Richardson’s Rock

My suit compressed on the descent, and I compensated for the increasing negative buoyancy with gentle puffs into my BCD. “Touchdown,” I exclaimed in my own brain as my gloved fingers landed on the rock that formed the foundation of massive Richardson’s Rock. Not only had we managed to reach this outpost of outposts on the calmest day of the year, we had also pulled off diving both Wilson’s Rock and Richardson’s Rock on the same dive trip. Life is good. As I moved along the moderately slanting rock-face at 40 feet, it was about to get better.

Glen Fritzler was skippering the Vision dive boat that day—a rare treat as this owner of Truth Aquatics knows these waters probably better than anyone. In his pre-dive briefing he told us to look for the “pot-holes”—massive holes in the solid rock that look almost as if made by a cookie-cutter.

Sure enough I only needed to follow the anchor chain and it led right to the first “hole.” Visibility was excellent, about 60 feet, so I was able to get a good look at the total scope of this first hole —it was about 20 feet across, vertical faces leading to a nearly flat broken shell and gravel bottom about 30 feet below. And the walls were absolutely covered in colorful marine life. I dived right in….

Within the hole I was out of the surge and current. I was able to relax and shoot away to my heart’s content at the rainbow array of macro marine life. It was inspirational. My buddy burned away at his video camera lights until the batteries ran out in record time. We moved on to the next hole.

This one was more perfectly round than the previous—just as spectacular but this one had some mild undercuts in the walls. What formed these?

Back aboard the boat speculation flew around but the consensus (by non-scientists, mind you) was that, given the rock is volcanic in nature, gas pockets had collapsed. Another theory was that a boulder found its way into a small pocket in the reef and centuries of rattling around in the surge carved out a hole. Meanwhile, the boulder disintegrated in the beating. I think it was a combination of both.

Then the next treat came—a second dive at the same spot. Frequently, a dive at Richardson’s Rock has to be done “live-boat.” But in this case the seas were calm enough so we could anchor up. Given the chance, I headed down the anchor chain again, this time bypassing holes #1 and 2. Rumors had it there was another hole, then a wall beyond.

Sure enough, there was hole #3 with the anchor neatly clinging to its side. Curious, I had not noticed until now how this dive site was surprisingly light on fish. There were small fish here and there, but the schools of rockfish were lacking. Perhaps it was the multitude of sea lions that buzzed us almost continually on these two dives.

Up out of the third hole we headed beyond, looking for a wall. We did not have to go far. At 70 feet I looked over the edge into a dark green abyss. Viz had deteriorated some, but I could make out the ledge 20 feet below. Dropping down I found a thermocline like running into a wall and also the missing fish. Hovering in a gray cloud were scores of blue rockfish, lurking close to the rock face, likely hiding from a marauding sea lion.

My buddy dropped down to another ledge about 15 feet below me. Un-a, nope, second deep dive of the morning and I was playing it conservative, still… The dark green depths were compelling and scary all at once.

Blue from the cold, we hit the deck after a safety stop and realized we had experienced something very rare—two dives on the same day at Richardson’s Rock. We talked about it well into the night and much of the next day.

California Diving News © 2016