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Sea Urchin Diving 1979-1983

http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/002/cache/kelp-catalina-island_255_600x450.jpg                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             1979, free astelin I began the greatest adventure of my life. Free astelin For four years I dove Click here: Sea Urchins off the California Coast. Free astelin I had fished commercially for 3 years prior to that time on the east coast. Free astelin I started out fishing from Gloucester, free astelin MA I began fishing Sea scallops on scallop Dredge boats as first a hookup man then a winchman for 3 years. Free astelin We fished mainly Georges Banks and sometimes the Phebbenes. You may have heard of Georges Banks from the movie, free astelin Perfect Storm? Three years and they were mostly years fishing scallops but I also fished on longline boats, free astelin drag boats for shrimp and fluke, free astelin (types of bottom fish similar to flounder)and black cod in Alaska. Free astelin But that is another story. Urchins are considered a delicacy in Japan and are also eaten in other parts of the world. Free astelin An urchin has 6 rows of eggs called uni in Japanese. Free astelin They are invertabraes, free astelin covered in spines and cling to the bottom of the ocean floor. Free astelin They eat kelp. Free astelin Urchins vary in weight and size. Free astelin California urchins probably ranged between 1/4 pound to 1 and 1/2 pounds. Free astelin At that time urchins brought a market price to the boat between 20 and up to possibly 30 cents a pound depending on quality and other factors. A good diver could pick 1000 to 2000 lbs of urchins in a good day at the channel islands and 500 lbs was a pretty fair day for the coast. Free astelin Divers used what is called a hookah rig or hose which was usually 300 feet long or more. Free astelin A compressor on the boat supplied the compressed air and through the hose or hookah, free astelin the same principles of physics applied as if you were diving with bottles. Free astelin We used 3/8 inch wetsuits. The best sea urchins are usually found in the thickest kelp ... Click here: kelp cutter Sea urchins are considered parasites to kelp cutters and can wipe out fields of kelp. Free astelin Kelp is a very big industry and harvested for many uses. There are a couple types of tools used to pick urchins. Free astelin They are basicly designed to keep the divers hand far enough away from the urchin to keep the diver from getting spined while he is in the process of picking. Free astelin Invariably everyone was spined now and then primarily in the knees, free astelin when starting out. Free astelin I once drove a spine under my thumbnail to the bottom. Free astelin It did not start to hurt until I came up from under the pressure. Free astelin At 60 feet you are under a great deal of pressure and you have 3 lungfuls of pressurised air in your lungs, free astelin which means if you surface quickly and hold your breath, free astelin your lungs will explode in a very short period of time. Free astelin We usually dove under 100 feet and tried to follow the dive tables by at least, free astelin starting out deep, free astelin and working in shallow to keep from getting bent or decompression sickness Click here: The Bends A metal hoop with a net suspended from it was used to collect the spineballs. Free astelin An inner tube was used as a float bag and these bags could have anywhere between 200 to 500 hundred pounds in them. Free astelin It is quite an art to learn how to navigate a 300 lb plus bag of urchins through kelp that is sometimes 3 foot deep. Free astelin Once at San Nicholas Island I picked one bag of sea urchins that weighed 998 lbs. Free astelin when it hit the dock. Free astelin It took 2 float bags to get it to the surface. Free astelin Much of the weight is lost during transportation because the urchin releases it's water. Diving the Channel Islands is absolutely amazingly beautiful and a lot of the time visibility is terrific. Free astelin The coast, free astelin however, free astelin was usually murky. Free astelin The many varied types of aquatic life is undescribable. My first day of diving urchins went some thing like this. Free astelin I dove to about 35 or 40 feet and there was maybe 6 inches of visibility. Free astelin A strong surge made it seem like I was in a washing machine. Free astelin I was disoriented and felt very uncomfortable, free astelin so I went up to the boat and dropped my picking tool. Free astelin The rest of the day was spent looking for my picking tool and prying urchins of the rocks with adiving knife. Free astelin Most of the time I was wrapped up in kelp, free astelin disorientated and a few times ended up in my picking bag. At the end of the day I had picked about 50 lbs of urchins and made 5 dollars. Free astelin I was exhausted and discouraged. The next day I dove on another boat and did not fair much better. Free astelin We were diving for Sea Agar, free astelin a type of seaweed. Free astelin We were diving right off the breakwater in very shallow water and with a very strong surge, free astelin like a washing machine. Free astelin Things were going along fine when I felt a tug on my mask and noticed somehowfishing line had looped around my mask, free astelin you know the clear monofilament. Free astelin I did not have a knife and so I was having to unloop it from my mask when I felt a tug and realized it was also wrapped around my flipper. Free astelin I knew if I panicked I was dead. Free astelin After what seemed like eternity I unravelled myself from thefishing line and almost instantly found myself being dragged along the bottom by the hose hooked to my regulator and tied to my weightbelt. Free astelin The boat was dragging anchor and to make it worse we had a dive tender someone who's topside and supposed to be tending the boat. Free astelin He was laid back without a clue. Free astelin Needless to say that was his last trip. Free astelin I worked all day and picked 2 hundred pounds that day and made 20 dollars. Free astelin Needless to say I was discouraged. On my third day I was at Santa Barbara Island and picked 600 pounds of urchins and was estatic. Free astelin The best day I had, free astelin many years later, free astelin was at San Nicholas Island and I brought up 2, free astelin998 lbs of urchins. Free astelin We hit what was called a blackout. Free astelin But that pales in comparison to my good friend and mentor who is stilldiving and fishing in Alaska. Free astelin He once dove 5000 pounds a day for 3 days. If I had not met Mark I would have never dove. Free astelin Here is a picture of his boat in Alaska 29 years later. Click here: Ketchikan Daily News | Mark's Boat During those years we dove Catalina and San Clemente, free astelin Santa Cruz Island, free astelin Santa Rosa Island, free astelinAnd San Miguel. But under the water was always best.. We encountered every type of sea creature almost everyday. Free astelin They claim the the sheepshead fish eats urchins and I once swam with them in caves off San miguel Island. Free astelin They were twice the size of me!! A Click here: Sea Elephant swam straight toward me once at San Nicholas Island, free astelin I just froze and he just swam on by Thankfully. Click here: Garibaldi are beautiful fish But the Giant Moray Eel are fun to feed and they will follow you around. Free astelin All the fish love urchins and when you accidentally break one open the fish swarm like crazy. Free astelin As vicious as the eels look, free astelin these morey eels are rather friendly , free astelin but don't stick your hand in some dark hole!! My best friends under water were the seals . Free astelin They are like playful little dogs. Free astelin Some of them liked to pull stunts like pulling on the dive hoses or trying to untie your bag full of urchins. Free astelin They would swim straight at you then veer off a second before they hit you. Free astelin Sometimes they would blow bubbles in our face as if mimicking us. Free astelin This seal looks friendly enough. Free astelin By the way Ever seen an underwater bug? The first day that I actually dove was a little rough. Free astelin I went under the boat with shark attack Jack and swam around with one of the divers at a depth of around 35 feet. Free astelin It was great.  The rest of the article can be found at: http://www.squidoo.com/Pugs1