Submerged in Catalina - My Family Travels

The trips we took in my marine biology class were my most memorable high school experience; one that stands out in particular is my trip to Catalina Island.  My class and I took part in a three day two night adventure to see the recovering kelp forest of Catalina.

The adventure began with a two hour boat ride from the coast of southern California to reach a small private dock at one of Catalina’s youth centers.  I was assigned to the barracuda sleeping areas with my classmate Coral. 


After settling in we were briefed on what we would be doing for the duration of our stay. Day one would be a series of stations.  Day two we would snorkel to the kelp beds then at night we would proceed to do a night snorkel.  Day three we would do a final snorkel and station rotations.  While each day holds a special place in my heart and mind I will only share the highlights for the sake of time.

            After a tutorial on the safety procedures by Mike our camp counselor, we geared up and set out to sea.  It was FRIGIDLY cold in the waters.  Mike advised us to do as the surfers do and urinate to warm up.  Being a part time surfer on weekends I happily went back to the old habits.  As we swam against the currents and watched the garibaldi dash among the leaves of the tall columns of kelp I couldn’t imagine how Arial, from Disney’s the Little Mermaid, left the sea for land. 

We soon had to return but we were all excited because that night we would see the underwater world in her night décor.  As we geared up and set out with flashlights we all became excited, we had heard of luminescent algae and were hoping to see it.  As we escaped the light of our camp and shut of the flashlight everything burst with color.  Lime green waters, neon pink and orange bellies of the mollusks Mike brought up for us to see, blue darts reflected off small schools of fish if it was nothing from this world. We returned to the shore hosed off and heated up then returned to our bunks to await the final adventure before our departure.

We arose at six to watch the sunrise before snorkeling then proceeded to the mess hall for a quick breakfast.  At last we geared up and set out for our final dive.  This time we were given weight belt that allowed us to dive deeper to get a closer view of the kelp.  While diving my heart stopped, a shark between 4’ 6” and 5’ swam along the bottom!  I took after it trying to look at the patterns on its back believing it was a lemon shark.  As I moved in the shark quickened sensing my presence then darted off into the deep.

            At last we returned to shore, showered off, gathered our gear, said our goodbyes and returned to the mainland on the 12:00 ferry home. After taking a bus to our High School we waited for parents, and friends to pick us up.  This was by far the most amazing underwater weekend I’d ever experienced.

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