Answer: Diversity, Color, Coral, Marine Mammals, Invertebrates, Vertebrates, Topography, Walls, Kelp Forest, Visibility and the worlds greatest Underwater Photographic Divers are here.
Standing on the shore anywhere around Monterey, one finds themselves intrigued by what the underwater world might be like around Monterey.As a person’s eyes probe down in a small tide pool or glide along the surface of a kelp bed, they might imagine the underwater world around Monterey to be something similar to what they are seeing.They would be so wrong!You can’t imagine how incredibly different it is just a little ways offshore, just a little deeper…
Imagine a reef where EVERY INCH is covered by life.Blankets of strawberry anenomes, giant white-plumed anenomes, a variety of star fish including huge sun stars, giant barnacles, crabs, nudibranchs, sponges, snails, sea cucumbers, tunicates, hydrocoral, scallops, rock oysters, abalone,.Rising up from the reef and fanning out on the surface are the `redwoods’ of the deep, giant kelp.In the water column are a variety of rockfish of different colors and markings, including schools of hundreds of `blues’.Larger fish- lingcod, cabezone, greenlings- are often seen.Certain times of the year there might be large numbers of Mola molas, the large odd-looking sunfish, or there could be thousands of jellyfish around you of varying species that are fascinating to observe from the protection of your wet or drysuit.Sea lions and harbor seals dart around and check you out.
These are just some of the weird, wonderful, amazing things that bring divers from around the world to the nutrient-rich waters of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.The upwellings from the deep, MontereyCanyon, bathe the reefs with a gourmet of life-sustaining nutrients.This canyon rivals the Grand Canyon in relief and topographic complexity and ranks among the larger canyons of the world and has a richness of life that exceeds that of most land and marine areas. The marine sanctuary, about 7,500 square kilometers of ocean and seafloor off central California, is home to a rich diversity of marine life. More than 30 species of marine mammals live in or visit the Bay, making it one of the largest collections in the northern hemisphere.Whales, dolphin, sea otters, sea lions and harbor seals, as well as a variety of bird species too numerous to mention,frolic and thrive in the protection of the marine sanctuary.The sanctuary has one of the most diverse and abundant assemblages of marine mammals in the world, including twenty-seven species of cetacean (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), six species of pinniped (seals and sea lions) and one species of fissiped (sea otter).
The Monterey/Carmel area has some excellent shore diving.But, as with most dive destinations, as good as the shore diving might be, the boat diving is so much better.Diving from one of Monterey’s charter boats, the captain is able to pick dive sites based on where the best overall conditions are at the time.Whereas visibility from shore might be in the 10’-15’ range, at a dive site a little further offshore visibility is often in the 20’-30’ and it is not unusual to have significantly better than that.But other factors must be considered as they change throughout the day.Wind, swells and current may be a factor at some dive sites so the captain will monitor these as he selects possible sites.Communication with the other captains via VHF radio facilitates this and often there are whale or dolphin or other sightings that are shared with each other to the surprise and enjoyment of the divers.
Monterey also has an amazing variety of habitats.One dive might be in a kelp forest with light and shadow giving the dive a very surreal feel.The next dive might be on an offshore reef, bathed in light and bursting with amazing colors.One reef might be covered in giant white-plumed anemomes, another with gorgeous hydrocoral in pink, purple, lavender and other hues.One sight might be a wall descending into blackness, another might be a meandering reef with huge blocks of granite blanketed with life.
Many divers allow additional time aside from diving in order to enjoy the world class beauty, attractions, and history all within a few minutes of the dock.Beautiful scenery, hundreds of restaurants, golf, shopping, wineries, galleries and much more.People travel from around the world to experience the Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur area.
The Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary is a vast biologic conservatory for which scarce geologic information is known.
Monterey Canyon, the most dramatic submarine feature of the sanctuary, rivals the Grand Canyon in relief and topographic complexity. Monterey Canyon ranks among the larger canyons of the world and has a richness of life that exceeds that of most land and marine areas. The marine sanctuary, about 7,500 square kilometers of ocean and seafloor off central California, is home to a rich diversity of marine life. More than 30 species of marine mammals live in or visit the Bay, making it one of the largest collections in the northern hemisphere. For example, Bairds Beaked Whale navigates the canyon to make infrequent surface visits to the Bay. The sanctuary is rich in marine life because nutrient-enriched seawater upwells along the steep margin from deeper, colder waters
Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary is part of an open geological system extending from tens of miles onshore to hundreds of miles offshore.
Sediments derived from land accumulate in the marine environment, often at a temporary location awaiting a large storm, strong currents, or a quick shake from an earthquake to send them cascading down the canyon. USGS studies focus on the transport and ultimate fate of sediments entering this environment, as well as on the geologic framework comprising diverse and complex assemblages of faulted and sheared rocks that are representative of the west coast of the United States.
Coral - Yes "Coral"
We have wondered why divers say they need to go to warm water locations to see coral. On California Central Coast few people are aware that the continental shelf, slope, and canyons of California’s ocean are home to a diversity of deep sea corals. Like redwoods, California’s deep sea corals can live to be hundreds or even thousands of years old. Large corals like Hydrocorals, gorgonian corals, and black corals grow in high densities around the Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, the Gulf of the Farallones off San Francisco, and the continental slope off Northern California. Hydrocorals and gorgonian sea fans are commonly seen by divers in Southern California. These deep sea corals, along with sponges, kelp forests, anemones, tunicates, and crinoids, form the living components of biogenic habitats, which provide shelter for a variety of sea life, including rockfish, crabs, lingcod, garibaldi, and many others. Some of California’s corals may be older than the towering redwood counterparts on land.Scientists recently discovered a new species of deep-sea coral off the coast of Santa Barbara. They named the new species “Christmas tree coral” (Antipathes dendrochristos) since it grows over 6 feet tall and resembles pink, white, and red flocked Christmas trees. This discovery shows the importance of protecting areas that have not yet been trawled. Scientists have only explored less than one percent of California’s seafloor. Who knows what else scientists will discover as they venture to new, unexplored underwater frontiers off our coast?
Kelp Forest -
Often called the redwoods of the sea, giant kelp can soar 100 feet or more from the ocean floor, providing habitats that range from tiny, seafloor caves to dense golden-green canopies just below the water's surface. At each level, creatures big and small find their own niche. Brittle stars and secretive sculpins hide within the kelp's holdfast, a root-like structure that anchors the towering plant to rocks and boulders. In the filtered sunlight of the mid-water region, turban snails and crabs graze on the kelp's thick stipe while they, in turn, are grazed upon by lingcod and schools of rockfish. Sea otters swim amid the kelp's upper fronds, while giant kelpfish seek camouflage from larger predators and protection from waves.
Such wondrous forests need a unique set of conditions to thrive, including hard, rocky seafloors, high concentrations of nutrients, moderate waves and clear, clean ocean water. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which spans 350 miles along the central California coast, is one of just a few regions in the world that provides the conditions necessary to support kelp forests.
Marine Mammals -
Sometimes referred to as "the Serengeti of the Sea," the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is known both nationally and internationally as a "hot spot" for viewing marine wildlife. Shorelines and offshore waters provide many opportunities for viewing whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and sea otters.
The sanctuary has one of the most diverse and abundant assemblages of marine mammals in the world, including twenty-seven species of cetacean (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), six species of pinniped (seals and sea lions) and one species of fissiped (sea otter).
This diversity and abundance is due to a number of important, related factors:
California's central coast is located on a migration pathway between the Arctic feeding grounds and the temperate and tropical breeding areas for many marine mammal species.
These waters' great productivity is enhanced by annual upwelling cycles that pull nutrients from deep-ocean canyons into the water column.
These nutrients are consumed by planktonic organisms that support the entire food chain.
The sanctuary's habitat diversity provides a variety of places for marine mammals to feed, rest and breed.
The sanctuary itself plays an important role in protecting marine mammals from harassment and exploitation.
Until recently, most of our understanding of marine mammals came from shore- and boat-based observations. New areas of study include documenting long-range migrations of animals traveling far from shore. These studies which are enabled by satellite transmitters attached to pelagic seabirds, mammals, fishes, sharks and turtles are expanding our understanding of marine wildlife and the sanctuary's role in their feeding and migratory patterns.
The most studied cetacean in the sanctuary is the eastern Pacific population of the gray whale, Eschrictius robustus. Gray whales spend winter months in shallow lagoons in Baja California, Mexico. Calves are born there, and the whales mate in the tropical waters.
In the spring, they migrate north through the sanctuary to rich feeding areas in the Bering, Beaufort and Siberian Seas. Then, as sea ice forms in winter, the whales head south again. This annual voyage along North America's West Coast can be as long as 17,700 kilometers (11,000 miles).
In the 1700s, whalers followed the gray whale migration to hunt and slaughter the giants for whale oil and other products. Lookouts were placed along points and promontories, and when whales were sighted, shore whaling vessels were launched. Some of California¹s coastal towns, including San Simeon and Pacific Grove, were whaling stations.
Orca (Orcinus orca) breaching. Photo taken during the 2005 CSCAPE survey. Photo: Protected Resouces Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, California. http://swfsc.nmfs.noaa.gov/PRD.
Seal Rock covered with sea lions near Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz. Photo: Stamski / SIMoN NOAA.
Today, researchers use the very same lookout spots to monitor and count the whales on their annual migration.
Now protected from whalers, gray whales are still hunted by predatory orcas (killer whales), Orcinus orca. Hunting in family groups, or pods, orcas follow gray whale cow-calf pairs on their spring northward migration and attack them as they cross Monterey Bay.
Other large whales, including blue whales, Balaenoptera musculus musculus, and humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, move into the sanctuary in the summer and fall to feed in its productive waters. Movements of smaller cetaceans are likely associated with local changes in oceanographic conditions and prey abundance
Sea otters once occurred in a continuous range from the Aleutian Islands south to Baja California, but excessive hunting in the 1700s nearly wiped out the species. A small group survived the fur trade and was discovered off Point Sur in 1938 during the construction of the Big Sur Highway.
This group has expanded north and south, with most of its range occurring within the sanctuary. For decades now, the population has wavered around 2,300 to 2,500 animals
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