We took advantage of a still-calm sea and filled the air tanks in the inflatables with twice the amount of air and packed some sandwiches with a plan to perform two dives on the coast while the Neptune is out working with the ROV and taking care of some other loose ends.
The visibility underwater is downright bad from a photographer’s point of view, although much better compared to previous days. At sea we’ve seen gray seals that poke their heads out of the water to check us out, but they’re wary of the divers and we only catch a glimpse of them as they swim away. Life among the submerged kelp forest is abundant: ox crabs, velvet crabs, lobsters, nudibranchs, anemones and other small animals that, fortunately, aren’t as fast as seals. Between the two dives we were underwater almost four hours, which flew by as I focused my energies on finding species of interest.
Still, what strikes me most about the water: thousands of seabirds in breeding season cover the cliffs with their white droppings and there is a non-stop coming and going of seagulls, macaws, razorbills, puffins and cormorants that fly to their nests or dive headfirst underwater looking for sand eels; a one-of-a-kind backdrop for eating a sandwich and warming up between dives. On the way back to the Neptune, we stopped at a respectful distance to photograph a colony of seals that pile up on the rocks in the afternoon to sunbathe. I don’t think I’ve ever taken so many photos in one day in all my 10 years with Oceana.