and Photos © Elaine Jobin,
may not be reproduced in part or whole without advanced written permission.
Ross picked Farnsworth as the first destination of the new year. Conditions were perfect to cross the channel and visit the backside of Catalina. Ross left a little early with Jeff S., Claudette D., and myself in hopes of beating anyone else to the Farnsworth "high spot". Claudette's husband, a non diver, came along as surface support.
The crossing from San Pedro to the West End of Catalina was uneventful. We didn't really see any other boats. When we rounded the corner to the backside of Catalina - we realized that we pretty much had the entire backside of the island to ourselves .There was no one back there, it was deserted.
As we approached the Farnsworth 'High Spot", I thought of the recent discussions about anchoring on Farnsworth Bank. "Are anchors damaging the purple hydocoral (Stylaster venustus)?"
We weren't really set up to live boat, so I decided to be the one to do the deed of the anchor drop. How much damage would the kick of my foot above cause below? I also decided to look at the site with the thought of general "Human Damage" in mind.
Visibility was good, probably 50 feet. The deeper we went, the better it got. We traveled down the anchor and looked around our "high spots". The highest areas really didn't have any hydrocoral growing on it. I'm not sure why. I've been to other areas where purple hydrocoral is present in about 30 feet of water, and, it is reported to grow in areas as shallow as 15 ft. The high spots at Farnsworth (approx 65ft) looked like this - A little barren..
Jeff and I traveled to look at the anchor. My drop had landed almost dead center on a hydrocoral. The anchor is bad enough, but then, when the chain that lays across the site is factored in, there is a much greater potential for hydrocoral damage.
Healthy, uncropped purple hydrocoral looks bushy and tall. In the picture of the anchor above it looks pretty obvious to me that some of the surrounding coral had already been sawed short by anchors, chains, or what have you. Undamaged purple hydrocoral looks more like the picture below.
Jeff and I finned around and headed east over the shallowest wall. The other noticeable thing about Farnsworth are that the fish are small. There were several schools of juvenile blacksmith, a few small sheephead, and that was about it.
Descending along the east wall we passed several crops of healthy looking purple hydrocoral.
Looking down to the sand, we saw several extremely huge nets snagged along bottom 25 feet of the east face of the "high spot" wall, as well as some old decaying traps.
In the deeper sand I saw the largest fish of the dive, this lingcod.
This was the first time that Jeff Shaw had been to Farnsworth. He posed for one of those "special photos" before we began our assent.
As we approached our "half way up" rest area, Claudette and Ross came zooming into view. They had already circumnavigated the site at least twice.
With everyone back safely on board...
we pulled anchor and headed for our next dive site, Eagle Rock. From this angle, Eagle Rock reminds me of a big foot sticking out of the ocean.
Visibility here wasn't so great. Ross and Claudette gave Jeff and myself a piggy back scooter ride around the rock. Ross tolerated dragging me and the camera around in the frosty glass looking water. Claudette towed Jeff. We couldn't see much so we gave up and returned to the boat. Jeff's comment summed up the dive..."All I saw was the bottom of her tank, and the bottom of her. Eventually the viz was so bad I could not even see those..."
We rounded the corner of Catalina and returned to the West End, front side for our last dive. Massive deposits of squid eggs, surrounded by dead squid bodies were the main attraction here.
Ross and Claudette completed the dive with a display of swim like a sea lion scooter acrobatics
Much of the country is being pounded by snow and bad weather. Definitely not the case here, we traveled home under warm sunny skies on an ocean that was flat as glass. We made one stop in the channel to watch a whale traveling south. He never stopped long enough for close observation.
We pulled into San Pedro at sunset. A perfect ending for a perfect dive day.