Great Pinnacle (formerly known as Bluefish Outer Pinnacle)

By Patrick Lovejoy ©1999
map illustration by Reiko Michisaki

photo of diver with red vermillionThe dive sites at Point Lobos do not end at the edge of the kelp forest. In fact, some of the most breathtaking sites are in the open water beyond Bluefish and Whalers Coves. These sites are for skilled divers only. The depths are great, excellent navigation skills are a must, and the sense of security found in the kelp forest is non-existent. Yet, the abundance of marine life is spectacular and the visibility is usually better than in the kelp.

Finding these sites requires a depth finder and/or knowledge of the shore fix. Proper anchoring is a must. Incorrect anchorage can wreck the reef, place you over very deep water without a bottom in sight and even worse, cause your boat to drift away while you are diving. If you have not dived this pinnacle, seek advice from those who have before you attempt it. 

The Great Pinnacle is the most well known of these sites. It rises from a depth of 175 feet on the north, to 35 feet at the peak of its razor edge top. Occasionally, there will be a stalk or two of Macrocystus at the very top of the reef, and in late summer, you can find the reef with this, but for the most part, it remains unmarked. This pinnacle is actually a series of four pinnacles. The Southwest rock tops out at 75 feet, and is rather small compared to the others. There is always a large congregation of yellowtail rockfish, Sebastes flavidus, mixed with olive rockfish, S. serranoides , hovering over this rock. Twenty feet to the north east, is the largest of the pinnacles. It has a relatively flat top at 55 feet, and is a great place to find sponges, cowries, a few Metridium, and many nudibranchs. At the north face of this rock, there is a sheer wall encrusted in sponges of every hue. At the base of this wall is a sand channel, which is the best anchorage, and across the channel is the highest point and most dramatic pinnacle of the series. This segment is almost as large as the flat topped pinnacle, but it is characterized by a razor ridge with sheer sides dropping to depths well over the sport diver limit. The top thirty feet are smothered in Corynactus clones in hues of red, pink and lavender. Hidden under these strawberry anemones are scallops, jingles, and many fine examples of the giant acorn barnacle, Balanus nubilus. The chestnut cowry, Cypraea spadicia, is abundant. A healthy school of bluefish, Sebastes mistinus hovers in the area as well. Another small rock lies to the northwest, beyond a fissure which plummets, scattered with a few Metridium, to 175 feet.

Below the Corynactus masses, the wall is heavy with cup corals, Balanophyllia elegans and Paracyathus stearnsi. In a heavy plankton bloom, when it is as dark as night underwater, there are several basket stars, Gorgonocephalus eucnemis, that crawl out on a flat shelf at 125 feet on the northwestern-most rock. A pair of wolf eels, Anarhichthys ocellatus, live in a fissure at 135 feet on the east face of the razor ridged rock. At the base of the northern-most wall, there are several red gorgonians, Lophogorgia chilensis.

The open water is often filled with jellies. Sea lions rush in to see what's making all the bubbles. During the Fall, Mola mola, the ocean sunfish, come in to be cleaned by the small school of sharpnose surfperch, Phanerodon atripes, that accompany the bluefish school. The occasional whale, blue shark and great white have also been seen here.