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Dive Dry with Dr. Bill

#726: Not SAFE for My Money!

There is one small structure located near the breakwater end of Little Casino Reef in our dive park that very few divers seem aware of. My earliest images of it date back to August, 2003, so that may be the year it was introduced to our waters. If I remember correctly the Avalon Harbor Department brought it out to the deeper water inside the park and... splash.

Despite being made of steel this wasn't a new wreck nor an underwater sculpture like Doug Aitken's pavilions. It was a man-made object but I have no idea where it originated. My initial thought was from a local business or maybe even our bank. However, this was no "safe" place to consider keeping my paltry earnings as a starving marine biologist!

I'm referring to the heavy safe that I frequently stop at on my way to or from the Suejac. When I first located it shortly after it was introduced to our waters, the Harbor Dept. was a bit surprised that it had drifted nearly all the way to the breakwater instead of plunging down in the briny deep. Of course the fact that they had wisely locked the door closed for safety also meant that enough air was trapped inside for it to sink more slowly.

I've watched and filmed the safe now for over 13 years. I have observed it rust and get eaten away by the corrosive salt water surrounding it. I have watched fish use it as a scratching post, algae attach to it and various invertebrates colonize the outer surface and fish live under its protection. It is one of the "safe" places that our cardinalfish have utilized during daylight hours before heading out at night to feed.

If you want to locate it, enter the water from the stairs and head toward the harbor end. You'll pass the finger ridge just past the Cousteau plaque, then a second finger ridge and finally you'll reach Little Casino Reef. You can tell you're there by the steep dropoff to about 55 feet on the seaward end. The safe is in much shallower water on the side of the reef by where it meets the Casino breakwater. Hope I don't have to draw you a map!

Of course dumping a safe or any other man-made object would be illegal today due to the dive park's status as a marine protected area (MPA). It wasn't back then though. Divers who frequent the dive park know we have already accumulated a bit of trash. There are boat engines, outboards, tires, fuel tanks and other debris from years past.

Since it is now an MPA and fishing is not allowed, there are a few "species" I don't see as much as I used to... the Miller Lites, Heinekens and Coronas that sometimes littered the bottom near the breakwater where nocturnal fishermen sat. Although they were incapable of reproduction, I often found new ones a day or two after removing the old ones.

© 2017 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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One of my first photos of the safe in August, 2003, and its condition in 2006; more recent images in this decade.

This document maintained by Dr. Bill Bushing.
Material and images © 2017 Star Thrower Educational Multimedia