Hammerhead Shark Sightings in San Diego

On August 18th we welcomed two amazing underwater photographers, Andrew Sallmon & Allison Sallmon with the hopes of sharking out very very far into the Pacific. When the ocean threw some solid swell at us, we decided it was best to re-think our plan and stay a more standard distance offshore - and what an amazing decision that was.

Between two sets of Mola-molas under patties, chumming up and swimming with a Smooth Hammerhead shark for HOURS (perhaps a San Diego first in recent years?), witnessing a juvenile white shark from the surface (Nick and I got in to no avail), and enjoying over a handful of blue whales on the ride back including a mother and calf, it doesn’t really get more amazing.

The 7-8 foot female hung around for 3 hours alternating between making passes and circling the boat. Everyone in the water was very comfortable with her, and she had such a calm disposition. Their heads are so much larger than I expected!

Three days later, we spotted another hammerhead only 2 miles off shore, and yet another one while chumming for blue and mako sharks later that day.

Ranging from 3-20 feet long, hammerheads are normally seen in warm waters and are one of the few sharks that school during the daytime and become solitary hunters at night. This one that we had the pleasure of getting in the water with was also alone, and several studies have suggested that sightings in Southern California are associated with warm-water events. I guess one of the upsides of this warm water driving away blue and mako sharks is that we get hammerheads!

Hammerhead shark spotted san diego

Hammerhead shark diving san diego

Nick diving down on the beautiful hammerhead shark

Swimming with hammerhead sharks

2014 Monterey Underwater Shootout

It’s not often SD Expeditions gets to dive outside of San Diego, so this past weekend was a refreshing change of scenery. Kyle McBurnie and Alice loaded the car full of dive gear and strapped the kayak onto the car to head up to Monterey Bay for the 2014 Monterey Underwater Shootout hosted by Backscatter and NCUPS.

After checking in at 11AM at the Backscatter Underwater Video & Photo Store on Cannery Row, we headed south to Point Lobos State Marine Reserve. This is a very unique park since they limit divers to only 30 a day, and you must dive with a buddy and bring your certification card. We geared up and loaded the kayaks at Whalers Cove and paddled out and around to Bluefish Cove. We battled some decent swell and saw tons of fried egg jellies.

We did a 50 minute dive and decided to cut it short because of how cold we were. We didn’t realize how warm San Diego waters have been lately: La Jolla has been seeing 64-70 degree water, and Monterey was a solid 54-62 degrees. The local divers were saying we they had beautiful dive conditions and warm water all week, until the swell came in the night before the competition. At every dive site we were treated with overcast skies and dark, green water characteristic of Northern California diving.

We certainly felt some very strong surge on our first dive. The particles in the dark water also presented a challenge to underwater photography. Kyle was still able to capture this image, which received an honorable mention in the wide angle traditional category.

Diving bluefish cove

A beautiful anemone on our first dive

Point Lobos scuba diving

Kyle warming up between dives at Point Lobos

On our paddle out for the second dive, we decided to stop and shoot with some of the jellies. Some of them had quite long and transparent tentacles that extended about 10 feet behind them! A lot of them also looked dead and battered, but Kyle’s photo won 3rd place in the wide angle, unrestricted category.

Fried egg jelly at Point Lobos SMR

Alice looking up at a fried egg jelly

Lingcod at bluefish cove

A beautiful blue lingcod on our second dive in Bluefish cove

The next day we dove the metridium fields for our first time. Many of the metridiums were puckered up and feeding, but when they were fanned open they were absolutely beautiful. It was quite eerie coming up on this rock outcropping in the middle of the sand. This photo received an honorable mention in the wide angle traditional category.

Metridium fields in Monterey, CA

Looking up from the metridium fields

Metridium fields in Monterey, CA

These large white metridiums contrasted nicely with the dark and green water

This photo took first place in the wide angle unrestricted category! Beautiful work, Kyle. We were able to capture this shot before it closed up.

Metridium photo for the Monterey shootout

Kyle’s 1st place photo with a beautifully lit metridium

Our last dive was at the breakwater. We kicked all the way around it to the otters, sea lions, and cormorants. This was our first time seeing lots cormorants feeding in between the rocks 30 feet down and swimming around like fish. This one surprised us and made a great silhouette in the photo.

Underwater cormorant at the breakwater in Monterey

Our dive at the breakwater was full of life, including this surprise cormorant!

Have you ever dove in Monterey? Conditions can be quite challenging, so props to the local divers there! We love how the dive community is so passionate and tightly knit, and the diving is just so impressive, even though the water can be cold.
Of course the day after the competition ended, divers were reporting 50 feet of visibility at the metridium fields! Would have been amazing to see the fields in great dive conditions, but guess we will have to wait until next year.