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Seen on the rocky bottoms in and around old wooden pilings in Pacific Northwest dive sites, Fish eating anemone are ambush predators that lie in wait for food to come by. Divers can occasionally see Painted greenling lying in the tentacles of Fish eating anemone, forming a symbiotic relationship, just like Clownfish with warn water anemones.
Going by the scientific name Urticina piscivora, Fish eating anemone are part of a genus of roughly 12 species of anemone, all featuring long slender tentacles organized in circular rows, and are related to hydroids, corals and jellyfishes. Fish eating anemone range from 8-12 inches across, with the larger examples growing in areas of more available food. They can be found in waters from Alaska to southern California.
Shrimp and small fish make up it’s main diet, using it’s stinging tentacles that stun and immobilize prey. Reproduction and fertilization occur in-water, where Fish eating anemone can switch between male and female. The fertilized larvae will then float away and anchor to the ocean floor. Fish eating anemone are thought to live for 100+ years in the wild. Trawling, which was banned in Puget Sound in the 1980’s, can disturb ocean bottom where Fish eating anemone live, requiring decades for habitat to recover. Fish eating anemone are not considered threatened at this time.
Fish eating anemone make great photography subjects with brilliant colors, lots of detail, and the fact that they stay put for multiple shots. On your guided dive tour, ask your PADI dive guide to point one out, or rent a camera to take pictures.
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We took a break from our regular dive tours in mid-February to teach the PADI Advanced Open Water certification course, and even had a rare Seattle snowstorm in the middle of the course. Our divers for the weekend were Mike, taking both the PADI Advanced Open Water certification and Dry Suit Diver courses, and Eric, taking the Dry Suit Diver course.
The first day (Saturday) started off at Redondo Beach, very popular for it’s well marked dive site and easy access. Plus we’ve had good luck finding GPO’s (Giant pacific octopus) and Wolf eel at the site. The day started off cold, but I had brought a propane heater to help keep everyone warm between dives. The first Adventure Dive of the weekend was Dry Suit Diver, which helped Mike & Eric to orient themselves to their dry suits, and also to work out weighting issues and buoyancy. After some snacks, Mike & Eric went back in to try the second Adventure Dive, Underwater Navigator. The dive had Mike navigate out and back to find a small boat on the dive site at approximately 45’, fist using natural navigation techniques, then using his compass. We had gone out to the boat on the first Adventure Dive, so he had a general idea of where it was and what was around it, plus a map for reference. Mike reported after the dive that using the compass was actually harder than using natural navigation, as there was more task loading involved, such as watching the compass & keeping it level, searching ahead, and keeping track of his buddy. Mike finished off the dive with a square pattern underwater, navigating back at the starting point. For divers using navigation, remember the key is to cooperate with your buddy, one diver navigating while the other diver searches. A dive slate can really help with communication underwater as well.
After a dinner break we met back up at Alki Seacrest Park (Cove 2) across from downtown Seattle for our night dive. After a dive site briefing, we entered the water under clear skies and a beautiful nighttime view of the Seattle skyline. Playful Harbor seals followed us on our dive, using our lights to hunt for fish & invertebrates. As we surfaced, the weather topside had changed to snow showers!
Sunday morning brought 3 inches of snow to the Seattle area, and we decided to return to Alki Seacrest Park (Cove 2) instead of our original plan of Three Tree Point. First Adventure Dive was Deep Diver, followed by Search & Recovery Diver, and finally a second dry suit dive to complete the Dry Suit Diver speciality course. During the deep dive, Mike got to see how pressure effects gasses, colors, and even thinking and judgement. The search & recovery dive involved learning how to rig and use a lift bag (Mike said this was his favorite part of the weekend), tie knots, and use search patters to find Spiderman and his friends. The dry suit dive had both Mike & Eric practice buoyancy and demonstrate removing and reattaching their dry suit inflator hoses while underwater. We had our post weekend lunch and wrap up next door at Marination Ma Kai, my favorite because of the SPAM sliders & coleslaw.
Thought about earning your Advanced Open Water? Our PADI Advanced Open Water course is scheduled on the second weekend of each month, plus we can we can teach it any other day (weekends or weekdays) for divers visiting Seattle. Check out our calendar or contact us to set up your own class. We teach all of our classes with as few as one student, so that you can get the instruction you want on your schedule.
Followers of our blog, twitter, and Facebook posts have heard us mention the Harbor seals that frequently accompany us on our night dives, especially at Seacrest Park Cove 2. Here’s a video from last week taken by Northwest diver Ben Hollis and Seattle Dive Tours Divemaster Chen Hsu. Harbor seals are common in and around Puget Sound, and are one of the most widely distributed Pinnipeds in the world. Harbor seal pups have historically used the beaches in West Seattle to haul out, rest and warm up between foraging sessions in the water. Harbor seals don’t migrate like both the California and Stellar sea lions that our dive tours often see resting on the navigation buoys in Elliott Bay, and instead our local Harbor seals live their lives in the Northwest.
Ben and Chen were doing a night dive at Seacrest Park Cove 2 just after sunset when 3 Harbor seals decided to tag along:
As all divers know, one of the most important aspects of a great dive is being able to float effortlessly underwater while not feeling as if you are constantly drifting downward or floating upward. Seattle Dive Tours puts a lot of time and effort in making sure our divers have a comfortable and relaxing dive day. One aspect of this is helping our divers to achieve and maintain good buoyancy, neither too heavy and drifting down, or too light and drifting upward.
Once you book your Seattle Dive Tours dive, we’ll reach out to you confirming details and asking for your sizing information. We use this information to make sure we bing the correct gear sizes, and to calculate your estimated required weighting. We factor in the diver’s weight, cylinder buoyancy characteristics, and exposure suit. Using our standard setup and super warm 2-piece 7mm Neo Sport wetsuits, the typical diver will need 10% of their body weight plus 10-14 pounds of weight. That means a 180 pound male would use around 28-32 pounds of weight while a 140 pound female would use around 24-28 pounds of weight.
After you are fitted with your dive gear and in the water, your dive leader will conduct a buoyancy check at the surface, just like divers were trained in open water class. This way your dive leader can add or subtract a bit of weight to help our divers achieve good buoyancy though out the dive. We also pay attention to your trim, so that your body will be horizontal in the water without your fins feeling as if they are dragging on the bottom, or floating up above your body. We do this by distributing the weight between the diver’s BCD (buoyancy control device) and weight harness. We don’t use weight belts and instead use weight harnesses which are more comfortable and won’t slip off the divers waist.
Divers can also help themselves with buoyancy by remembering a few basic skills learned in open water. One is to do a pre-dive safety check on themselves and their buddy before entering the water, making sure they are streamlined by tucking in loose items such as a console and/or alternate air source. Next, when descending, remember to relax and breathe normally. Finning and sculling will create upward movement that will cause you not sink. Also try to maintain an efficient kick style through out the dive. Remember to kick smoothly and evenly with your hip flexors, and avoid a “bicycle kick” using your knees.
Our daily tours are open to both certified and non-certified divers, the non-certified version called a PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience. When you are ready, book online to start your adventure with us.
After descending and getting settled into the dive, our dive leaders always check around for cracks, crevasses, and midden piles (a mound of shells and broken up bits of crab) that might indicate the presence Wolf eel (Anarrhichthys ocellatus). Wolf eels aren’t true eels, but are related to Atlantic wolffish instead. They can grow to 8 feet in length and over 40 pounds. Wolf eels feed on invertebrates such as mussels, clams, and crabs. This is why looking for midden is a good way to locate a nearby den. Sometimes Wolf eels and Giant pacific octopus will compete for the best den spaces as they both look for the same den characteristics.
Many times divers will notice two Wolf eels in a den together. This is a breeding pair who mate for life and cooperate to protect their eggs from predators such as Rock fish and Sculpin. After about 4 months the eggs hatch and the baby Wolf eels float away on the current, called a pelagic phase, before eventually becoming mature enough to find a mate. Juvenile Wolf eels are a reddish-orange color that changes to dull grey as they mature.
To divers Wolf eels look fierce but are generally relaxed and friendly. There have been reports of Wolf eels being preyed upon by Harbor seals, but they have few other natural enemies. Native Americans historically hunted Wolf eels for ceremonial feasts, but they are generally not hunted today. Ready to meet a Wolf eel face to face? Book your tour online or contact Seattle Dive Tours for more information.
December has been busy with divers coming in from the West Coast, the Great Lakes, and the East Coast to experience scuba diving in Puget Sound. Some were on business trips while others had made a special trip out to Seattle just for diving. While most of our divers chose our popular day dive tour, we also had night dives, a PADI Advanced Open Water class, and a PADI Deep Diver class.
An unusual cold snap here in Seattle brought dive site air temperatures down to the low 20’s on many days, but our divers kept warm in the water with our new 7mm Neo Sport 2 piece step in wetsuits and hot soup during surface intervals. Our divers were rewarded with Giant pacific octopus (GPO) sightings on almost every dive, with an especially large Giant pacific octopus at Seacrest Park, just across Elliot Bay from downtown Seattle. During one night dive we had Harbor seals swimming with us for the entire dive, playfully darting in front of us to forage for Spot prawn, Dungeness crab, and flounder. We also observed several pairs of Grunt sculpin sitting on their eggs, Wolf eel, and more than 80 other fish & invertebrate species.
By the 15th, the cold snap had finally broke, bringing Seattle temperatures back to normal. Looking ahead, we tour openings still available for the rest of December and January. You can also find out more about our tour options, see more of the amazing fish & invertebrate life in Puget Sound, or drop us a line with a question.