underwater

Nudis and Branchers

Ever see pictures of a critter that seems to have evolved from that box where all the holiday decorations are stored? Chances are you’re looking at a nudibranch.  Nudibranchs (sometimes affectionately called “nudis”) are members of the opisthobranchs, also known as sea slugs. The name nudibranch literally means “naked gill.” Their body shape ranges from oval to long and tapered. All have some form of rhinophores; think rabbit ears, on their front end. Projections of varying heights may be present on the back.  A group […]

Tell the Preservation Success Stories

While I think we should always be presented with the bad news so that we can act to reverse the negative, we must also accentuate the success stories, places where we have done right by nature.  In my nearly 40 years of diving I have seen the California seas do some pretty wild oscillations within marine life populations, unfortunately, many of them downward. But here I want to emphasize the success stories because they reinforce what we can do (or not do) to improve the […]

Thornback Rays

I couldn’t believe my luck. I had just reached the bottom at 20 feet and was cruising toward the kelp forest in deeper water when I saw a prehistoric looking creature lounging on the sand. It was light brown, with a distinctive flat, heart shaped head and a long tail. There were three rows of spines on its back. The animal, which reminded me of an armored vehicle, was a thornback.  The creature tolerated having its photo taken for several minutes before moving on. (Yes, […]

Sea and Sea DX2G Sport Package Review

When I first switched to digital a few years back I had waited for SLR cameras to get to a minimum of 5 megapixels. They hit it and I bought a nice expensive SLR camera, wrapped it in an equally expensive housing and off I went underwater to shoot away. Needless to say, it was barely adequate but it did the job. And technology moved ahead at a blindingly rapid pace. Cameras became much cheaper, more versatile, and hosted far more megapixels than I could […]

How To Be A Comfortable Diver

Learning to dive is a lot like learning to drive a car. A certification card, like a driver’s license, is a license to learn, rather than an end unto itself. Both of these activities require participants to multitask–maintaining buoyancy, watching depth, time, decompression limits, currents, etc.– and each is difficult to enjoy if you consciously keep track of everything. Like drivers, divers need to gain experience to become comfortable enough to allow their subconscious mind to maintain a background awareness of many of these tasks, […]

Encounters with Pacific Electric Rays Can Be Shocking — But They Don’t Have to Be

Last August, a Pacific electric ray sought out the company of divers on more than one dive on Farnsworth Bank’s high spot. While this didn’t happen to me, it did to several people on my trip. They had photos and video of the ray hovering a few feet away from a diver in a relaxed and nonaggressive way.  While doing internet research in November, I found another report of a ray/diver encounter at Farnsworth that took place several months after my trip. This behavior is […]

Ode to the Garibaldi

The California State Fish is the Golden Trout. Its beauty is equivalent to its name.   As any avid trout fisherman will tell you, this game fish, living only in the high-altitudes of the Sierra Nevada, is a coveted quarry. But it is also unusual if not rare. Not so rare is the California State Marine Fish, the Garibaldi. In Southern California, it is unusual to NOT find one or more over rocky reefs and in kelp forests. They seem to be everywhere and usually […]

Solutions for Common Topside Problems

I am very blessed to have Dale as my dive buddy. He is great in the water and makes my diving so easy and seamless. He checks and double-checks all the dive gear packed and our in-water time is perfect.   However, topside is always my department. He does not check or double check what I bring. But while on board the boat he will ask me if I brought this or that and I usually forget something. I was always forgetting many of the […]

Chestnut Cowries

Some shells must be cleaned and polished to reveal their jewel-like qualities, while others are perfect gems just as they are found in the ocean. One of the most beautiful shells found in California is the chestnut cowry, and this shell needs no work to show off its inner beauty. Cowries, in general, and chestnut cowries, specifically, have such stunning beauty that they are both enjoyed by divers and prized by collectors. The chestnut cowry is found from Monterey to Isla Cedros, Baja California. They […]

Work Within the Limitations of Your Point-and-Shoot Camera

Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan once spoke the immortal words, “A man’s got to know his limitations…” These simple words can arouse insightful pondering to expose the heart of an issue. They also can be valuable to divers who use point-and-shoot cameras. Owners of high-end, digital single lens reflex (SLR) camera systems get great images from their superb and versatile lenses and sensitive sensors. They also must open their wallets wider than most of us would deem sensible to pay for it all, and travel […]

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