Granite Point Pinnacles
We finished our last dive approaching the surge channels off Granite Point. This spectacular area, which I was informed has been called "The Whaling Wall" by many of the old-time divers, is just the beginning of an area that offers some of the best Granite Point Pinnaclesdiving in California. Moving north to the point, we come across two more surge channels and an area of rocky pinnacles that have been created by the prevailing seas carving through ancient surge channels.
This is the first true open-water dive area that divers will find at Point Lobos. The exposure to the force of the sea provides a habitat for marine life that thrives in the open ocean swell. It's not unusual to have a few sea lions accompany you on a dive here. Descending at the farthest west strands of kelp, the diver will find the reef top at about thirty to fifty feet and the bottom at ninety feet. A short kick west will put you about 130 feet deep in an area of small "islets" surrounded by sand. Finning back to the east, into the kelp forest, you will encounter many hundreds of bluefish (Sebastes mystinus) an olive rockfish (Sebastes serranoides) suspended under the canopy facing the open ocean. More frequently these days, you can also see the blacksmith (Chromis punctipinnis) with the schools of bluefish. In southern California, Chromis are small fish but since their arrival during the 1970 El Nino, they are evolving into larger fish, a process called speciation. This is also an area where the tube snout, Aulorhynchus flavidus congregates. Usually singular, this small pipe fish aggregates once a year. If you ever doubted the efficacy of underwater preserves, swim farther east out of the Reserve, and notice the dismal lack of large fish relative to the abundance inside the reserve.
The invertebrates on the reef are greater in number here than inside Whalers Cove. The strawberry anemone, Corynactus californica, carpets large areas of the substrate with its reds, oranges, and lavenders. In the areas where the currents are strong, there are some spectacular examples of large, slow-growing hydrocorals, Stylster. Large hydrocorals are rare at Point Lobos due to the harvesting of them that occurred before the Reserve status went into effect. The sun star, Pycnopodia helianthoides, is very common here as well as a large number of the crab family. Two of the larger crabs, the sheep crab, Loxorhynchus granids, and the moss crab, Loxorhynchus crispatus, are often found here. Sun stars are voracious feeders and have few enemies; however, I have seen the moss crab cut a ray off the Pycnopodia and, peeling the outer skin back like a banana, eat the core. The sun star runs off to grow a new arm.
Swimming up to the base of one of the many wash rocks in this area, there is an interesting phenomenon involving the common mussels, Mytilus, and the sand worm, Phragmatopoma californica, which usually builds it tubes from find sand that it cements together. These large aggregations of tubes typify the sand channels at Point Lobos. In this area of Granite Point, there is little sand, and a lot of fragments of broken mussel shell, which this worm has used to build its tubes, giving them a coarse-textured, whitish hue that reflects light and provides a better lit environment than is normally encountered in the underwater park.