Diving Eureka & Ellen Oil Rigs With The Asante Dive Boat

  • Updated: June 09, 2019
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

June 9th, 2019

I'm now around 16 days into my Summer Hiatus 2019 and so far it's been filled with Sierra trips with occasional excursions back into town for diving related activities like this.

I first heard about the oil rig dives during my initial open water scuba certification. At the time the instructors talked about how amazing the dives were while cautioning how they required a more advanced skillset.  The fact they sat in deep open ocean meant you don't have an achievable bottom to bounce off of if you're struggling with your buoyancy and you have to watch that currents don't blow you off the rig.

Now some 6 months, a few more classes, and 70 -ish dives later we'd finally booked a trip out to see them ourselves!

I ended up coming off the previous backpack a few days early due to conditions and Jen and I had jumped on a three tank dive boat to Anacapa the day before so we were dragging just a bit as we woke early and drove down to San Pedro to meet the Asante dive boat.

Similar to the Raptor the Asante is a bit on the smaller end compared to a lot of the other boats but it makes the oil rigs a quick trip.  The other divers all geared up partially before they even got on the boat due to the lack of space and the fact it's only about a 45 minute ride out. So on went the damp neoprene which felts oh so lovely in the early morning chill.

A few pieces of paperwork and a dive briefing later we were on our way enjoying a light breakfast and coffee.

The first dive of the day was at the Eureka platform which is the furthest out and sits the deepest with the sand being way down at 720 ft. The bottom limit for recreational scuba divers with proper training is 130 ft.

Since the rigs are in deep water anchoring to the bottom isn't an option and the concerns running them do not allow boats to tie off. That means it's a live drop to start which means everyone gets their gear on, the boat backs up near the platform, and you jump in quickly and kick into the structure.  A few passes later everyone was in after a brief pause to watch the small shark that was swimming a short distance from the boat.

This went smoothly as it probably could and we were pleasantly surprised to find goods vis and almost no current as we readied ourselves and dropped down.

From the surface I could already see jellyfish swimming by and a few other things that looked decidedly alien.

A salp colony we passed on descent.

Most of the other divers were there to gather scallops hence why you'll see metal tools in peoples hands.  On the boat they were chopping them up and eating them raw. 

The shallow part of the pylons were mostly muscles with a bit of encrusted life here and there.

However once we got a bit deeper the amount of colors and life was amazing.  (The wavy arm brown clusters are actually densely packed starfish).

Due to the fact we were diving nitrox we maxed out at around 111ft which is already pretty deep for lowly recreational divers like us.  And from there looking down the pylons continued as far as we could see which was both an awesome and slightly spooky sight.

We found some of the largest starfish I've ever seen of which this isn't actually the biggest. We also saw a few random tuna crabs floating by in the current which reminded me of the tuna crab invasion I'd been seeing videos of online.

Jen blew through her air a bit faster than me likely due to a slight bit of nerves combined with a lot of excitement. Returning back to the surface we followed directions and swam out to where the boat could meet us and quickly climbed aboard.

After a quick hours surface interval filled with more coffee and snacks we relocated a short distance away to the twins.

Elly and Ellen are two platforms connected by a bridge.  They're located in about 260 ft of water which meant again we weren't going to be seeing any sort of bottom.

We repeated the live drop and excitedly kicked over into the structure

Again we went down to around 110 passing by other groups that were intently hunting scallops.

One of the things that struck me this time was how at a certain depth the growths on the structure went from a mix of colors to mostly white

A giant plumose anemone.

My computer was showing 53 degrees at depth which made us slightly envious of all the drysuit divers but the hooded vests we'd thrown on under our 7mm wetsuits did make a huge difference.  Still it was a relief to work our way up the structure to where the water was warmer.

The other interesting feature we noticed was a pipe giving off a constant blast of bubbles. Per the boat captain this was probably a cooling pipe.

Watching the bubbles of the other divers below during our safety stop.

After another hour surface interval on the boat featuring some deliciously hot chicken noodle soup we splashed for the third and final dive.  By now the cold was getting to us a bit, the vis had gone down, and we were fighting a noticeable current. This meant a lot more active kicking vs just being able to drift through the water though we did try and use the pylons to block the worst of it. 

Fortunately the effect of being down there hadn't lessened at all.

Fighting the current resulted in more our air running down faster and turned this into a shorter dive.  As we came back up and did a rather energetic safety stop trying our best to stay in the structure and not get bounced off anything we caught the attention of a few sea lions who came down to play.

They were moving so fast it was hard to capture but at one point it sure seemed like he was coming down and specifically spitting bubbles at us.

Sadly that was the end of our diving weekend.  We were back on the dock before 2 pm which was pleasantly early considering the majority of boat trips seem to get back after dark. We took advantage of the extra time to visit our favorite brewery down in San Clemente where we talked excitedly about how amazing the experience was and how much we wanted to do more dives like that!

But first it's back to braving the early season Sierra condition for three back to back trips followed by an 11 day diving extravaganza to Bali!  And maybe a bit of shore diving snuck in here and there...

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