My first day diving at Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park was beautiful. The water in the landing cove had cleared up significantly from last week and was a few degrees warmer as well, which really made a difference. I participated in two Channel Islands “Live Dives” and a pre-dive to search for animals to be shown in the programs.
The Channel Islands National Park’s “Underwater Video Program” was established in 1985 and has been showing Live Dives to the dock at Anacapa Island for 25 years. In 1995, the program started being broadcast to the visitor center in Ventura. This summer it finally went live to the internet with the assistance of a partnership with the Ventura County Office of Education. Live Dives are interactive programs shown in real-time, where a dive team can expose the wonder and diversity of the kelp forest that few people see.
The Live Dives are part of a bigger program at the park- Channel Islands Live. Through live interactive hikes, dives, and webcams, Channel Islands Live can connect people to their resources at the Channel Islands National Park from the mainland or from a computer. As the Channel Islands are one of the less frequently visited national parks, the program is designed for people all over the world to see the isolated beauty located on the islands, even if they are not able to visit them. To learn more about Channel Islands Live visit: http://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/channel-islands-live-nps.htm.
The first diving program of the day was directed towards a group of fourth graders from Haycock Elementary School, who had come to the visitor’s center in Ventura to learn about the kelp forest ecosystem. Also, students from Hathaway Elementary, who were visiting the island for the day, watched the program from the dock at Anacapa. Naturalist, Andrea Mills, taught visitors about the kelp forest while underwater with the aid of a microphone-equipped full face mask and a waterproof ear piece which she use to hear questions from her audience. She was filmed by volunteer diver, Bill Kendig, as her program was broadcast to the visitor’s center auditorium on the mainland, to the dock at Anacapa Island, and on the internet. Andrea explained the interconnectivity of the animals and habitat in the kelp forest. She described the roles of consumers, producers, and scavengers in relation to several kelp forest animals such as urchins, sea stars, lobsters, kelp and fish that she saw there. During this dive, I played the role of the “Research Diver” using a quadrat located on a transect line to record the species I saw on a waterproof slate as the students in the visitor center did the same with their own slates.
The next dive was a live program for the general public broadcast to the park’s mainland auditorium and on the internet. During this dive, I tended the camera cable to make sure camera operator, Dave Stoltz, didn’t get tangled in the kelp. I also brought in a large sheep crab for Andrea to show on camera during the program. The crab managed to pinch me hard enough to break my skin through my glove, but it was worth it for the visitors in the auditorium to see that crab magnified on a 10 foot screen, looking like a giant sea monster. Monica Baker, volunteer naturalist on the island, and Ranger April Rabuck, in the visitor center, facilitated questions asked by the audience during the program.
While all of the other divers took the boat back to the mainland that evening, I stayed on the island because they were scheduled to come back out to dive the next day. However, their boat was canceled due to rough weather in the channel. Another school group from Haycock Elementary had come to the visitor center that day and was expecting a Live Dive. So, I ended up setting up the camera and microphone to give them a live introduction to the prerecorded Live Dive where I showed them the Landing Cove and answered a few questions. Luckily, I have already worked at this park for two years and was familiar with the island and the camera equipment! It was a first for me, and I also did another introduction for the general public program at 2:00.
Later that day, during an inspection of the stairwell, a maintenance worker noticed corrosion on part of the frame support on the only staircase leading up to the 200 foot cliffs on the island. Due to safety concerns, they closed the whole island until further inspection. I was disappointed that I would only get to dive one day out of the three days I had planned, but I was more concerned about how I would get home in time to continue with my internship. Stranded out on the island, I never really felt that alone because I was accompanied by over 10,000 western gulls that use the island as a nesting ground in the summer. They did their best to make sure there was never a silent moment.
The next day with the help of Ranger Dave Begun, I luckily managed to hop on a “Non- landing North Shore Wildlife Cruise” of Anacapa offered by boat concessionaire, Island Packers. Unfortunately, the Live Dives and Live Hikes on Anacapa Island have been cancelled temporarily but pre-recorded programs still can be watched online at http://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/archived-programs.htm.
Thank you to Dave Stoltz, Andrea Mills, Bill Kendig, Tim Jones, Dave Begun, Monica Baker, April Rabuck, and the Island Packers Vanguard crew.