We arrived at the foggy Ventura boatyard early in the morning to meet our fellow divers and guides Scott Clark and DJ MacAskill of the University California, Santa Barbara and set out by boat to oil and gas platform Gina, sitting just 4 miles offshore and in 95 feet of water.
We had two dives planned, each with a total time of about 40 minutes. It was a calm day on the water and we had at least 30-40 feet of visibility underwater- which made for some excellent footage and photographs.
The moment we took a giant stride off of the boat and into the grey water we were instantly face-to-face with a living, breathing structure. As we free fell 95 feet down the leg of the platform we were amazed by the vibrant pinks, greens, oranges and purples displayed by a variety of sponges, anemones and barnacles that called the rig home.
After three minutes we had reached the bottom, an alien environment with squirming, shifting and writhing marine life. Here sheep crabs reared their pincers into the air and brittle stars competed for space on the crowded bottom. A curious juvenile California sea lion joined us on the bottom- interested in the visitors with the 'lollipop' camera and bright lights, he posed and barked bubbles into the lenses of our cameras several times.
What truly impressed us was the complete circle of life taking place on this platform. Sea stars preyed on the mussels and scallops that clung to the rig, and discarded their shells which fell to the bottom to then be utilized as habitat for a variety of adult Rockfish species. Scott explained to us back on the boat that during the summer months was when the life at this platform truly came alive. Rockfish, he explained, schooled in the water column beneath the rig by the thousands to mate and spawn, capitalizing on the habitat created by the platform jacket that constituted the nurseries for juvenile fish. He recounted that one could roll over and gaze up at a surface now blacked out by thousands of breeding fish.
What we were able to take away from diving platform Gina was that these platforms are truly unique microcosms of life. They are not lifeless steel beams, drilled deep into the substrate. These platforms are alive with life!
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