Diving the Oil Rigs

Oil rigs off long beach are one of my favorite places to dive in southern california and i never pass an opportunity to dive them. When Dana along with Anastasia were planning a private charter i immediately booked my spot. Last time i dove the rigs it was in december, the boat still had my nitrox fill logs 🙂

Saturday was spent doing Mt Islip hike and i was little tired so the brief nap i took in afternoon threw me off and i was able to sleep only at around 11.30. woke up at 5 am got ready and i was there on the boat by 6.30.

Sea Bass is the only boat that i have been on while diving the oil rigs and i love it. Capt Richard is pretty easy going and Earl the DM is fun to have around. It has nitrox on board and its fast, takes about 45 mins to get to rigs.

It was going to be a full boat with 12 people and most of us were photographers so there were quite a few cameras on board. As soon as we got going it was time to suit up since its only a short ride to the rigs.

I was excited to try out the new dry gloves i had bought, i was perfectly happy with my wet gloves but the problem is that as i would make a fist water would trickle into my dry suit.

We were going to dive Eureka, it is the farthest out of the 3 oil rigs. Before i knew it, it was time to into the water. Getting in water to dive the rigs is different than the other dives.

Since anchoring is not allowed on the rigs, its a live drop. It means that everyone has to be suited up to jump into water and sit on bench, the camera has to be on your lap at this time. The captain pulls the boat closer to the rigs and when its time you have to jump into water as soon as possible. Sea Bass is perfectly suited for this and i don’t know how other boats do it but i have no intention of finding out.

Dive 1: Eureka

In hurry to get ready i mistakenly put my dive computer on my left hand instead of right, it was little annoying during the dive but nothing i couldn’t handle. Since the platform is not that high and to make things quicker i decided to jump in with my camera instead of asking Earl to hand it to me.

I was going to buddy up with Kevin while Dana was going to buddy up with Ric, we were going to upto 100-110 ft and then if Ric would get low on air Dana would then hang with us for the rest of dive.

As we started descending i was amazed at the viz, at 80 ft i could see all the way to the top. The structures of the rig were visible in their full glory, it was mind blowing. One thing i realized that for some reason i was under weighted, it took me quite a bit of effort to descend which was really weird since except for the dry gloves nothing had really changed in my setup.

We got down to about 110 ft and i was glad that i was shooting wide angle, the conditions were perfect for it. I was trying taking pictures but wasn’t really finding any interesting subjects and at this time a pyrosome was floating by.

Pyrosome.

Last time during the blue water dive i was bummed about using macro lens instead of wide angle so i was glad that i could compensate for it. I wanted to hit the next level of cross beams on the rigs but they were in about 120-125 ft of water so with a 31% mix i wasn’t going to risk it. Instead i decided that i would spend more time on the upper section of the cross beams.

After a while as i was trigger happy on my camera, it was time to ascend so i hit the next level of the beams, i was expecting to find ling cod or a cabezon resting there which would make for nice picture but it wasn’t the case. The sheepheads were a curious lot, there was this huge black male who kept on following me with his mouth open. i thought he would want to bite me somewhere but luckily he kept his distance.

School of Sheepheads

The structures were scrapped so there were mainly only scallops on the structures above 50 ft instead of the usual medley of anemones, brittle stars, star fish etc. I tried to take the pictures of the structure of the rigs but i made mistake of keeping my strobes on and not using the natural light, this mistake was rectified on the next dive.

Doing level stops cleared any stop requirement for me so while i was trying to hang at 20 ft the swell made it tricky for me to stay there and i slowly popped up to the surface.

I signalled to Kevin i was ok and Dana had joined him so while they were still continuing the dive i decided to head back to the boat.

Dive 2: Eureka

Since the conditions were so good out here we decided to dive the same rigs again and after indulging in fresh strawberries and some trail mix it was time to hit the water. Since i was little underweight and had difficulty with my buoyancy i decided to add extra 4 pounds, i would wanted to add just 2 but couldn’t find 1 lb weights so decided to add 2 lbs to each pocket.

As i got into water i realized that my right glove was leaking, i tried to adjust the rings but for some reason it just kept on leaking, earlier the ring had come off so maybe that was the reason it was leaking or the under liner glove got caught into the rings i wasn’t sure. The conditions on the rig were too good to abort the dive and go back to the boat to adjust it properly. i said whatever, took off the dry glove, adjusted the seal properly and decided to dive without a glove.

The water wasn’t that cold so i was just fine without the glove and it also mean’t i could handle the camera controls lot easier but i knoew my right arm was going to get soaked since water would leak in from the seal. i didn’t care at this point 🙂

The viz had stayed the same and this time we descended and tried to explore a different area of the rig. Found couple of big metridiums at around 110 ft and some structure which was totally covered with anemones and all the life.

Metridium.

I stayed down taking pictures and before i knew it i was getting close to my deco limits, i indicated to Dana that i was going to level stops and ascend slowly. But i stayed at around 50 ft for a tad longer and was 1 min away from hitting my deco limit.

I ascended higher and spend most of the time taking pictures of the rigs in natural light, me and dana swam to one end of the rig where there was a lone sea lion. But he wasn’t in mood to play so didn’t really get any change to take its pic.

Rigs Structure in clear viz.

Got back to the boat and had lunch, for the final dive we decided to head towards the twin rigs of Eily and Ellen.

Dive 3: Eily/Ellen

The inner lining and the dry glove were completely soaked from the previous dive since i stored them in my dry suit pocket but still i decided to use my dry glove without the inner glove to test it out again, the worse that could happen is that it would leak again and i will have to dive without it.

Got into water and as we started to descend the viz out here was almost the same 80+ ft but there was a pretty decent amount of current going. We had to fight it all the time.

But unfortunately for me it just wasn’t the current that i was fighting, my mask was starting to leak and i had to clear it every minute. I came across a cabezon on the rigs and spent good couple of minutes trying to take its picture.

Cabezon.

Another cabezon got really curious of my camera and came right up to my focus light and wanted to eat it or land on it, i wasn’t sure. But immediately as it touched the light it wasn’t interested in it anymore and just swam away.

I was constantly fighting the current and at the same time clearing my mask every couple of minutes while trying to find subjects to take pictures of, it was really starting to get annoying but i hung in there.

Kevin tried helping me with my mask and adjusting the straps but it didn’t make significance difference. He also had trouble with his backup light and it was almost hanging by a thread. I was happy that even with my mask troubles i was able to assist my buddy.

We were at about 40 ft and Kevin pointed out a mola at one end of the rig, it was about 20 ft away from us and i tried to swim towards it but the current made it really difficult and that mola didn’t linger for long either. It swam away into the depths pretty quick.

I was really happy since it was the first time that i saw a mola while diving, i have seen them from the surface but never while diving. I wanted to end the dive and surface since i had completed my safety stop obligations but Kevin still needed couple of minutes so i stayed with him till his computer cleared him off.

We ascended to the surface and immediately were drifting out in the open ocean waiting for the boat to pick us up. On this dive my dry glove didn’t leak and it worked fine so i am guessing it was the liner glove getting caught up which caused the leak.

It was now time to head back to the dock. I had a really wonderful time, have heard about the viz on the rigs being upto 100 ft but for the first time ie experienced it. There were times where it was hard for me to believe that i was diving in california.

if you are interested in taking look at more of my dive pics they can be found here.

3 comments for “Diving the Oil Rigs

  1. Jamie
    August 31, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Great post, awesome pictures. Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Irem
    August 31, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Way to go! Your adventures are so motivating!

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