’ll find a lot more than just little yellow anemones there. California Scorpionfish frequently nestle amongst the anemones, waiting for an easy meal to swim by. Painted Greenlings flit about. Schools of Blacksmith and Señoritas will be weaving to and fro. You’ll spot many gorgonians swaying in the currents that bathe the area. Sea cucumbers will meander around. And there’s purple coral surrounding the place. In short, there’s a lot of stuff going on.

It all makes for some pretty good photographic opportunities as well as a photographic challenge. The anemones, because they’re so relatively brightly colored, are very easy to over-expose. By the same token, they’re best shot in close-ups because if you get too far away, it’s hard to light them properly, especially if there’s particulate in the water or if the vis isn’t very good.

You’ve also got to watch your bottom time when diving this part of Farnsworth. Generally, you’ll be doing the dive around 90-100 feet so your time will be limited by both the gas you’re breathing and your rate of air consumption. You want to leave yourself enough margin to make it back to your anchor line and to do a three-five minute safety stop.

Those who photograph can easily spend the entire dive on the Yellow Wall and not run out of subjects. If you’re not photographically inclined, the Yellow Wall can be a good place to start your tour of Farnsworth and then continue around in a counter-clockwise fashion (reef on your left) to bring you back to your starting point.

No matter how you do it, the Yellow Wall at Farnsworth is definitely worth seeing. Try to sneak a peek the next time you’re out there.

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