Cannery Point Pinnacles

West of the bird rocks at the end of Cannery Point Wall, in Bluefish Cove, the Cannery Point Pinnacles are beneath the kelp canopy, from the north edge of the kelp forest, to the southern-most wash rock, and westward more than half way across the cove. A maze of canyons, pinnacles and spires, some breaking the surface, others mere feet below the surface, they jut vertically from 80 feet below, the massive blocks of granite Map of Cannery Point Pinnaclesand narrow canyons reminiscent of streets and alleyways among skyscrapers. To the north of the kelp bed are deeper open water reefs and pinnacles that slope quickly into the Carmel Canyon. A list of all the species found here would fill a book. I can scarcely mention the highlights in one page.

At the base of these vertical walls are boulder piles that are the habitat of several members of the Sebastes rockfish family, such as Vermilion, Copper, and Rosy Rockfishes. Wolf eels, Anarrhichthys occelatus, hide in the boulders and holes in the deep reefs, sometimes swimming up into the shallows to hunt. I have often found them hunting out in the open in 15 feet of water around the bird rock, or holed up in their lairs in the deep reefs from 90 feet and deeper. In the crevasses against the west side of the Granite Point Wall, there are lingcods of legendary proportions. Sheepsheads and other southern species began migrating here in the 1970's, and have increased in number with each El Niño. In the open water, its not impossible to see the occasional Ocean Sunfish, Mola mola, feeding on the frequent jelly swarms that drift in from late spring through fall. These jelly swarms are the primary food source for the large schools of Bluefish, Blacksmiths and Olive Rockfish who hover calmly at the edge of the kelp canopy. In the shallows of the steep faces of the exposed rocks, you can see quite distinctly the intertidal zonation of invertebrates. There are a number of Black and Yellow Rockfish, and even some of the spectacular China Rockfish.

The invertebrate life is vividly colored and abundant. The deep walls are scattered with cup corals, Balanophyllia and Paracyathus, whose orange and translucent brown tentacles contrast beautifully with the cobalt encrusting sponge, Hymenamphiastra cyanocrypta. At the base of the north side of the bird rock, and out into the deep reefs, are several red gorgonian corals, Lophogorgia chilensis. Almost every part of the reef above 60 feet that is not carpeted with strawberry anemones is covered in sponges, tunicates, feather duster worms and algae of every hue. There are cowries, Cyprea spadica, and numerous nudibranchs feeding on the yellow sponge, Halichondria. Some fine specimens of the Red Sponge, Ophlitaspongia, encrust the substrate in thin sheets, providing food and habitat for the red nudibranchs, Rostanga pulcra and Aldisa sanguinea . The colorful California Hydrocoral, Stylaster, is in abundant recovery from the 1950's, when divers took it as souvenirs. Everywhere around the exposed rocks, there are enormous specimens of the green anemone, Anthopleura. The bigger ones are up to seventy-five years old.

On a calm day, a diver who is a strong swimmer can swim out of Whaler's Cove, around the outer-most bird rock, and back beneath the kelp canopy in Bluefish Cove, returning to Whaler's Cove through the large gap in the middle of the rocks, where it is 10 feet deep. The surge in this area is strong when the swell is larger than 6 feet. Use caution in the narrow, shallow places during these conditions; if you're not a strong swimmer, you'll need a boat. If it's one of those days when the sea looks like a lake, don't pass up the opportunity to dive here. It's one of the best dives in the state.

By Patrick Lovejoy ©1998
map illustration by Reiko Michisaki