Monday, January 21, 2008

Mono Lobo Wall and chilly winds

The first very cool thing about getting to Mono Lobo Wall on a boat is watching the depth finder go from about 130' to 280' in the blink of an eye and then off the charts with a display contour that goes just perfectly vertical down. The display showed "?" which was apt since nobody knows what's down there 1000 feet below the surface as you head out over the Carmel finger of the Monterey undersea canyon. This happens as close to shore as the boat can go while you head south past the wash rock on the north point of Monastery Beach. After a few minutes of "?", during which time I idly thought about how far it is to the bottom, the depth finder showed a dramatic vertical upward graph as it found the bottom again - another vertical wall that leveled off at about 100'.

We motored slowly in to the wall area, just around the point from Monastery South and dropped anchor in about 80'. I didn't have my camera because I wanted fewer distractions and was more interested in poking my light into the many holes and cracks we were sure to find.

We dropped off the side of Monterey Express and descended in about 70' heading more or less in toward the rocky labyrinth of spires, columns, fissures, walls and buttresses that comprise the jumbled rock terrain. It was sort of like buzzing around an undersea version of Sleeping beauty's Castle, so varied and dramatic was the underwater architecture.

All the rock faces were simply exploding with life and color, fed by the nutrient rich upwellings from the nearby trench: huge blankets of Strawberry Anemones, gorgonians, yellow, purple, blue sponges were everywhere, and holes featured crabs and amazing yellow and green striped fish. The kelp had been cleared out by recent storms but there still was enough to give the whole underwater realm a mystical quality.

We circled around spires and floated through deep fissures with vertical walls on either side, we dove into canyons and wandered through kelp stalks as large Copper Rock Fish eyed us with suspicion but didn't run away.

Soon we were back on the boat and could see immediately that conditions had worsened, with a chilly wind that had begun kicking up chop while we were down, and making the whole idea of a surface interval in a cold wetsuit a survival exercise. I stashed my gear under the bench we'd found inside the cabin area out of the wind (it's good to get to the boat early), and got into my long dive coat, donning it right over my wetsuit. It actually made a difference and I didn't start shivering, though I was close. It was cold. the air temperature was about 54 and the water temperature we'd just come out of was 52 degrees so there was little relief once out of the water, worse, there was wind too.

I didn't really care about the cold. Mono Lobo Wall was to me a penultimate example of great Carmel diving with great massive structures and an explosion of life everywhere. This is what people say makes Northern California diving world class. I was thinking about this on the way back to Monterey, as we bounced along agains the 8' swell and increasing wind, and decided it was more than worth the slight chill.

Finally back around the corner into the bay we stopped at Cabrillo Point for our final dive. This was a bit of a disappointment: mostly sand bottom with some rock outcroppings but they were full of life, and more Copper Rock Fish. We hung out criss-crossing the anchor line and explored everything we could find, surfacing with about 1000psi left because we were just repeating our tour of the small rocky area we'd found.

Still, it was a good dive and nothing could have made me want to miss the earlier dive at Mono Lobo, so the day was a complete success.

As we got close to the harbor the sun came out and warmed us a bit. Here's a shot of both me and Anne as we entered the harbor on the way back. Chilly? Nah.

1 comment:

Sarah Goes Scuba Diving said...

Beautifully written blog Hinalo! As is your description of our ScubaBoard/NCD event on the 19th! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos! Hope to dive with you and Anne again in the near future.

Warmest wishes,
Sarah & Mark