Ashley spent two weeks touring Belize. The first week was spent on the mainland, visiting Mayan ruins such as Caracol, Xunantunich, Lamanai, and Altun Ha, as well as other landmarks like the Belize Zoo. The second week was for diving--first out of Placencia, to see the whale sharks at Gladden Spit, and then off the sleepy island of Caye Caulker.
Off the coast of Venezuela lies a small Dutch island called Curaçao. Although less well-known than its neighbor, Bonaire, Curaçao is renowned for its diving, much of which is accessible from shore. Macro life is king here, with seahorses and other exotic critters hiding in the coral reef.
HMCS Yukon was a 366' Mackenzie-class destroyer escort that served the Royal Canadian Navy from the 1960s to the 1990s. She was scuttled by the San Diego Oceans Foundation as an artificial reef off Mission Bay, California in the year 2000. She rests on her port side in about 100' of water.
Infidel was a squid purse seiner that went down in 2006. The story goes that she was at capacity with squid when the greedy crew elected to haul up one more net full. When the heavy net was lifted, the vessel overturned, and she sank right to the bottom in 150′ of water. The crew swam safely to shore, the insurance company paid out, and the hazmat was removed from the wreck. However, the giant nylon net was left draped over the boat, as was the full load of squid. When the promise of a free lunch proved irresistible, sea lions, sharks, and other ocean critters became trapped in the net and died. The netting blanketing the vessel, along with the skeletons of unlucky sea life entangled within, gives the wreck a very spooky feel.
San Diego's "local mudhole" La Jolla Shores is a haven for divers. Within swimming distance of the beach, the silty submarine canyon is home to all kinds of exotic critters, especially at night. Divers with a sharp eye can find octopus, nudibranchs, and sharks hiding in the muck. In the summer, warmer water brings leopard sharks and bat rays to the sandy shallows.
Ruby E wreck
Ruby E was originally a Coast Guard Cutter named Cyane. Her original purpose was to intercept Prohibition-era alcohol shipments along the West Coast. Unfortunately, Prohibition ended before construction of the ship was ever completed, and she was repurposed into an anti-submarine patrol ship in Alaska and the Bering Sea. She was sold in 1954 and converted into a fishing vessel, where she lived out the remainder of her seafaring life. The story then goes that Cyane, ironically enough, was impounded in South America for drug smuggling. Renamed the Ruby E and converted into a salvage vessel, she sat in San Diego Harbor until she was repossessed on loan default and stripped for scrap. In 1989, she was scuttled off Mission Bay as an artificial reef. The 165' vessel now rests upright in about 85 feet of water.
Sea of Cortez 2013
Ashley Hauck toured Mexico's Sea of Cortez aboard the luxurious liveaboard dive boat Nautilus Explorer. Ashley visited such iconic dive sites as the sea lion rookery at Los Islotes and the wreck of the cargo ferry "Salvatierra." Subpar visibility frequently limited wide-angle photographic opportunities; fortunately, countless nudibranch species presented as macro models.
Southern California Oil Rigs
In the open ocean about 8.5 miles out of the Port of Los Angeles, there are three active oil platforms that allow divers on their support structure. The pillars and crossbeams supporting the rigs are unique artificial reefs that have something for nearly every diver--recreational divers can explore the top few sets of crossbeams, and technical divers can go deep. Eureka is the deepest, standing in some 700 feet of water, and the bottom of "The Twins" Ellen and Elly (which are connected by a bridge) is just shy of 300 feet.
USS Hogan wreck
USS Hogan was a Wickes-class destroyer commissioned in 1919. During WWII, she served as a minesweeper and coastal convoy ship. In November of 1945, she was used as a target ship for firing tests and sank. Located south of the Point Loma peninsula on the US-Mexican border, the Hogan wreck rests just far enough from the San Diego dive boats to make it a real treat to dive. The Hogan wreck is covered in fish, most notably lingcod, and is home to a number of wolf eels. Coming up the anchor line after your dive, you might get a visit from a sea lion, if you’re lucky. Originally 314 feet long, the ship now rests in about 125 feet of water in a number of pieces. Her bow section rests on its starboard side and her stern sits upright. Most of the structure is collapsed; you can expect a consistent 125-foot dive forward of the stern section, which has the most relief of the whole site.
USS Palawan wreck
Following her 1944 launch at the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyard in Baltimore, MD, USS Palawan was converted from a Liberty cargo ship into a Luzon-Class Internal Combustion Engine Repair Ship, tasked with the maintenance and repair of engines on ships of all types. She was subsequently sent to the Philippines (Palawan and her Luzon-class sister ships are all named for Philippine islands) where she repaired small craft (primarily minesweepers) in the Pacific theater for the remainder of the war. After providing postwar support in Japan and China, she returned to San Diego in 1947, where she was decommissioned and laid up in the Pacific Reserve and Naval Defense Reserve fleets. Palawan was acquired for artificial reefing in 1976, and sank off Redondo Beach in 1977. She landed upright in about 125 feet of water; because of the depth, the Palawan wreck is considered an advanced dive. The sheer size of the wreck is humbling: her superstructure and engines were dismantled prior to sinking, leaving little behind other than a massive empty hull. Her holds, essentially large, wide-open rooms, are penetrable by trained and qualified divers. The engine room is identifiable by the large valves attached to the wall. Large crabs and lingcod inhabit crevices inside the Palawan wreck.