Divers you should know – Dr. Wheeler North

In a never ending journey to dive enlightenment, CFD would like to roll out a new feature spotlighting people that have played an important role in the California diving community but for some reason are nearly forgotten by contemporary divers.  They were educators, pioneers, and leaders.

Meet Dr. Wheeler North, a graduate of Scripp’s Institution of Oceanography and for over 40 years the premier expert on California’s kelp ecosystems.  Working for Cal Tech, Dr. North developed kelp forest replenishment techniques that remain relevant to this day as plans are in motion to restore the beds off Palos Verdes. He was also a pioneer in the field of dive training, working with Conrad Limbaugh, Bev Morgan, and Al Tillman during the development the Los Angeles County  dive program, precursor to all other dive training programs. In addition, he is widely credited with being the first marine scientist to utilize scuba equipment for research purposes. He also worked on groundbreaking research on biomass fuel and CO2 sequestration. Based on all he did, it is also most likely he didn’t sleep either.

Dr Wheeler North

In short, an amazing career that impacted and continues to impact our diving community on a regular basis. In recognition, So Cal Edison named the largest man-made reef in California the Wheeler J North reef. Find out more about it here.


Throwback Thursday CFD-style

red ab_P. Haaker
Great looking red taken by DFG Biologist Pete Haaker

Some divers might make 1000 dives in their California dive career and never see one. Sadly, they used to be as thick as carpet on reefs up and down our coastline but thanks to a knockout combination of overfishing and a fatal disease introduced into the ecosystem, reds are for intensive purposes biologically extinct in most of our state. Take a moment and enjoy something that’s not really here anymore. CFD is proud to present to you the late, great red abalone.

THe brick red shell and all-black epodium were common sights to local divers as recently as the early 1990's
The brick red shell and all-black epodium were common sights to local divers as recently as the 1990’s
There were so many abalone that they even bothered to publish books about them.

Kelp Restoration and the demise of purple urchins off Palos Verdes

Who’ll think of the Bass? SMBRC will.

The Los Angeles Times ran a front page article this week detailing the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission’s 5-year plan to cull 4.8 million purple sea urchin from the cove and reefs on the southern end of the Palos Verdes peninsula. Hopefully as the urchin population is reduced to less than two percent of it’s current state, kelp will  flourish and we’ll get to enjoy once more what pioneering scuba divers during the 1950’s knew to be a prime and dynamic example of a healthy kelp forest ecosystem. With $2.5 million in funding from the Monsanto/Montrose Settlement fund, scientists and divers will be working overtime on a 152 sq acre patch trying to bring to fruition a restoration project that has been the dream of local divers and environmentalist for the past 50 years.  It’s an exciting time for those of us who love our local waters here in Los Angeles.

One of the most important things to remember when looking at marine restoration and conservation projects is that we can never make things look exactly how they used to be. We won’t be seeing the virgin environment that the those first divers saw as they explored places like Abalone Cove and Whites Point, relying on new technology to open up the nearshore environment. We do however have the chance to make it look the way we want it to, and that would be a healthy and balanced ecosystem. So keep your fingers and webbed toes crossed for success as these local scientist and divers work towards a healthier ocean.

For more information or to find out ways your can make a difference, contact either Tom Ford, Director of Marine programs at the SMBRC or Brian Meux, Marine Program Manager at Los Angeles Waterkeeper.

For a link to the Los Angeles Times article and more details, click on the picture below:

Sunlight through the kelp
The Los Angeles Times article is like a ray of sunshine through a beautiful kelp forest