Visiting the Bottom

Marine aquarists keep the ocean in their tanks, but scuba divers visit the fishes where they live.

On July 12, I was able to take a unique trip with my cousins Dan and Jordon Morris. Dan had contacted me early in July and asked if I wanted to take a dive boat out for a scuba trip in San Diego’s Wreck Alley.

I jumped at the chance, and on that Sunday we trekked to San Diego in the early morning to board the dive boat LoisAnn for a day of diving.

The trip was excellent. I hadn’t had a chance to dive Wreck Alley prior to our trip. Our dives took us to the Yukon, a 366-foot Canadian destroyer escort intentionally sunk as a scuba attraction off of Mission Beach, San Diego, in 105 feet of water.

I was impressed with the Yukon’s setup. The ship was originally gutted and holes were cut into the sides so that technical divers would have easy access points to the ship’s interior. The ship sits on her port side at an odd angle of about 75 degrees, though this wasn’t intended.

Originally, the plan was to sink the Yukon with explosives, but the access holes were cut low near the waterline, and the night before the planned detonations, swells entered the access holes, filling the boat with water and causing it to sink prematurely.

Our Dives
We were just doing a recreational dive and none of us are trained to dive in technical overhead environments, so we made sure to stay outside of the Yukon.

That doesn’t mean we weren’t able to see anything interesting, however. The Yukon was sunk in 2000, and since then a lot of marine life has taken up residence on the ship’s hull.

The visibility wasn’t excellent that day, and we could only see to around 20 to 25 feet during the best part of our dives. The waters were murky and most of the light from the surface was filtered out at 70 feet, but with my trusty high-intensity discharge Salvo dive light, we were able to get a good look at things.

The first creatures to stand out were the Metridium anemones latched onto the hull. We also saw large areas covered with strawberry anemones, and found many giant spined sea stars. A variety of fishes inhabit the wreck, and we found several different species.

No description I can offer would do these creatures complete justice. Luckily, my cousin Jordon has a digital camera with a waterproof housing, and he was kind enough to allow me to use his images in my blog (see the slideshow at the end of this blog). These images should help you get a sense of the life we found living on the Yukon.

We had a great time overall. Recreational dives like these make great photo opportunities for those with underwater camera gear. Hopefully, my cousins and I will have a chance to dive again soon and get some more pictures. We were just playing around with the pictures on this dive. I’d like to see what Jordan can do with better equipment, more time and a dive plan centered around getting great underwater shots.

I’ve also included a video Jordon took while diving near Catalina Island. He caught sight of a giant sea bass (Stereolepis gigas) hiding within a kelp forest. I hope you enjoy the video.

Too bad (or good) we weren’t diving in San Diego a week later, when the Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) made their way into shallow waters just offshore. These things can be very aggressive.

The video below is a news report discussing the giant squid. It includes video from diver Roger Uzun, who was one of the first to get video of the squid as they came inshore near San Diego. The squid attacked his camera and are known to harass divers.

I consider us lucky in not having to contend with these underwater terrors on our dives. When I have more pictures of my dives to show off, I’ll be sure to share them with you in this blog.

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