Monday, March 21, 2011

Scuba Diving with Sea Lions in Monterey Bay

A nice write-up over the weekend.

It was 8 a.m. on a Sunday, and the parking lot was already filled with scuba divers adjusting regulators and strapping on weight belts. I walked through the crowd of neoprene and into Glenn's Aquarius II Dive Shop. While Monterey is dotted with scuba shops, Glenn's has the lockdown on location, just steps from San Carlos Beach.

Pharmacist-turned-dive master Glenn Bernasconi, his son and three good friends work at the shop and have been diving in Monterey Bay all their lives. They know a thing or two about seals and sea lions, and how to increase your chances of seeing one on a dive.

Morning is better, because that's when they are feeding. In the afternoon, they like to siesta in big snoring groups.

Sea lions and their smaller, spotted cousins, the Pacific harbor seals, are drawn to Monterey Bay by the nutrients brought to the surface by annual upwelling cycles from the deep underwater canyon. Scientists and divers consider the area a marine Grand Canyon, because it drops to depths of more than a mile and stretches 100 miles from shore.

The aqua buffet draws 27 species of whales and dolphins, six types of pinnipeds, including elephant seals, and the famous sea otters.

The best time to see seals in Monterey is late May and in the summer when the sea lions have returned from warmer breeding grounds in Southern California and Baja with their newborns.

By then, the sea lions are jostling for space with the full-time resident harbor seals on the protected pier near the U.S. Coast Guard station. The protected marine sanctuary is relatively isolated from predators, and humans are kept back by a locked fence.

They are generally curious and playful, but they will bark at you underwater if they feel threatened.

"If one barks, that's your signal to back up," Bernasconi said.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great story especially for those of us that don't dive. This was great writing that invited me into the action and I had a good sense of what a diver would experience in these waters with these animals. Enjoyed it immensely! Mona/mom