With just 75 dives under my belt I was fortunate enough to join Cordell Expeditions as a diver, photographer, deck hand and all round boat maintenance person in 1988. I was certified to scuba dive just 2 years earlier but had really “dived” into the sport so to speak. I had heard of the fabled Cordell Bank, a remote offshore underwater oasis off the coast of Northern California. A group called “Cordell Expeditions” conducted pioneering research diving and documenting the remote underwater island 150 feet deep in the open ocean. Cordell Bank is perched on edge of the continental shelf of the pacific coast where surrounding waters are well beyond diving depths even by todays technical diving standards. The groups next project would be further south along the central coast of California.
I wanted to be part of this group of volunteer explorers! Unfortunately my timing was off in that they had just wrapped up several years of research at Cordell Bank but I was just in time for their next project. Another similar remote off shore bank 4 miles off the coast at Pt. Sur California. Dr. Robert Schmieder the founder and leader of Cordell Expeditions was a mentor and helped fuel my passion for underwater exploration. My still budding talent as an underwater photographer complimented the end goal to explore and document Pt. Sur Bank which would ultimately, due to our work, be renamed “Schmieder Bank” and be included in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. I also managed to get a photo published in “Ecology Of An Underwater Island” that documented the results of work done at Cordell Bank. We spent time doing training dives in the deep water of Carmel Bay to 200 feet breathing air from double 72 cubic foot scuba tanks.
Scans from my slides I took over the course of several trips to Schmieder Bank both topside and underwater can be found here. To say the conditions were challenging is an absolute understatement – diving down to 150 feet in the open ocean, fighting currents, narcosis from breathing air at that depth, 15 minutes of bottom time each dive and only 36 frames of film to capture what lies below. I hope to someday return and get a second chance to photograph this underwater oasis!
Gallery of all of my Cordell Expedition photos from Pt. Sur are here.