Diving oil rigs off Long Beach, CA--still shots
Oil Rig Diving off Long Beach, California--videos
About 8.5 miles off the coast of Long Beach harbor are three oil rigs open for divers with advance permits. My favorite dive group (Power Scuba out of San Diego) regularly obtains these permits to take 15-25 divers at a time throughout the year. The waters here are very unpredictable, as open-ocean swells can cause dangerous conditions where less skilled divers could get easily pushed into the beams. This makes the dives advanced, as well as the fact that you are in open ocean water without a bottom to see, which makes some less advanced divers panicky and anxiety-ridden. However, this dive experience makes for a nice change-up from the typical shore dives of So Cal and helps to provide a unique experience that you cannot get with shore diving.
One rig Eureka sits in about 700 feet of water, while the “twins” Elly and Ellen are in about 260 feet of water (called the twins because they are connected by a walk-way and they operate in tandem with each other, with one of them for drilling oil and the other for refining). Deco divers might be comfortable going to the bottom of the twins, but I tend to just explore the goings-on at the first set of cross beams between 60-80 feet on each rig. For some reason, the workers of the rigs bleach and “clean” the growth that collects on the beams from surface to about 45 feet below (I still don’t really know why they do this). In this area, you won’t find much growth on the beams other than black mussels, some small white anemone, some brittle sea stars, and the usual sea lions investigating you to find out why you are invading their home and then showing off their acrobatic skills. You might also get lucky enough to find yourself in a baitball, which is always a very special experience, but you could also stumble upon some dolphin and maybe a pilot whale (unfortunately I did not get any shots of the pilot whale that swam past our boat as we were gearing up). Deeper you will find huge clusters of beautiful strawberry, purple, and white anemone, as well as larger sea stars and palm-sized scallops that are ripe for picking. During my first visit, I was able to capture some video of me navigating the beams on all sides covered in bright life, which gave the illusion that I was in a fantasy world exploring a maze. This is truly one experience that every California diver should have at least once.