Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sea Camp day 2

2013 Sea Camp Tuesday (Slide show link is right here)
With All-hallows eve a week away, fog blanketed Fiesta Island with an embrace that repelled the sun’s rays and cast the Sea Camp compound in perpetual gloom.  After the high energy and sunshine of our first day at La Jolla Shores and Scripps Aquarium, the atmosphere mimicked the sleepiness that seeped from the campers and spread through the soul of Mission Bay.  Even the wafting sent of sausage and pancakes in the air couldn’t pry the clinging sleep from the eyes of the most enthusiastic Sea Camper.   Eventually, it took Will’s falling out of his lower bunk (he dreamt that his vampire, ghost girlfriend had bitten him after a long chase through Wal-Mart) to wake the dorm and alert the crew that the second day of Sea Camp had arrived. 

Despite the depressing setting, bellies full of the best breakfast foods (plus an extra serving or two of syrup) soon spurred our hearts to pound our brains into action.  On the docket today is snorkeling / seining at Mission point in the morning and the promise of hag fish slime, shark skin, and fish dissection at fish lab in the afternoon.  We donned our newly purchased navy blue Sea Camp hoodies, pulled on our sweat pants over our swim trunks and piled into the vans for the fifteen van drive, I mean rave, to the spot where the ocean meets Misson Bay, Mission Point.  Did you know that one San Diego radio station has declared itself the official ‘Katy Perry’ station?  Bet you can’t guess what

plays on this station every 15 minutes?
You held me down, but I got up
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder,  gonna’ shake the ground
You hold me down, but I got up
Get ready ‘cause I had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I the eye of the tiger, the fire
Dancing through the fire
‘cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me ROAR

Mission point is the ideal location for introducing snorkeling because it provides relatively calm area that still has the biodiversity of the local Pacific waters.  Many species of fish and invertebrates use these protected waters as a nursery for their young so there is plentiful marine life that can be seen by simply floating along the surface of the water.  We again squeezed into our 7mm thick neoprene skin with the addition of hooded vests to guard against the inevitable chill of the 60 degree salt water that would soon engulf us and fins, masks, and snorkels.  One benefit of the thick marine layer that covered the bay is that we were treated to windless and glass surfaced conditions that allowed us to see strait down to the sandy bottom and the bay.  This year we discovered the largest black sea hares I have ever seen.  The sea hare is the largest species of slug in the world growing to the size of a basketball and weighing up to 35 pounds.  The sea hare has been given its name from its two rhinophores that slightly resemble the ears of a rabbit; to be honest one would need to blind to mistake them for a rabbit.  They are so ugly that they are cute.  Cute enough for Sydney to attempt to smuggle one out of the water in her wetsuit for a new family pet.   As you can imagine, a 35 pound ball of slug slime has no natural predators.  We discovered not one but two of these titans of the slug world canoodling under a rocky ledge.  We could practically hear Barry White playing in the background.  We also were treated to Rebecca’s new head ware, a knobby blue sea star as well and a keyhole limpet.  The key whole limpet is always a favorite of snorkeling treasure hunters because licking its underside gives the licker seven years of good luck.  I licked my first limpet seven years ago and I have gotten to go to Sea Camp ever since.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.   In addition to bestowing years of good fortune, this invertebrate has the ability to change its taste according to season according to the Sea Camp staff.  Being so close to Thanksgiving, Cameron and I clearly tasted pumpkin pie with a hint of sweet potato.  Yum!  We also saw snails, sea urchin, and fish galore including one territorial garibaldi that chased Cody all the way back to shore.

Seining is an ancient way of catching fish where two people stretch a net between them while a line of people slowly march towards the net.  Startled fish flee the oncoming hoard of stomping feet and swim straight into the net.  Due to high tide, we were less successful than in years past in netting fish, but we still discovered the longest male pipe fish I have ever seen.  You may ask, Mr. Framke, how do you know it was Male?  Well, pipe fish are relatives of the sea horse and like sea horses, the male carries the young.  We had caught a pregnant male pipe fish.  Our group also caught a kelp crab, some kelp crawlers, and a top smelt.

After a quick lunch of sandwiches and cookies it was back to camp for fish lab. 
The most exciting part of lab is the shark tank which has a couple of species of local sharks including horn sharks, rays, and guitar fish. Everyone had the opportunity to pet the hornshark.   This was a fitting conclusion to yesterday’s shark encounter at La Jolla Shores.  While boogie boarding we were visited frequently by three 4-foot leopardsharks which caused quite a bit of fascinated screaming followed be snorkelers relentlessly chasing the sharks to watch them swim away.  Full marks go to Owen and Julia for their tenacity.  In addition to the sharks, adventurous Arielle bravely volunteered to taste the hag fish slim (salt), and Cameron ripped the heart out of the dissection mackerel “like an Aztec sacrifice”.

The only thing left to do is the mammal lab tonight and packing for the boat trip tomorrow.  Good night from San Diego,

Kathy and Kirk

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