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Old 03-23-2009, 08:13 PM   #1
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Default 3/21/2009 Three Sisters by Allison Lee

3/21/2009 Three Sisters by Allison Lee -- [View in Reports Page]

Bottom Team:Robert Lee, John Heimann
Visibility:40' - 100'Time:10:00 AM
Scooter:X-scooterBurn Time: 
Max Depth:130FSWAvg Depth:120FSW
Bottom Time:0:40Total Time: 
Bottom Gases:18/45Deco Gases:EAN50
Backgas Config:Double LP80Deco Tanks:AL80
Deco Profile:
On Saturday, John, Rob, and I were planning a little expedition to Twin Peaks to document the Aldisa cooperi that we saw there a couple weeks ago. This time Rob would have his camera, rigged for macro, no less. Last time we saw them, they were near the bottom of the big peak, so we were planning for a slightly deeper dive than the usual Twin Peaks run, and packed the appropriate gas for it. Rob volunteered to lead, so we told him where we had found the Aldisas (since he wasn't on that dive), and we came up with a plan based on our expected depth range.

The viz was really good right at the ramp, so we were excited about our prospects. We surface scooted out to about 35 feet, where we could still see the bottom, and dropped in the sand channel. It was a pretty uneventful travel to the Sisters, via Lone Metridium. We hit the first sister, and I could literally see the second sister from there (and the shadow of the third, I swear!). The viz was just incredible. We headed out along the Road, and almost immediately, I saw a Doriopsilla spaldingi -- an exciting enough slug, in my opinion, to stop the team to check it out. The iridescent ring around the slug was particularly glowy -- more blue than white. After we looked it over, we continued on. Very shortly after that, I saw the sponge that the Aldisas eat, and I couldn't believe my eyes, but there was a yellow-orange slug sitting on top of it. I stopped us, again, to check if it was A. cooperi (vs. A. sanguinea), and there were the tell-tale spots down its back. I showed it to Rob, and he asked if he should take some pictures of it. Of course!

So at this point we were about 10 minutes into the dive, at 120', and we'd already completed our "mission". Sweet! Now we could just have some fun at the peaks! After Rob finished up taking pics, we were about to get going when Rob spied a big lingcod hanging out under an overhang, with its mouth hanging open. We swam over to take a look, and then were about to leave again, when John signaled us. He innocently pointed to the reef, and I looked over to where he pointed. In hindsight, I can't believe my reg stayed in my mouth, because I'm sure my jaw dropped open when I saw not one, but two little mystery Okenias. These were the same kinds of slug that we had seen one of about a year ago, and were told by the "slug experts" that it is possibly an undescribed species. We have been hoping to see another one ever since! The next minute was filled with screaming through my reg at Rob. I was not just excited that we had found it again, but we had found two! We have a permit to collect up to two of these little guys, since, in the event that it actually is an unknown species, two are required to authenticate that. I wasn't even sure if John knew what he had found, but he did. I practically mauled him as I told him he rocked (yes, I now have a hand signal for "you rock"). As Rob was taking some photos of it, we found three or four more within about 10 feet of those two. It must have been small white nudi day on the Road, because there were also dozens (or maybe even hundreds) of Diaphoradoris, and at least a dozen Aegires. But the Okenia stood out easily, like a ball of whiskers sitting on the reef.

Disclaimer: don't try this at home, kids, unless you have a permit to collect at Lobos. After Rob got shots of the first several that we found, we decided we would collect two. We carefully removed two slugs from the reef (one of them came with a bit of its substrate, which we figured would be useful to identify what it eats, plus it would give it something to eat for the road). Once we were finished with that, we discussed what to do next. At this point, I figured if we headed out to the peaks, we'd basically get there in time to turn around. So I suggested we just stick around the area for a while and then head in. So that's what we did. It was amazing what a slug fest it was out there. In addition to all of the white guys, and a lot of the usual suspects, there were quite a few of the Aldisas.

Eventually we decided to head in. When we got to the Sisters, Rob suggested we head across to Beto's, which I always love to do in good viz. There were lots of canary rockfish over the sand on the way, as is typical out there. The viz was so good, I could clearly see Beto's more than 30 seconds before we actually got to it (which, using the 150 ft/min scooter speed estimate, tells me the viz was over 75 feet). When we got to Beto's we headed in along it, stopping to say hello to the wolf eel. The trip in and the deco was uneventful, except a little meeting with Suzanne and Nathalie at our 30 foot stop.

We had originally planned to survey the transects for dive 2, but we decided that we had done enough for the nudibranch project on dive 1, and we would just have fun on dive 2 (fun being looking for nudibranchs at Granite Point). The viz was still really good, although with the sun lower in the sky, the water wasn't quite as bright. We headed out on the sand channel and before you know it, we were at the main wall. Rob had requested that we go to (what we refer to as) "the hydrocoral spot", so we motored until we got to the spot, and then clipped off the scoots and kicked around there. There was an impressive showing of nudibranchs out there. We saw the usual dorids, more Aegeris, several Dendronotus albus, tons of trilineatas, quite a few Limacias, four Hilton's, and an Adalaria jannae. Of course Rob regretted not bringing his camera. We left there with the plan to hang out on the east side of Middle Reef ont he way in. We got back to the end of Middle Reef and took a left to get to the east side. By the time we got in there, I decided I was took cold to do more than a fly-by, so that's all we did, and we hopped over to the sand channel and headed into the cove. We ascend along the wall of the cove, and headed in from there on the surface.

The unadulterated, fully illustrated, 2300-word version of this report is available here:

Rob's pictures (first dive only) are available here:
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