Alien Encounter

Here’s a longer video, with original music:

Channel Islands, May 2018, Part 2

A biting wind blows off the ocean and cuts through my fleece like I’m wearing nothing. It’s 8:30 am, we’re anchoring at Fry’s Harbor, south of Santa Cruz Island, after jostling through six foot swells on the way here from our overnight anchorage. We’re suiting up for our first dive of the day, I’m in a bit of a daze, caused by the cold, the bumpy ride, and some lingering exhaustion from yesterday’s five dives.

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We follow the anchor line down to the underwater cliff that is the object of today’s dive. I’m immediately greeted by a colorful Spanish Shawl drifting in the current. These are not uncommon in California waters, but I’ve only ever seen a couple small specimens before, it’s a treat to see one up close, and a harbinger for the show in store for us.

I let the Spanish Shawl drift away and turn my attention to the surroundings, and immediately see another Spanish Shawl, attached to a rock. As I eagerly zoom in, I start to notice all the color growing on the surrounding rocks.

We continue on, and I find another exotic beauty waving in the current.

And another, this one photogenically perched next to a starfish.

Other types of nudibranchs also populate the wall, this one isn’t quite as colorful, I think it might be called an Orange-spike Polycera, but it’s equally alien-looking.

As we continue our tour, a bright orange Garibaldi seems to pose for my camera.

My dive buddy points at something under a rock, and it takes me awhile to realize it’s an octopus. I’ve never seen one of these in the wild before. Up close, they really have a sense of alien-otherness, like this is a very different type of being. (My dive buddy was poking the octopus a bit so I could get a better luck, I felt kind of bad about that, but I was grateful to see it in action. I hope we didn’t harass it too much.)

As I soak in the surroundings, I’m struck with an increasing sense of awe at this alien world. Maybe it’s the lingering daze, but the visual stimuli that meet my eyes are almost difficult to process. The vibrant colors growing on the wall are amazing, like nothing I’ve ever seen before, even at tropical reefs. There’s all kinds of weird stuff growing on the wall, like this big coconut-looking thing. I see more and more Spanish Shawls, hanging out on the wall, surrounded by dazzling colors.

Another big Garibaldi cruises by to say hello.

Here’s another alien, I think maybe it’s an Opalescent Nudibranch 

The diversity of color continues to amaze me. I think these brightly colored fish hiding in a sea urchin are Bluebanded Gobies.

This giant starfish! It’s at least two feet wide!

My amazement grows as we continue on, the magnificent variety of colors tickles my eyes.

Lobster!

A visually stunning dive. I’ll conclude with one final shot of a Spanish Shawl, swimming through the water.

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