Getting Riggy on Eureka
Diving the Eureka Oil Rig
Diving the Eureka oil rig off Huntington Beach, CA, is always a good time. The deep-water open ocean environment is rife with opportunities to see interesting pelagic species, and even on days when the sea monsters seem to be hiding, there's just something about an oversized underwater jungle gym that brings out the kid in me.
On the way back from a Catalina Island trip, we decide to stop at Eureka for a third dive. The dense fog that has plagued us all day shows no sign of letting up, but completely flat seas are an acceptable consolation. The water is clear but dark, an inky blue-black in the absence of ambient sunlight.
Dropping down below 100 feet, I discover it is nighttime. Finding myself sleepy with the fatigue of two prior dives and now with the darkness, I pause. The scene is eerie and impressive, with the pylons and crossbeams supporting the rig in silhouette against a faint blue-green glow.
Finding little inspiration in the darkness, I opt to ascend back to the shallows to make use of what little sunlight penetrates beneath the waterline.
Now, what I find in the shallow water are fish. Lots and lots of fish. Multiple schools circling the beams--and each other--in some unspoken choreography, dancing to the beat of the rig. The silence of my rebreather allows me to hear every hydraulic hiss, every crash as steel collides with steel, the sounds of industry happening above the surface. I catch myself wondering whether the fish are anchovy or sardine, realizing that I have been contemplating the question for several minutes, lazily resolving the taxonomical conundrum with the label: baitfish.
I glance up in the hopes that one of the sea lions lounging on the rig will dive down to meet me. No such luck; except for the fish, the rigs are asleep today. The flat waterline gently refracts my view of the platform, bending yellow steel pipe into soft ripples. The top twenty or so feet of the support pylons have been stripped recently, scraped clean of their usual anemone and scallop quilt. I miss the color. The contrast against the yellow would have been striking.
It's cold, it's dark: it's time to be done for the day. For a moment, the sun comes out, and we break through the glass for a leisurely swim back to the boat. We have no doubts we'll return to the rigs soon. It's always a good time. Even on the sleepy days.