By Colleen Wisniewski, Reef Check California's Southern California Manager
Saturday, October 20th, 2012 marked our fifth fall survey cruise to the beautiful coast of Malibu, California. Nicknamed "Mega Malibu", this is a unique trip where we fill the boat with dedicated and hearty Reef Check California divers, head up the coast to the farthest site and do survey dive after survey dive as we work our way back to the harbor. Our goal this year was to start at Leo Carrillo, move on to Lechuza, proceed to Paradise Point/Little Dume and then end the day at our fourth and final site, Big Rock. Typically we just do the first three sites but this year we were trying to take advantage of our huge team so we could complete this additional survey.
Mega Malibu always draws a crowd, despite the fact that it's a very long day and the diving conditions typically aren't stellar. Usually we have some fairly surgy conditions along this stretch of coastline and I've rarely encountered amazing visibility at any of the locations. Despite all this, the sites are beautiful and each is very different from the next. This year we had a team of 16 divers on the boat, many of them having joined us on previous Mega Malibu expeditions, including Michelle Hoalton, who had this to say after all was said and done:
"We call our Malibu survey “Mega Malibu” for a reason as Mega Malibu = Mega Fun! There is such a wonderful diversity of marine life and underwater structure to explore that I always make attending this survey a priority. I have been fortunate to participate in this survey with Reef Check four out of the last five years. This is not a destination that is easily accessible for diving without a special boat charter. It’s an exceptional treat for us divers and it has been a pleasure to monitor these sites for the last several years."
This year we ran the trip a little differently than in the past - we boarded the Magician Dive Boat in San Pedro harbor the night before. We departed just after midnight and traveled through the night, awaking at our first site just as the day broke under very cloudy skies. Unfortunately, our lofty goal of surveying four Malibu sites was thwarted due to very poor underwater visibility at our first destination. We ended up aborting the dive at Leo Carrillo, but lucky for us, conditions improved as the day moved on, with better conditions at Lechuza and then the best conditions of the day at Paradise Point/Little Dume, my favorite of all the four sites. After I was done with my data collection at that site, I looked around and observed a plethora of kelp, fish and invertebrates, including sea stars, sea cucumbers, giant keyhole limpets, urchins, lobsters and even several abalone nestled in the shelf-like cracks along the bottom. And I believe everyone (except me!) spotted either a horn shark or a swell shark here. It's easy to get engrossed in following the cracks along the bottom, searching for all the critters at this site and then suddenly realize that you are farther from the boat than you thought - it happens to me every time at this site! Our last dive was at Big Rock, which was formerly a shore dive for our team, but after years of stumbling over large rocks in the surf zone, I think it will now officially be a boat dive. I look forward to exploring this interesting site more when the visibility is a bit better, but wow, what amazing rock formations underwater!
Our team has just recently completed all of our 2012 surveys and it was a very productive year for us in the field. While we are taking a brief break from our transects and slates, I think back fondly at all the smiling and enthusiastic divers who joined us for the challenging, but mega fun, Mega Malibu 2012. It's a huge effort and we couldn't possibly do it without all of them!
More photos of our divers working diligently on this trip can be found here: http://gallery.reefcheck.org/index.php/RCCA/Teams-in-Action/Mega-Malibu-October-20-2012