We descended the anchor line and began to enjoy the better-than-average visibility. Before us loomed a series of vertical walls, all covered in white. The fluffy white Metridium anemones layered most of the rocky surfaces facing us, and we were surrounded by an enormous school of blue rockfish. I thought to myself, “O.K., it’s going to be a great dive.”
The White Wall is located offshore of Point Pinos, a bit northwest of Aumentos Reef in Monterey Bay. This little nugget of a site was recently discovered, but is seldom dived, even though it is a short ride from the Monterey launch ramps.
The dive site consists of a series of ridges that run roughly north to south. The shallow spot tops out at about 40 feet and drops vertically to a rock bottom at about 80 feet. There is another prominent ridge to the east that tops out around 60 feet. To the west is a bit more structure, and there is a relatively flat rock and boulder bottom surrounding the ridges. The west side of each ridge wall is covered with Metridium anemones. Their brilliant white plumage gives the site its name–the White Wall.
Among the anemones are a great many nudibranchs, crabs and small fish. Look for blennies, sculpins and an assortment of dorid nudibranchs. In the cracks in the wall look for shrimp, crabs, and rock scallops. This is one of the better areas in Monterey to find rock scallops, but remember to look but don’t touch, since this site is within a Marine Conservation Area.
You should spend a bit of time checking out the deeper boulder fields. There are rockfish hiding beneath the boulders and lingcod sitting in plane view. Colorful fish-eating anemones dot the rocks.
While there are many interesting critters to look at and photograph, this site is all about the anemones. On a clear day the view along the wall is simply magnificent with fluffy white anemones stretching out for as far as you can see. Those found at the White wall are Metridium giganteum, the white-plumed anemone, or the giant anemone. This is the West Coast’s largest anemone and can grow to around three feet tall and whose stalk can be as large as four to five inches thick. These Metridium have short fluffy tentacles that are nearly pure white, while their stalks are variable and can be white, cream, tan, brown, or orange. They use their small tentacles to feed on small plankton.
Anemones need a constant supply of plankton rich water to survive and the conditions at the white wall are nearly perfect. The current here is ever-present–mostly moderate, sometimes strong. These currents provide most of the food for this healthy reef community to survive.
This is a relatively small site and it is easy to experience the entire site in a single dive. It is possible to make two laps around each ridge and still have plenty of time to check out the smaller reef critters. This is a small and rich site, so please anchor off the main ridges to protect the site fore the next diver.
Location: About 3/4 mile north of Point Pinos in Monterey Bay.
Access and Entry: This site is only accessible by boat. Since there are no lineups you must use GPS to find this site. You should drop your anchor at N 36° 38.607′ W121° 55.785. This is adjacent to the rock, not on top of it. The high spot is at N 36° 38.601′ W121° 55.797. Divers should not try to anchor on top of the rock since it would not take very many anchors to destroy the anemones.
Skill level: Intermediate or better. Owners of private boats should have some experience in Monterey before attempting this site.
Depths: 40 to 80 feet
Visibility: Generally good, 30 to 60 feet
Photography: Great place to photograph Metridium anemones, schooling and bottom-dwelling fish.
Hunting: This site is within the Pacific Grove Gardens State Marine Conservation Area where only finfish may be taken. No invertebrates may be taken here. This is such a special site, that I strongly suggest not taking any game here.
Hazards: Plan on a strong to moderate current here. Be prepared to descend and ascend the anchor line since you are in the middle of a heavily traveled boat lane.