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Scuba Diving in Catalina Island, California, USA
Dive Site: Farnsworth Banks
Location: Catalina Island
Description: Seamount / reef
Depth: 20 metres (65 feet) to top of pinnacle, drops off to 60 metres (200 feet)
Visibility: 30 metres (100 feet)
Farnsworth Bank is a large seamount consisting of several pinnacles and it is half a mile wide from east to west. It is situated five miles south from the back side of Catalina in the open ocean. It is therefore exposed to all weather conditions and has strong current making it an advanced dive. Farnsworth is an ecological reserve where the purple hydrocoral is protected.
The wind had picked up when we arrived at Farnsworth making it choppy enough to give us all that genuine feeling of being out at sea rocking around on the boat as coffee, bagels, books etc are flying off the tables! As soon as we had anchored up it was excellent to jump into the water. And after an energetic swim against the current to the buoy I followed the anchor line down to the top of the pinnacle at 20m. On our first dive we swam against the current following the reef admiring the purple hydrocorals, red gorgonians and strawberry anemones. The viz was great making the sea a fresh bright blue and I kept looking out to the blue for pelagics seeing the occasional group of yellowtails and barracuda. I also concentrated carefully at the rocks and found the teeniest pair of little blue & red striped nudibranchs, they must have been only 5mm long. The best thing about Farnsworth is it is so colourful with a superb assortment of creatures. I saw an octopus protruding out of a hole, he came out so that he was fully exposed on the reef until annoyed by too many flashing cameras. The reef is also covered in egg cowrie shells, keyhole limpets and blacksmiths, and sheepheads also swim around.
We did a second dive here later in the day on which we decided not to swim very far as the current had really picked up and there was enough to watch at either side of the anchor line. An electric torpedo ray just hovered above the reef motionless fearing nothing. He appeared very surreal especially as it was later in the day so the lighting made him appear a really dark grey. Then, precisely below me, I found a sandy patch where a bat ray was resting. The rays were brilliant and I waved goodbye as ascended up the anchor line only to be greeted by Kelly the sealion.
The sealion had spent the majority of the day playing around the dive boat and it was great that she now had given me a chance to admire her in the water. Her movement through the water was smooth, slick and playful. Not surprisingly the sealion moves totally differently to how a shark moves through the water, but they share the same control and grace that us divers definitely lack. Earlier in the day Kelly had actually jumped and sat on the dive deck of the boat, I wonder if she had been looking for fish or just over curious and wanting to play!
Carina Hall, PADI Divemaster
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