Getting Serious at Monterey’s Seriously Reef

I was out on a dive charter in September and the captain asked me where I wanted to dive. Of course I asked her to select a spot that I have not previously reviewed. She responded, “Seriously!” 

“Yes, seriously,” I replied. 
“No, the dive sites name is Seriously,” she explained. At first it felt like we were reliving Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on first?” sketch, but I finally realized we were going to dive a new site named Seriously. The site was identified from bathometry charts, and this was to be the first time anyone would dive the site.
Seriously is located off of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station. This anchorage is a short distance from the well-known site called Hopkins Deep Reef, but is a completely different dive. This dive site consists of a rocky ridge that runs roughly 80 feet south to north with numerous side spurs extending out to the west and east. The ridge sits on a 60-foot flat sand bottom and rises 4 to 6 feet off the sand. This is not a smooth structure, but is a highly fractured ridgeline consisting of a series of rocky plates. The ridge resembles the back of the well-known dinosaur stegosaurus.
The rocky plates provide plenty of vertical surfaces for encrusting invertebrates. There are plenty of colorful strawberry and fish-eating anemones, tunicates and sponges. There are also a large number of metridium anemones. These are found in tight bunches at the tops of the tallest ridges where they have access to the highest concentration of plankton.
There were huge numbers of Kellet’s whelks out this day in September. This large snail was once very rare in Monterey, but its range expanded in the 1970s and 1980s, presumably due to the strong El Niño events during those decades. It is not known if they can reproduce in Monterey’s cooler waters, or if they require continuous recruitment from Southern California. They are opportunistic feeders and will consume any number of sessile invertebrates, or injured or dead fish.
Seriously is home to a number of chitons, tunicates, and colorful sponges. Small shrimp and crabs were found way back in cracks, and sea cucumbers extended their tentacles out into the water column while most of their bodies were well protected further back in the crack. There were, however, very few nudibranchs to be found on that day.
The plate-like structure of the reef creates endless nooks-and crannies for small fish to hide from predators. There were swarms of juvenile rockfish, and most of these were gopher or blue rockfish. There was a single juvenile treefish that took sadistic pleasure in darting away just as I composed the perfect image. It took some time but I finally got a “keeper” image. 
There were also a number of adult fish at this site. Large gopher, brown, and black rockfish were commonplace, along with surfperch. These fish know they are living in a reserve and were quite unafraid of divers.
This area supports a thin bed of giant kelp — just enough to let you know you are diving in Monterey, but an amount that is easy to swim through or around. The minimal kelp, shallow depths and protected waters make this an ideal site for beginners, and yet advanced divers will find plenty of marine life to look at and photograph.
There are not very many undiscovered dive sites in Monterey Bay, and I was fortunate to be one of the first divers on one of them. So, seriously, if you want a calm site with lots of fish and invertebrates, you should check out Seriously. No, really, seriously!
The author would like to thank Captain MaryJo Nelson and the crew of the Beachhopper II for their help in the preparation of this article.
At-A-Glance
Skill Level: Beginner or better
Location: Offshore of Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove at 36°37.301′ N, 121°53.993′ W. These coordinates will put you at the south end of the ridge.
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: 55 to 60 feet
Conditions: Predictably calm
Visibility: 10 to 30 feet
Photography: Great macro photography even on days when the visibility to poor. Great wide-angle photography when visibility is better.
Hunting: None, this site is within the Lovers Point-Julia Platt State Marine Reserve.
Cautions: Watch for thick kelp, surge, and boat traffic. 
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