gmonkey42: a photo of me scuba diving (scuba)
long story short, I'm most likely fine )

Anyway, I'll take some Ibuprofen and I should be fine. On to the fun part! I was doing my annual recertification with Reef Check CA with my housemate, H. Like most Reef Check dives, we got a free boat dive (well, they ask for a $20 donation to help cover the cost but that's way cheaper than a regular dive boat charter would cost). We were in wetsuits as usual. The water was about the usual temperature (~50°F) but it was cool and windy on the surface and that made it worse. H. got pretty cold. She finished her fish count and returned to the boat on the second dive. I was OK and did my fish count too (the instructor was with us, H. didn't abandon her buddy!) but we were both shivering when we were back on the boat.

One of the Reef Check instructors has two drysuits she's looking to sell so she gave us her card. That's cool. I keep thinking it's time to get a drysuit. And they're expensive so a decent used one would be great. On a warm day, a wetsuit is fine but it's hard on a day like this when you can't really recover your body heat between dives.

We saw a lot of critters. There was a cabezon that I missed :( They're easy to ID because they have the little eyebrow tuft things. I saw a lot of painted greenlings - they're not on the survey so I didn't have to count them. I also saw a few kelp greenlings on someone else's transect. There were also 2 decent sized schools of fish, one of blue rockfish and one of striped perch.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (lolwhale)
For once, I am not offended by the challenge to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's supremacy.

I would pay so much money to be that diver at the bottom.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (scuba2)
I went on another two dives for the lab today! That brings my total up to 61, all cold water. The mission today was to go out on the boat to GPS locations to retrieve moorings with underwater buoys attached (I asked why they couldn't have a longer line so you can see the buoy on the surface but they can't because the water there is too rough - we actually had to skip one location because the waves were too high).

We had two buddy teams and took turns. At the first spot, it was me and the student whose project it is, J. We didn't find it :( The visibility was pretty bad, maybe 10 feet, and we couldn't do a circular search with a line because there was a lot of kelp in the way. At the second spot, the other team found theirs - they attached a line so we could pull the whole thing up into the boat. When we brought it up, it was all covered in a huge variety of algae and critters. I felt bad for the tunicates, they weren't going to survive, but we caught all the little fish, crabs, shrimp etc. and put them back in the water.

Aaaaand remember my recent post about the cutest baby animal?

Well there were three tiny octopuses! We took some pictures quickly and got them back into the water, but not before one of them bit someone with its tiny, tiny beak. J. has promised she'll e-mail us the pictures. There isn't one of me holding an octopus because once one person picked it up, it would cling on for dear life with its suckers and we didn't want to hurt them trying to pull them off. I did pick up the third one to put it in the water - once you stick your hand in the water they let go.

My voice gets all high-pitched when I see something cute. It's a little embarrassing, it's like "we are doing science. Serious business. OMG IT'S AN OCTOPUS!!!"

On the way back we saw some otters, including a mum and baby, and one bashing a shell with a rock on its tummy. It was about 70m away and we could hear the tap-tap-tap.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (scuba2)
I went diving today with two friends from school! The forecast was for pretty big swells and we went as the tide was going out (otherwise we would've had to wait until the afternoon) BUT the conditions turned out really nice.

Cool things I saw:
  • A cormorant swimming! I haven't seen one up close before.
  • Two sea lions! Little ones. I've heard the big ones play chicken with you (seriously) so it's just as well.
  • A big nudibranch; possibly Hermessinda but I'm not sure.
  • humongous sheep crabs (they are slightly less horrifying cuter IRL than in that picture) and sunflower stars. The sunflower star was like two feet across, it was crazy.
  • Fishies! A smallish lingcod (small for a lingcod, anyway; maybe 12-18in), some pile perch, what I think was a vermilion rockfish - I just glimpsed it as it swam away but it was bright red-orange, and two schools of maybe a couple dozen striped perch.

Then after diving we had brunch at El Torrito :D

And while looking for fish photos on the Reef Check site, I found these photos of the class when I got certified! I don't think I'm in any of them, though I might be - they're really small. Anyway, that's where I was. See Meghan, THAT was the bridge I meant to point out ;)


Mar. 15th, 2009 10:41 pm
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (scuba2)
Yeah, I'm posting a lot right now because I'm not sleepy yet, although I ought to go to sleep because I have class tomorrow morning. Anyway. I've been thinking of getting a 3mm wetsuit for swimming (because I don't like being cold, but my 5mm suit is a bit much) so I went to Otter Bay's web site and I found this: mermaid wetsuit.


How do they regulate their buoyancy? Maybe there's just a really small inflatable thing strapped to their back along with the tank. Where are their gauges and compass and everything? Horribly impractical.

Also, she looks really concerned about that dolphin. I guess I would be too, if I were in danger of being mistaken for another dolphin. If you know what I mean.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (lolwhale)
"What? You hoomans aren't trying to get any work done or anything, are you?"

This has never happened to me, although they have chewed my fins a little.
gmonkey42: a photo of me scuba diving (scuba)
No, not really a diving post, just a video I found on YouTube of diving in Monterey. Now you see what I mean about the seals. Cutest. Things. EVER.

gmonkey42: a photo of me scuba diving (scuba)
This morning, I went on my first dive since last year! They needed someone to help clean the seawater intake things, so we went out on a little boat just offshore, dropped down to about 50 feet, and scraped off all the crud. It was really quick, it only took about 15 minutes. My buddy said sometimes you can't even see the metal under all the algae n junk, so it was pretty good today. I saw some starfish and Metridium. I need to get in shape for diving again - the boat driver had to help pull me into the boat. That's kind of hard at the best of times but I can usually get myself in.
gmonkey42: a photo of me scuba diving (scuba)
That would be the seals. I did another Reef Check dive today, surveying for fish this time. I lost count of how many seals we saw. One kept following us and rubbing its head on my fins. And it put its little clawed flipper on my leg. Aww! Seals are so funny. They're like cats. Another team said a seal kept messing with them and then sitting on the bottom and acting all innocent when they turned around.

It was a pretty fun, easy couple of dives. We saw the usual fish, nothing special to report there. My buddy saw a sheephead but I missed it. It's hard to find a photo that does it justice. It's a very big, silly looking fish. We had plenty of air left after the first dive, which was really in the better location (by Hopkins marine station) but my buddy wanted to head back to the boat. So on the second dive, we stayed and looked around a bit after we'd finished collecting the data but the visibility wasn't as good there (by McAbee beach).
gmonkey42: a photo of me scuba diving (scuba)
*iz ded from tired*

I went on my first two scientific dives today (not counting the one during the class)! My buddy was a grad student who'd taken the class with me so that was cool. We went off a boat, which I haven't done much and it's SO much nicer than diving off the shore. There aren't hot soup and snacks waiting for you on the shore, for one thing. We did the first dive at south Monastery and the second at Stillwater Cove. I've never been to the latter before but I've heard it's very nice and it is.

I saw a ton of fish. I surveyed fish, invertebrates and algae/seaweed today. There weren't all that many inverts. Not the ones we count, anyway. There was a ton of articulate coral (can't find a picture - it's like pale purple twigs stuck to the rocks). I also saw lots of different rockfish. The first photo on that linked page is very much like what it looked like, minus the dramatic rays of sunshine that I don't think show up without fancy camera equipment. Also I didn't see any schools quite that big but there were a few schools of maybe 30-odd blue rockfish.

The coolest fish I saw were a lingcod, some male kelp greenlings and by far the biggest vermilion rockfish I've ever seen. It was almost 3 feet long! The ones I usually see are under 1 foot long. That was at a really cool part of the dive: we were setting out the line for the last transect at about 35 feet deep and we came to a ledge where the reef ended and it dropped to about 50-60 feet below. We didn't go down - the transect has to be roughly level - so we had to curve around a little and stay on the reef. I saw the big rockfish over the edge in the deeper part.
gmonkey42: a photo of me scuba diving (scuba)
On account of the camping trip we're taking for my scientific diving class, I'll be totally offline Wednesday through Sunday (or possibly Monday, because I'll be back that day but I'll be busy).

Today we got to go the the aquarium before the dive to check out the fish we'd be looking for. Those of you who've been there (valis2?): you know the two-story kelp forest tank? I always saw that and thought "cool, sharks; hey an eel! and some fish. Ho hum." But there are actually a lot of different types of fish if you stand around for a while and look for them. I never noticed that before. We were mostly looking for various types of perch and rockfish. There were also some bigass sea bass and sturgeons. I think I'd be freaked out if one of those came up to me in the ocean. I think some of the sturgeons were bigger than I am. We saw some fish on the dive but not a ton. Today we had to practice the surveying techniques, first counting kelp and then counting fish. A bunch of seals came over to check us out. One followed us almost all the way back to the beach when we were done. It kept tugging on my buddy's fins. So cute!


Aug. 10th, 2007 08:53 pm
gmonkey42: a photo of me scuba diving (scuba)
Free advice: if you've been diving every day for five days and your forhead is all sunburned, don't scratch at it.

I've put some vitamin E on it now. I've been wearing my hat when I'm out of the water since Tuesday but I think I'm still recovering from Monday's sunburn. Plus I can't help getting a little exposure while I'm in the water (and therefore unable to wear my hat) - you see from the icon that my hood doesn't cover my forhead. The sunscreen doesn't help much.

My total number of dives is up to 23! 1 yesterday and 2 today. That doesn't include spending Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday training in the pool.

We have this weekend off and then next week we're going to camp down by Big Sur for five days and dive from there, starting on Wednesday. Today's dives were about search and recovery. We had to search for painted rocks and my team only found five out of ten. The visibility was horrible, about five feet. I could just about see my feet but anything further away was an indistinct blob. I think only one team found all 10 rocks anyway. But most found 7 or 8. D'oh. We did do a good job, though, on an unexpected thing: my buddy got his tank snagged on a rope and I had to go back and free him. The co-instructor - who was there supervising - said we did well: he stayed calm and I realized he'd fallen behind and I went back to find him. Which is harder than it sounds, considering I was about 8 feet away from him and therefore couldn't see him until I got closer; I had to use my compass. We also managed to navigate from one anchor to another and there was a lot of wave action. And we got through the surf zone with 4-5 foot waves. Woo!

On Monday, we're going diving in the kelp forest and before that we get to go to the Aquarium to see the fish we're supposed to look for. On the Big Sur trip, we'll acutally collect data for Reef Check California. Which means I'll have to have all the fish memorized by then. I have flash cards. It's about 20 types of fish and I'm already familiar with some of them. Yay blue rockfish! We'll also look for invertebrates; I know them already.

Dive #15

Apr. 21st, 2007 08:56 pm
gmonkey42: a photo of me scuba diving (scuba)
Those last few went by pretty quickly. Today I did another volunteer dive to remove an invasive kelp from the Monterey Harbor. I got closer to finding some this time: I found a plant that looked like Undaria but that wasn't it. Oh well. I saw a skate! It was about 8 inches long and shaped like the back half of a shark with a flappy body at the front and little eyes on top. Cool! There were lots of sea lions nearby but I didn't see any from underwater. I saw the usual nifty invertebrates: sea stars, anemones, crabs. I also saw a lot of nudibranchs today. Lots of the neon purple ones with orange gills on top. Orange the color of Tang. And they just slug along, waving their little feelers. They're cute. There was also a sea cucumber AND a sunflower star, so there were two squishy things I resisted the urge to pet.

It wouldn't really hurt them - especially the sea star, they're all spiny and tough - but I don't want to bother sea life for no good reason.

I think I might be able to see color underwater more easily than most people. Sometimes people describe things like "it's really orange but I know it looked sort of brown underwater" but it looked orange to me. I don't have one of those tinted masks or anything. I guess I'm just lucky. Or maybe to some extent it's me interpreting "it's brownish, but without the bluey-green filter it'd be orange." One time I saw a vermilion rock fish and its spots looked plenty orange-red to me, though. That was maybe 40 feet down. Today we were in really shallow water so everyone could see the colors. Except the one guy who was colorblind.
gmonkey42: a photo of me scuba diving (scuba)
Quick update because I'm going to meet my friend soon for her birthday dinner.

This dive was at Monastery beach in Carmel. That's a little harder because it's not as protected and gets wavier than the places I've been before but I did fine. It was with a different dive master than the one I've gone with before and he went a little faster so that coupled with the water movement made this one more strenuous. I used up a lot of air. It's hard to compare, though, because I had an 80 cu.ft. steel tank that started with 2000 psi, whereas I usually dive with a 60 cu.ft. aluminum tank starting at 3000 psi. I need a calculator. I had about 600 psi left when we were done.

I got my own BCD too, and this was the first time I've used it. The valve system is a little different from what I'm used to. I want to try to get one more dive in before I start my Advanced class just to practice some more with the new BCD.
gmonkey42: a photo of me scuba diving (scuba)
I went on another dive today, as you can see from the new icon.

I volunteered with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to remove an invasive species of kelp from the Monterey harbor (you can just barely see the masts of some boats behind me). It was fun! We had to go up and down the pylons, looking for the kelp. It was only 15-20 feet deep. I had an 80 cubic foot tank this time - I've used a 60 in the past - and I went from 3000 psi of air to 800 when I was done (500 is considered "low") I forgot to check the time but that's probably the longest dive I've been on. On the other hand, I had to use more air than usual because we kept going up and down* so it might not be as long as I think. It didn't seem very long.

As far as sightseeing, there were cool decorator crabs, nudibranchs (sea slugs), hermit crabs, big-ass sea stars, a few tunicates (urochordata!), and some big, squishy white things that I'm still trying to figure out what they were. Some kind of cnidarian, probably. They were poofy like a chef's hat. Ooh! And one big sea cucumber. Those are cool. I wanted to pet it but I decided to leave it alone. So many things in the ocean that I want to pet and hug! Must resist the urge!

My buddy and I didn't actually find any of the kelp but another team found a little on their side. They're trying to get a year's worth of data on this species so the organizer said it's important that we were here to collect the data even though we didn't get to clear out much kelp today. I know that. A negative result is still a result! And maybe the lack of the kelp is a good sign that the project is working.

*The technical reason why going up and down required so much air, in case anyone's interested: divers use a buoyancy control device (BCD) to float or sink. It's a vest (and it often has nifty little rings where you can clip all your stuff. The one I rented also had integrated weights, which is a nice feature so you don't have to wear a separate weight belt) that hooks up to your air tank and there are valves where you can inflate or deflate it. So when I want to go down, I let some air out and then when I want to go up, I have to let in some more air from my tank. An added complication is that as you get closer to the surface, the air already in the BCD expands (because there's less pressure from the water around it, like how the air pressure is lower in the mountains than at sea level). Therefore without changing the amount of air in your BCD, you're more buoyant at shallow depths than you are at deeper depths.

ETA: I found a picture of those poofy white things. They are anemones. Ignore the fish. Check out the rest of this guy's photos too, they're amazing.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
I went on my first night dive last night. We saw some octopus! One about a foot long and a tiny baby one (not in the same place). There were also clams poking their wormy aparatus out of holes, a stripy fish, a funny bottom-dwelling fish with a big sucker mouth and some long, skinny little fish that looked a like eels but they weren't.

We put our hands over our lights to see the bioluminescence in the water too. That was cool.

The octopus was the best part, though. They were sandy-colored, sitting on the bottom, then they turned red when they saw our lights and swam away.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
I just went on dive #5 this morning at McAbee beach in Monterey. It was great! A seal came to look at us and it played with my fins! A SEAL! How cool is that?! It was all cute and chubby and speckled gray and white. We also saw a cormorant swimming and a bunch of rock fish and sea stars and some chitons, which sort of look like what a sea star would look like if it were a big blob instead of a star shape. When we were done and on the beach, we saw two otters in the water.

I need to get a photo of myself with my gear on so I can have a scuba icon. Next time I'll remember my camera.

After the dive, my mum came to visit and we went for a walk and saw a whole bunch of seals napping on a protected beach by the Hopkins Marine Station (which is near the Monterey Bay Aquarium).

In conclusion: living here = awesome.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
I've been out for a few days because I was in Monterey, doing the last two dives for my certification. I'm SCUBA certified now! Yay! I want to dive at Point Lobos.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
I had my first class in the pool last night. It was awesome. Right at the end, we'd been going up and down too much and I couldn't equalize my right ear so the teacher told me to go to the surface (the pool is 13 feet deep) and the others came up a minute or two later. We'd finished all the exercises and were just blowing bubble rings at that point anyway.

So I learned how to:

  • assemble and disassemble the equipment

  • clear my mask when there's water in it

  • equalize the air pressure in my ears

  • take out the regulator and inflate the Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) by blowing into it...

  • ...and then put the regulator back and continue breathing

  • help a buddy who's out of air...

  • ...and breathe from someone else's alternative air source in case I'm out of air

  • and I learned a bunch of underwater hand signals like "watch me," "I have a problem," "go up," "I'm out of air" and "I'm OK."

We did the 200m swim test, which was super easy because the pool was really small so we covered about a third of the distance just by pushing off the wall. And then we had to tread water for 10 minutes, except we could have our snorkels on and didn't actually have to keep our heads above water. I guess the point was to make sure we were comfortable breathing through the snorkels, not that we had the ability to tread water without any floatation (with the BCD, you can just establish positive buoyancy and float but we just had swim suits, masks and snorkels for the treadding water test). So we all just sort of floated and swam around.

This is going to be so awesome when we get to go to the ocean. That'll be a week on Saturday; we're going to Monterey for our open water dives. I have my Turbo Kick Box certification on the Sunday so I have to miss that day of diving but I can make it up soon after. I'm taking Thanksgiving week off work so maybe I could go some time that week.

So I know Mel and Laurie dive (and conveniently live in the same state as I do) - do any of you? Too bad I'm starting in winter, this probably isn't the greatest time for cold water diving because you get out and it's all chilly on the beach. I've been thinking about going to Hawaii some time this winter. Probably early next year. That'll be great. I'm not going to buy my own equipment yet, I'll just rent it for now. Until I'm sure I have time to go often enough that I'd be worth it. I do have my own mask, snorkel, fins, boots and gloves. And a 5mm wetsuit but that's not warm enough for Monterey.

In conclusion: woo! Diving!

January 2012

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