Operation: Black Sea Nettle is a success!
One of my (many) favorite things about scuba diving in San Diego is the constant turnover of animal populations. I've lived and dove here for less than a year, and already I've been witness to the market squid run and the bat ray invasion. I was there when the juvenile rockfish moved in at La Jolla Shores, and I've seen many of the various local nudibranch species come and go. Just yesterday, I caught myself missing the baby horn sharks that were out and about all winter (though it was cool when they grew up, and I finally understood why they are called horn sharks!). It's still unclear to me which of these population shifts are predictable and seasonal, and which are truly rare and special--they're still all special to me.
With this in mind, I have to admit that I approached the recent Black Sea Nettle bloom with no small degree of trepidation. Giant stinging jellyfish arriving in droves in our local waters? No thanks. I sat back and dove vicariously from the safety of my living room, surfing others' photos with ever-increasing envy. It wasn't until I realized a. how rare these blooms are (only a handful of sea nettle blooms have been documented in Southern California) and b. that the bloom was nearly over, that I realized I didn't want to miss it. I got on one of Marissa Charters' kelp diving trips just this past Sunday for Operation: Black Sea Nettle.
The Black Sea Nettle bloom is old news by now, and boat crew and passengers alike humored my ambition to get a BSN photo of my very own and chuckled at my enthusiasm. Fortunately, I hadn't waited too long, and the operation was a success. I went down the anchor chain into some gross, mucky visibility, and resisted the urge to switch to my macro lens. That's when I saw it--a BSN drifting right at me! (I might have squealed. Fortunately, there were no witnesses.)
Yeah, he looked like someone had been snacking on his head (there were a few notable holes), and yeah, his tentacles weren't in such great shape, but he was right by the anchor, and he was all mine! I spent a good half-hour slapping away salps and chasing this little guy (who was alive, but definitely on his last... legs) around. Feeling pretty victorious, I let him go about his business and started to ascend near the anchor chain.
I was up in the kelp canopy when I saw another, much healthier one! This jellyfish was bigger and had all its parts intact. Awesome! After firing off about a trillion frames, I just hovered there and watched it for a while. Really neat, really beautiful. I'm so happy I got to see them.
You can bet I'll be first in the water the next time these crazy animals come back to town!