Diving Santa Cruz Island
Location: 20 Miles SW of Ventura Harbor
Access: By boat only. Larger dive boats suggested.
Depths: All Ranges
Santa Cruz Island is the largest and most topographically diverse of the eight Channel Islands. Santa Cruz Island is approximately 24 miles in length and encompasses 77 miles of pristine coastline, including two mountain ranges, a pastoral central valley, ten plant communities, and numerous endemic plants and animals. Santa Cruz is divided up into the West End and the East End. The West End of Santa Cruz Island is owned by the Nature Conservancy , a nonprofit international membership organization that preserves the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on our Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The East End of Santa Cruz Island is owned by the National Park Service. Both parts of the island are available for day trips with certain limitations.
To the east lies Santa Cruz Island, which offers a bit milder diving conditions. Unknown to many, this island is home to a very extensive system of underwater Caves and caverns. Diablo Anchorage offers one such example at the Diablo Point Cave, which is a good beginning penetration, cave dive and is ideal for Introductory cavern diving classes.
Out of the 80 species of Whales and Dolphins in the world today, 28 species Have been documented in the Santa Barbara Channel and Southern California Bight. Seventeen species are seen on a regular basis over the course of a year.
Scorpion Anchorage is also home to the wreck of the USS Peacock, a 100' long wood hulled WW-II minesweeper (just like the Calypso), which is In great shape resting upright on a sheltered 60' sandy bottom. And located Within a few fin kicks is one of the best rock scallop sites on the coast.
Wreck of the Peacock:
In the late 1980s, while researching the book Shipwrecks of Southern California, if the real name of the wreck that sank in Scorpion Anchorage is the Peacock, she may have been a 136-foot long World War II minesweeper with a composition hull. Launched in 1943, this Peacock earned two battle stars in World War II. In 1947, she was reclassified and named the Hornbill. She was reclassified again in 1953 and decommissioned in 1955. In 1960 the ship was bought by a Texan, who renamed her Los Buscaderos. She was sold again eight years later and renamed the Peacock. Although she was said to have been seized by the Dominican Republic in 1969, somehow she supposedly sank off Scorpion Anchorage 10 years later. You see my dilemma. How did a ship seized by the Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean, end up off California 10 years later? That's not the only mystery. I heard two tales about the sinking of the Peacock. One said she was being used as a bordello when she burned and sank one night. Another story is that she had somehow gone aground at Scorpion and when salvagers tried to refloat her, she sank. Neither one of them, pardon the pun, holds water any better than the Peacock does at present. When I followed up with people who were said to be eyewitnesses to the sinking, burning or attempted salvage, they didn't know what they were said to know. So, all we really know is that a ship that is most probably a WW II minesweeper sank in 60 to 70 feet of water off Scorpion Anchorage, possibly in December 1979. Today, the top of what's left of the Peacock is about 40 feet below the surface. It is a several-legged metal structure that resembles a large barstool and is covered with life, including seastars, chestnut cowries, nudibranchs, and club tipped anemones, tunicates, barnacles and bryozoans.
The middle of the ship has collapsed. The hull still rises quite a distance off the sand and is pocked with holes, some of which once held portholes.
The bow of the wreck points out to sea and the current, usually mild, runs from bow to stern. Because of the wreck's location in Scorpion Anchorage, the waters are usually calm.
Location: Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island.
Access: Boat only. Charter dive boats from Oxnard, Ventura and Santa Barbara frequent this spot.
Depths: 60 to 70 feet.
Photography: Good wide-angle and close-up.
Wall diving has become popular on coral reefs throughout the world with just reason. Wall diving gives us a humbling look into the abyss. It also allows us to approach reef life in a different posture that is often more comfortable for the diver and the marine life.
A true wall dive is a vertical drop of a hundred feet or more. Much of this feature in coral reefs is owed to how the reef grows in a vertical fashion over many thousands of years. Because we don’t have coral reefs in California, walls are not as common. We have to rely rather on geological features to provide us with the vertical drops that excite us so. We do have walls; they are just not as common.
What we do have are a lot of fantastic mini-walls. I have become a lover of California mini-walls. A mini-wall is a rocky underwater vertical drop-off of 8 to 20 feet. You’ll find them on beach dives and boat dives. They are at every island and they are always covered with marine life.
After 35 feet the wall drops vertical to 55 feet. Here you can hang mid-water, practicing your buoyancy skills, and peer into the deep horizontal crevices. Bring along a light for maximum enjoyment. Occasionally, turn your attention seaward as it is not unusual to see pelagic life slaps or jellyfish floating by or sea lions rocketing by. Getting hooked on California mini-wall diving is a good thing. Diving Drop-Off Reef on the backside of Santa Cruz Island is a good place to start.
Several trails and roads traverse eastern Santa Cruz Island, providing visitors with spectacular hiking opportunities. These trails and roads range from the maintained, relatively flat, signed trails of Scorpion Valley to the unmaintained, rugged, mountainous paths of the Montañon area.
While visitors may explore the national park property on Santa Cruz Island, no hiking is allowed beyond the national park boundary onto The Nature Conservancy property. The boundary is the property line (marked by a fenceline) between Prisoners Harbor and Valley Anchorage.