Cannery Point Wall, aka Hole-in-the-Wall Reef

If the water were to be drained from Carmel Bay, and we could see the terrain that is now hidden beneath the surface of the water, we would see that Cannery Point once extended further out to sea for a distance of over a quarter of a mile before it dropped off into the Carmel Submarine Canyon. The erosion of the soft, granitic substrate by thCannery Point Wall mape sea has worn the point down until, today, all that remains above the surface is the chain of rocks that extends northward from Cannery Point. These rocks are the top of the central wall which rises to within a few feet of the surface. The deepest channel, in the gap between these rocks, is only 10 feet deep, and only in the calmest of seas, is it advisable to swim through to Bluefish Cove. Consequently, we will only deal with the Whaler's Cove side in this article.

Ten to twenty feet west of the sand channel, at the point across from the first rocks in the chain, just beyond Cannery Point, is the largest of three parallel walls. Rising from 40 to 70 feet deep to as shallow as 20 feet, these sharply vertical walls are separated by narrow canyons 20 feet in width, and are home to many individual specimens of the orange puffball sponge, Tethya aurantia), the orange sea cucumber, Cucumaria miniata, three species of bryozoans, and the orange cup coral, Balanophyllia elegans, as well as many examples of most of the invertebrates common to Carmel Bay. The tops of these walls are thick in algae and surge-loving invertebrates, such as feather duster worms, Eudystilia polymorpha, strawberry anemones, Corynactus, and nudibranchs feeding on the numerous sponges.

At the northern terminus of the three walls is a small sand channel leading to the central gap in the rock chain. Most of this sand is bioclastic, that is, derived from organic material like coralline algae and shells. The grinding action of the surge has created a small sand "factory" in this channel. As you swim west up this channel, towards the central wall, there is a pile of whole and broken mussel shells , beginning the process of being ground to sand by the action of the surge. North of the small sand channel, there is another wall, and a large, deep area of cobble and 80 foot high kelp.

In the area of the central wall, the well aerated water and the constant wave driven current supply nutrients that support a density of life that is four times that of the rest of Whaler's Cove. The three heavily encrusted outer rocks, which drop precipitously to 90 feet inside the cove, are separated by very shallow channels filled with huge specimens of the green anemone, Anthopleura xanthogrammica , some of them being about 70 years old, and many colorful ochre sea stars, Pisaster. There are many Laminarian kelps here that harbor the brooding anemone, Epiactus prolifera. This beautifully patterned anemone, when pursued by a predator, or when disbudding from the mother anemone, dislodges and is swept by the surge to its new location. With a healthy fish population, it's not unusual to find huge lingcod, wolf eels, large schools of tubesnouts, senorita, surf perch, bluefish and olive rockfish, and even a few sheepsheads that arrived here from Southern California in the last El Niño.

The central wall terminates at the outside of the last rock, whose sheer north face drops to over 100 feet on the outside, and is a great place to look for pelagic jellies, fish, and sea lions out in the water column, and open-ocean reef dwelling invertebrates, like cowries and hydrocoral, on the substrate. Beyond this point, the ocean's floor drops to over one hundred thirty feet, and falls quickly into the Carmel Canyon.

By Patrick Lovejoy ©1997 map illustration by Reiko Michisaki