Marcos Pinnacle (formerly known as Bluefish Wall)
The Marcos Pinnacle sits at the western end of the Cannery Point Pinnacles, at the edge of the primary sand channel in Bluefish Cove. It extends from the middle of the cove out to the open water beyond the kelp forest. The average depth of the top is 40 feet, but at its shallowestpoint it is only 8 feet deep, and swells over 8 feet will break here. Unlike the other walls in the park, this wall has few crevasses and channels. It is a massive block of granite, with sheer vertical sides dropping to over 100 feet deep and no other reefs to the west to protect it from the open sea.
The southern tip of the wall, marked by a small stand of Macrocystis, is typical of the pinnacles environment of the cove, but gives way quickly to an open ocean environment. The predominant kelp on this reef is the laminarian kelp, Eisenia arborea, which forms dense groves along the tops of most of the open water reefs in Carmel Bay. Beneath the canopy of the Eisenia, there is an invertebrate community covering the rock to a thickness of several inches. Most specimens found here are very large. Hydrocorals are scattered along the east face and the central top of the wall. The swift currents that sweep the area support a diverse community of sponges, among them the “crumb of bread sponge,” Halichondria panacea. Prior to the El Niño storms of 1998, enormous specimens of this yellow sponge could be found along the northern end and east, into the pinnacles area. These sponges serve as food for many species of nudibranchs and snails, and are the best places to look for the chestnut cowry, Cyprea spadica. Since the storms, there remain only young colonies of this sponge, but they will grow back to their former glory in about three years, if conditions allow.
The top of the reef is a photographer’s paradise of color and species diversity. Black and yellow rockfish, Sebastes chrysomelas, hide among the colorful ochre stars, Pisaster ochraeus, that crowd the very top of the wall. The large schools of orange señoritas, Oxyjulis californica, that inhabit this spot indicate that this is a “cleaner station” for ocean sunfish, Mola mola. Further down the wall, there are many kelp greenlings, Hexagrammos decagrammus. During the winter, this shy and beautiful fish lays its eggs in the northern staghorn bryozoan, a coral-like colony that covers over a third of the northern tip of the wall. Like the lingcod and the cabezon, the male guards the eggs, and it is during this time when he is not so flighty, that he will hold still long enough to provide a good photo opportunity. The drab brown bryozoan is very fragile, and can be broken easily by a careless fin or misplaced anchor. Use caution while you visit this area.
The northern tip of the wall, which is both the shallowest and deepest part, is marked by the furthest north stand of Macrocystis. It is a spectacular drop-off and a truly open water site, with a good possibility of encounters with open water species. Near the base of the wall, there are a pair of wolf-eels. To the west, past several small, deep pinnacles, is the sand channel, the primary conduit into the cove for seals, sea lions and their predators. I have also seen large bat rays, ocean sunfish, dolphins, whales and blue sharks here. Several divers have reported seeing Great Whites here occasionally.
By Patrick Lovejoy ©1998
map illustration by Reiko Michisaki