West

California's Channel Islands: Kelp Diving on the US West Coast

A bright orange Garibaldi fish and crimson-colored California sheephead with red gorgonian at Santa Barbara Island. Photo by Frankie Grant

Due to their unique position relative to the eastern Pacific current, or the California Current, the Channel Islands off California’s coast receive an ideal amount of nutrients and water circulation for optimum growth of California giant kelp. This colonial algae forms forests over the rocky reefs and walls surrounding the islands, and act as one of the world’s most productive marine ecosystems.

Salmon Sharks of Alaska

Salmon sharks lack a nictitating membrane, so their eyes can be seen following a subject, Port Fidalgo, Alaska, USA. Photo by Jennifer Idol.
Salmon sharks lack a nictitating membrane, so their eyes can be seen following a subject, Port Fidalgo, Alaska, USA. Photo by Jennifer Idol.

Sharks elicit strong emotions, be it the thrill of a planned encounter underwater or fear propelled by social media and lack of information. Of the more than 400 species of sharks, it is the small family of mackerel sharks that is most iconic. These sharks prompted me to share why one of them, the salmon shark, is an especially remarkable species.

Northern California: A Dive Off the American Wild West Coast

Metridium anemone and corynactis grow on a rock while blue rockfish swim overhead, Northern California, USA. Photo by Brent Durand.

Warm rinse water sloshed in the jug as my car hugged a sharp turn on California’s Pacific Coast Highway. I looked left at the mighty Pacific Ocean, the cliffs tumbling to the sea dotted by rugged pinnacles, stretching farther up the coast than the jam band solo currently playing out of the car speakers. Deep blue, favorable conditions all week, minimal swell, no-wind forecast—only unpredictable visibility could affect the diving today.

San Diego: Gateway to Wreck Alley and Islas Coronados

Larry Cohen on the wreck of the Ruby E, San Diego, California, USA. Photo by Olga Torrey.

San Diego’s Wreck Alley is an area with intentionally sunken ships. One of the wrecks divers can find here is the HMCS Yukon, which was a Mackenzie-class destroyer that served in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and later the Canadian Forces. She was named after the Yukon River that runs from British Columbia through the Yukon and into Alaska.

Southern California's Market Squid Run

Most years, Southern California on the US west coast is the site of a special marine life aggregation, treating locals to one of the most unique dives in the world. Hundreds of thousands of market squid (<i>Doryteuthis opalescens</i>) swim into recreational dive depths to mate and lay an expansive canvas of egg baskets (collections of eggs) across the sandy substrate.

Yellowstone

A volcano larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, Yellowstone National Park is a geothermal hot spot that attracts more than four million visitors a year. Wildlife roam the landscape freely in this caldera defined by ongoing thermal activity. In this unique landscape, opportunities for exploration above and below the water line abound.

Washington State's Hood Canal

Over ten years have past since my last dive in Hood Canal. I’m not sure why, probably because I’ve been so focused on exploring the pristine waters of British Columbia that the extra effort of driving so far south has always deterred me. But when Adventures Down Under, a dive shop in Bellingham, invited me to join their group for a Hood Canal dive charter, I was too curious to say anything but yes.

San Juan Islands

very now and then I get an assignment close to home, which means my dive buddy and I can usually load up the car with dive and photography gear, and maybe a kayak or two, and head out for a full weekend of adventurous exploring. If the location is exceptional, like an assignment to dive in Washington State’s San Juan Islands, we often allocate several days to experience all that’s available.