Dive Dry with Dr. Bill

#627: We "Trashed" Our Dive

As many of you in Avalon and divers from the "big island" (aka, mainland) know, last Saturday was the 34th annual Avalon Harbor Underwater Cleanup (AHUC). Divers from southern California and more distant areas pay for the privilege of diving in Avalon Bay to clean up trash scattered by our many visitors. I must admit, I've often wondered why boaters that frequent our beautiful bay don't take a more active part in this event since much of the trash comes from the boating community. However, due to the storm of December 30th and the loss of several boats in it, there was much "unintentional" trash to pick up and divers rose to the challenge. Thank you to all the divers and volunteers who participated in this year's event!

If I dive during the event, it is usually to take underwater video of it to give to the Conservancy and the event organizers as well as to use in my yearly "Dive Dry" column about the cleanup. In other years I take topside video of the event to compliment the underwater footage. This year I planned to film diving solo as I usually do if I submerge for the event (and about 95% of my other diving). However, a new dive friend (Sarah Punzal) wanted to come over and dive it so I offered to have her stay at my place and I'd dive with her. And for you cynics out there... Dr. Bill is always a gentleman to his lady-go-diver guests. Yes, I know. Some day I'll have to do something to change that. Just kidding... I think.

Friday traffic in "Lost Angeles" caused Sarah to miss her afternoon boat, so she didn't arrive until the late boat at about 8:30. By the time we got her up to the house and settled in my guest room, we only had time for a late dinner before falling asleep to rest for the big event. We were up early Saturday morning and went down to get Sarah's rental gear from SCUBA Luv along with coffee and a sweet from C. C. Gallaghers to fuel us up for the dive. Sarah had mostly dived in warm water (she's originally from the Philippines, one of my favorite Asian destinations to dive) but had spent a day on board the King Neptune before its sad demise in the December storm. Once she struggled into the 7mm wetsuit, got her gear on and entered the water, she did fine.

The first thing we saw was a thornback ray (Platyrhinoidis triseriata). I rarely see those except occasionally on my night dives or in the evening up at Howlands' Landing when I visit Jean-Michel during Cousteau Family Camp. The second thing was a Navanax inermis that Sarah spotted. After the dive she asked if it was a nudibranch since she loves those colorful shell-less snails, but I told her it was a vicious predator that ate nudibranchs... swallowing them whole. I don't think she liked that! The next thing Sarah saw was a plate with the CF numbers for a boat, probably one of the dinghies that went down in the storm. When Sarah picked it up, it had three chestnut cowries (Neobernaya spadicea, although I learned it years ago as Cypraea spadicea). Sarah wanted to put the plate back because it had the cowries on it, but I assured her they would be okay since there was a rock they could hide under.

After that, our dive turned almost completely "trashy." Sarah found a large cloth something or other. She twirled it up into a ball and stuffed it in her "goodie bag" with the CF plate. A bit later we found a rubber mat from a boat. Sarah rolled that up and tried stuffing it into her bag, but it was too big so she carried it with her bag like a trooper. Since my "porpoise" for being down under that day I was filming and I needed my hands free, I didn't plan on picking up trash. However I spotted a strange plastic tank with three hoses sticking out of it. Based on the hoses, I was pretty sure it wasn't a fuel tank. It seemed a bit small for a freshwater tank. It wasn't until I brought it up that someone suggested it was probably a boat's holding tank. You know, the one where the sewage ends up before reaching the pump-out station! Well, I continued dragging the tank with one hand and trying to film with the other but the strange configuration put me out of synch with respect to the RECORD/OFF switch for part of the dive.

After I did the dive, I processed the video footage and extracted stills to post in my monthly Facebook albums of underwater sightings. Anyone with a Facebook account is welcome to take a look. You don't even have to be my friend (although I discourage fiends from taking a peek!). After seeing the images, one diver asked if I felt strange diving in the area Tim Mitchell and Bruce Ryder died during the big storm. Much as I wanted to film the substantial wreckage still there near Antonio's and the Blue Water Grille, I intentionally stayed away from that area. In fact closer to the pier, the ocean floor was remarkably clear of trash.

The following day Sarah and I dove Casino Point. Despite the great clean-up there organized by Eric Mahan of Catalina Divers Supply, there is still trash to be had in the park. In fact, we could easily organize another day (and maybe even a week) of clean-up dives there and in Avalon Bay to get rid of more of the trash. Not sure if Sarah wants to come back and dive until the water warms up a bit, but she did talk about us diving the Cayman Islands and the Philippines. Of course that will have to be after my upcoming trip to Palau in March and then the Red Sea in August!

After the awards ceremony and prize raffle, organizer Jill Boivin (kudos to you and the other organizers and volunteers, Jill) asked the crowd how many had been to all 34 harbor clean-ups. Local diver and Women Divers Hall of Fame member Lorraine Sadler raised her hand as did a very few others. Then Jill asked me "Dr. Bill, haven't you been to all of them?" Well, I hadn't because back when I lived and dived at Toyon in the 1970s I never was even aware of the event (no Internet back then) and in the early 1980s I was back in Chicago doing some consulting work for two years. I tried to come up with a funny answer, but all I could think of at the moment was "I can't remember" to which Jill replied "Senior moment, eh?" It wasn't until later that I came up with a good response: "Jill, I'm just not THAT old!" Well, chronologically maybe, but not mentally.

© 2015 Dr. Bill Bushing. Watch the "Dive Dry with Dr. Bill" underwater videos on Catalina Cable TV channel 29, 10:00 AM weekdays and on Charter Communications Cable channel 33 at 7:30 PM on Tuesdays in the Riverside/Norco area. You can also watch these episodes in iPod format on YouTube through my channel there (drbillbushing). Please help me climb out of self-imposed poverty... buy my DVD's (see this link). Yes, take Dr. Bill home with you... we'll both be glad you did!

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Other divers picking up trash during the harbor cleanup; Sarah collecting the rubber boat mat
and the two of us after we surfaced from the dive (image courtesy of Wade McDonald)

This document maintained by Dr. Bill Bushing.
Material and images © 2014 Star Thrower Educational Multimedia