Diving Oil Rigs Ellen, Elly, & Eureka With The Sundiver Express

  • Updated: October 05, 2019
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

October 5th, 2019

I'm back in town for a few short weeks and busy letting my feet rest after a summer filled with hiking. And what better way to do that then diving my butt off?

There are three active oil rigs off the coast of Long Beach that you can dive from a boat. They are difficult dives since they take place in open water and you have to enter and exit from boats drifting around the structure. Also they all sit in water so deep that you don't have the option of reaching the bottom. And they are some of the most unique and impressive dives I've done in Southern California.

Jen and I dove them for the first time in June with the Asante dive boat and had such an amazing time we couldn't wait to go back. But a slightly frantic summer filled with out of town activities caused a bit of delay...until now! After weather conditions killed plans for a paddling / hot spring / camping trip and we were overjoyed to find last minute openings on the Sundiver Express going out this Saturday.

As always Jen was *slightly* less than enthused about the early morning wake up considering her teaching job tends to leave her a bit sleep deprived. I on the other hand was running on only about 3 hours of sleep but was so excited to be diving again that I barely needed coffee. (Also my wetsuit was still wet from the dives at Crystal Cove the day before which is always good for an extra wake up kick early in the morning)

First time trips on a particular boat always involve a small learning curve but fortunately it's usually pretty easy to find the people dragging around the big scuba tanks.

Today we were on the Sundive Express which is the fastest of the Sundiver International boats. It's claim to fame is the fact it can make it out to Catalina in an hour instead of 2+ so we were going to have a really short ride out to the oil rigs which are considerably closer.

Which wasn't a bad thing because the boat was a bit on the snug side for the 20 ish people along. (And yet felt less confining than the Magician dive boat we took out last weekend despite being smaller. Go figure)

Once we left we had about a 25 minute ride out to the oil rigs during which time we enjoyed coffee, donuts, and bagels provided by the crew.

We were soon pulled up alongside Ellen and Elly, twin oil rigs connected with a bridge that are in slightly shallower water. Granted that means it's only sitting in 260 ft vs 700+. (Recreational diving maxes out at 120 ft)

Because it's so deep and because the platforms are active worksites the boat can't attach or anchor meaning the crew sets it up to drift close and then we quickly jump in and swim into the structure.

Today was a particularly calm day so this went really smoothly.

Once inside the structure we did our final checks and dropped down.

Vis at the top was a bit cloudy but improved once we dropped down. Unfortunately the temperature dropped rather suddenly as well. Up top my dive computer was reporting 67 degree water while down at 100 ft it was only 58 degrees.

Jen and I were both wearing 7mm wetsuits with hooded neoprene vest underneath which is a setup that I am not the biggest fan of considering movement is really constrained and the hood makes the bubble sounds echo underwater.

The smart people / those with a bit more disposable income were wearing drysuits which actually seal the water away from you and allow you to wear warm fleece layers underneath. It's one of those things I'm increasingly dreaming about as I've been freezing my everyliving butt off repeatedly by diving wet in the mid to low 50s.

Dropping down inside the structure there are multiple pylons and crossbeams all encrusted with life.

Up near the top it's dominated by countless sea stars poking out around mussels.

Then a bit deeper you get the more colorful anemones.

While some people were just there to look around others came fishing license in hand to collect scallops. Not being able to eat fish or seafood this wasn't of much interest to me but the debris shot into the water around the collectors did make for energetic fish behavior.

We dropped down to around 110 ft, looked down into the void, then worked our way back up the structure seeing what we could see.

And when we reached the top and were hanging out 15 ft under water to give our bodies time to offgas the nitrogen we'd absorbed by breathing pressurized gas at depth we were suddenly set upon by an adorable little torpedo.

He took a look or two at Jen but couldn't seem to get enough of my and my camera.

Once back on the surface we waited inside the structure until the boat signaled to us and then we swam out as quickly as possible

For the second dive we moved to the other twin which we hadn't actually dove the time before. dropped down a bit deeper hitting 125 ft before working our way back up.

After the second dive they moved the boat a short distance away and let it drift while breaking out BBQ chicken and hawaiian rolls for lunch. The smart people took advantage of the sun to warm up a bit since you only get colder during repeat dives.

The last dive was at nearby Eureka which sits in 700+ ft of water. Again it's effectively the same on all three rigs because you aren't going to see the bottom anyway as a mere advanced open water diver but it is cool and just a bit spooky to be down at 120 ft looking down into the void.

And we had another sea lion come down to play with us during our safety stop.

After that it was sadly time to break down the gear and head back to the dock...

...and as it turns out break out the birthday cake since it was Sid's 69th birthday today.

We were back on the dock by 3 pm which meant we had plenty of time to coordinate with friends and make plans to dive the beach the following morning. Because sleep is for the weak after all!

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