I think the world of Truth Aquatics and apparently I am in good company because their boats typically leave very full. Providing multi-day dives to the Channels Islands out of Santa Barbara on three boats, they are a class operation (see Vision Trip Report 2/98).
Early August I found myself with time available and a desire to get away for a bit. The problem: every dive boat in the state was booked solid, that is until I called Sea Landing and inquired about the Truth Aquatic's boats. The Vision and Conception were sold out but I was told the Truth which can accommodate 30 had only 10 divers signed and was leaving in less than two days. I couldn't believe my good fortune! I hastily gathered my dive gear, serviced the camera and hopped in the car for the seven hour drive to Santa Barbara.
We departed shortly after midnight and arrived at San Miquel Island in time for breakfast. Over our three days out we also dove Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands, darting back and forth between them as the Captain alternately hid from the high winds that had come up and selected promising dive sites. An added bonus - all the divers on this trip were very experienced and well organized. I knew none of them but determined half were hunters and the others were technical divers with a ton of gear in tow. They had everything from rebreathers to redundant buoyancy compensators!
One of the more interesting dives of the trip for me was a place called Cuervo Valdez at Santa Cruz Island. The Island's shoreline is a sheer cliff rising 100 above the ocean and 30 below the water's surface to the ocean floor. Visible from the boat were two arches leading into the side of the island, one large and the other much smaller. The Captain explained they led deep into the underwater cliff and joined together in a subterranean cavern. He also mentioned the cave was a favorite hangout for Horn Sharks. I was intrigued, though no one else on the boat seemed terribly interested. The hunters were after halibut and planned to dive the sandy areas in deeper water.
|I found my way to the larger mouth of the cave with no problem and encountered the first Horn Shark barely 20 feet into the cave. He was nestled in a narrow crevice and just resting on the cave floor watching my progress as I explored. Deeper into the cave I found dozens of sharks, some hidden under rocks and others laying in the open. Horn Sharks are very docile animals and remind me of a sleepy puppy dog. They were extremely tolerant of my photographic activity.|
The following day our Captain had another treat for us. He told us of a site he called Sea Bass Reef off Anacapa Island. Here, he claimed there were very rare Black Sea Bass weighing in at 250 - 300 lbs! I was sure this was just a fish story but descended the anchor line to investigate.
|After 20 minutes of hanging around a very sandy, uninteresting shelf reef looking for the elusive giants, I began to entertain myself by watching the masses of brightly colored brittle stars that covered the ocean floor.|
Finally, my computer indicated it was time to ascend. Halfway back up the anchor I glanced down and sure enough, saw two of these monsters glide under a reef overhang. I quickly dropped back down to 70 feet and got in their face. These fish were huge and they moved like it. Not intimidated in the least by me, they showed displeasure for my presence by swimming directly at me making photography difficult.
|Short on bottom time and film, I made the best of the situation and left, knowing the images in my mind were superior to those on my film.|
The Channel Islands offers very diverse diving. Too often I've heard divers claim when they want to see colorful fish, they have to go to the Caribbean. Well, they must be diving with their eyes closed because, these fish were all found on one dive at Little Scorpions, Santa Cruz.
© 1997 John Petrak