West coast

Kelp Forests Flourished Off US Pacific Coast as Early as 32 Million Years Ago

Ground-breaking research has revealed that Pacific kelp forests are much older than previously thought, reshaping our knowledge of marine ecosystems.

Originally thought to be a relatively recent occurrence in ocean history, kelp forests are now considered ancient entities, with origins dating back millions of years. This revelation comes from the analysis of fossil records and advances in dating techniques, allowing scientists to peer back through time.

The largest sea star in the world, the sunflower sea star is a predatory sea star usually with 16 to 24 limbs called rays.
The largest sea star in the world, the sunflower sea star is a predatory sea star usually with 16 to 24 limbs called rays.

Sea stars can help to restore kelp forests

The sunflower sea star was once a common sight along North America's Pacific coast. Although it is now an endangered species, scientists are hailing it as a potential saviour of the region's threatened kelp forests.

Recent research reveals its crucial role in controlling the population of kelp-eating urchins, thus offering a glimmer of hope for these vital marine ecosystems.

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.

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 (Doryteuthis opalescens) swim into recreational dive depths to mate and lay an expansive canvas of egg baskets (collections of eggs) across the sandy substrate.

Sick Starfish Syndrome, Laura James, The Seattle Times, Rosemary E Lunn, X-Ray Mag
A dying Pisaster ochraceus sea star in the waters off West seattle dangles by its tentacle

Sick Starfish Linked To Warming Ocean

In June X-Ray Mag correspondent Scott Bennett reported on a "Mysterious Disease Decimating Oregon Sea Star Populations". He wrote "a mysterious disease affecting sea stars has erupted along the Oregon coast. Sea star wasting syndrome causes the creature’s body to disintegrate, ultimately leading to death. Up to half or more of the creatures along the coast have been infected in just a matter of weeks.

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.