Diving in the Kelp Beds and Dinner with Howard and Michele Hall

Diving in the kelp bed. Photo courtesy of Mark Conlin Photography Dinner with Howard and Michele Hall!!!

We just got back from eating dinner with Howard and Michele Hall!!!! They are incredibly knowledgeable people and so nice to talk to. I was so shy in front of them at first it was embarrassing. It is pretty funny when they start talking about the importance of interpersonal communication to you, when you are at a total loss of words in front of them. We heard all sorts of crazy stories from their filming excursions throughout the world; the night was full of laughter and great advice. It was interesting to find out that all the work they do, according to Howard, is done scuba diving with the cameras, not in submersibles. They use regular, high-definition, IMAX, and IMAX 3-D cameras. IMAX cameras are huge and can weigh up to 500 lbs while 3-D cameras are 1500 lbs and need two men to operate them!

We were invited to watch a few movie clips at their house that they put together using high-def and G4 cameras with an interchangeable faceplate. Versatility, they said, is key. Many people today are using this cheaper, but most compatible technology. It is easy to invest $70,000 in a system that can become obsolete in a year, so it is crucial to make sure your equipment is versatile. They also had stacks and stacks of hard drives for storage of their media; we saw two beautiful clips of their film. Before this exciting night, however, we actually spent the day diving off of Steve’s beautiful new dive yacht Destiny.

Today’s dives were really cool, we went diving in the Pacific kelp beds. We went to Point Loma with Hiro, Sergio (president of UWATEC), Mark Conlin, Dave and Pat, and Captains Julie and Doug. The visibility is about the same as it is on the East coast, except the wildlife is a lot bigger and the water is a little bit warmer in Southern California. Our first dive was to about 80-90 feet on Nitrox. It was my first nitrox dive ever so I was checking my computer every two seconds! I kept showing my computer to Mark because it was telling me I had low airtime minutes left but according to him it was conservative and he told me not to worry, they were laughing at me when we got to the surface.

The kelp environment was darker than I had expected because the kelp blocked most of the light from the surface. We saw dark spiny urchins, many schools of fish in the shallows, and little coral and anemone carpets. I held a large, strong white crab, and we saw lots of my favorite type of gastropod–nudibranchs!! They were big yellowish white critters with yellow dots and were about two and a half inches long. I even spotted my own nudibranch hidden in the coral; it was reddish with a frilly back, just like in the pictures! The dive was good but being my first time in kelp beds, on nitrox and having been at 90 feet I was not as relaxed as I could have been and got tired at the end of the dive and couldn’t wait to jump onto the boat. Before getting out, Mark took a few pictures for internship publicity.

The second dive was a photo shoot with Mark. The last dive I felt over weighted so we dropped seven pounds off of the weight belt. I swam around about 15 feet below the surface in the kelp beds for some artistic shots. There was an immense amount of life in this zone. I saw many top-feeding surface fish, a few tiny bright orange ones, and then a couple of schools of a variety of bait fish, including smelt. About four or five pictures in, my weight belt dropped. Mark was very instructional on the surface, while all I could think about was how lucky I was that I was not 80 feet down when it dropped…that would not have ended so well. I was also lucky that Dave dove down to search for the weights and came up with them. The photo shoot ended about a roll later when the current started to pick up, and once we were all on the boat we watched a few seals dart under the hull.

On our way back we passed Naval docks and had a nice view of a Navy aircraft carrier and a submarine that were hidden behind floating pontoons, from the top deck of Steve’s boat.