It was my fourth week in Oregon and time to experience my first collection dive. We took Gracie Lynn offshore to North Pinnacle and anchored on the crest at a depth of about 40 ft. The warm and sunny weather we have been enjoying for the past week came with a caveat, plankton blooms made visibility in the upper 30 ft. of the water column very poor. Additionally, the surge in the 30-40 ft. range made it difficult to work, especially when trying to pry invertebrates off of their hard substrates. So we headed to deeper water to find our living treasures. After tying a safety reel to the anchor line we swam to the edge of the crest where the sea floor drops suddenly to a depth of just over a hundred feet.
We descended down the wall, which was covered in plumose anemone, and made our way west. The visibility was greatly improved at this depth and I was finally able to see what the north pacific waters had to offer. I watched carefully as Captain Jim, the director of husbandry, and Roy, one of the aquarists at the aquarium, searched for their target animals, and scooped them into their goodie bags. As we used our lights to peer into dark crevices along the wall, we came across a juvenile wolf eel. After a few failed attempts to coax the eel out of from his hiding place, we decided to leave it be and start heading back to the anchor line. Once we got back to the boat, I climbed aboard and helped to pull up Jim and Roy’s goodie bagswhich held an array of organisms including moonglow and Christmas tree anemones, burrowing sea cucumbers, sea lemon nudibranchs, and a chalk lined dirona, as well as hairy tritons, granular claw crabs and a sharpnose crab. We emptied everything into a barrel filled with seawater for the journey back and pulled up anchor to head back towards the bay. Back at the aquarium, some of the new organisms went to exhibits to be put on display, while others went to the education department. Many of the exhibits in the aquarium reflect Oregon coastal habitats, making local collections a key method for stocking exhibits.