Written by: Nick
I have always had a passion for nature, but being a surfer and scuba diver, I too often see the signs of humanity. Trash finds its way into our beaches and oceans via runoff or littering, and makes its way into places human’s don’t even live, such as underwater. In the shallow waters of the coastline, one doesn’t have to look far to find signs of the terrestrial world.
Scuba diving on Catalina is a unique privilege. The specific diving conditions that exist on this island are hard to find on the mainland. A day of good underwater visibility on the mainland is 20-30 feet, while here you can see 40+ feet. Furthermore, the diversity of marine life is unmatched anywhere else in Southern California.
Having been scuba certified since I was 13 years old, I have certainly dove Catalina before moving here, and the Avalon Harbor Cleanup is well known in the scuba community. Since this is my first year actually living on the island, I knew I had to participate.
The annual Harbor Cleanup is actually beneficial in multiple ways. Not only is Avalon Harbor getting pounds (5,200 pounds this year!) of trash removed, but the donations and entrance fees go to the USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber and Wrigley Institute. The USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber located on the way to Two Harbors, at Wrigley Marine Science Center, is an emergency medical facility used as treatment for scuba diving accidents (see photo below). Many types of accidents require the diver to enter the chamber which is then pressurized to simulate the water pressure from being at depth. These treatments are extremely time-sensitive, and without this on-island facility and LA County Lifeguards, diving on Catalina would be much more risky.
The day of the event, I woke up early and double checked my gear to make sure I was ready to go. I had already paid the sign up fee (which comes with 1 “free” air fill), and signed the waiver, so I headed down to the beach. I was able to select which part of the harbor I was to dive in (the Green Pier!) ahead of time, so I joined the gathering group of divers to listen to the pre-dive safety briefing. I was alone, so I met another solo diver and we decided to be buddies, since you can’t dive alone. After the briefing we were finally ready. We suited up and entered the water.
Normally unavailable to divers, the Green Pier is one of the popular icons of the town. My dive buddy and I spent most of our dive weaving between the large wooden pylons picking up discarded fishing line, glass bottles, batteries, and beer cans. I stuffed the bag I brought with me with any trash I could find. By the end of my dive, it was so heavy and created so much drag, that swimming became a challenge. Eventually I made it back to the beach safely, and with plenty of air left over.
Once on the beach, my buddy and I made it over to the giant tarp they had spread out on the beach and dumped out over overflowing bags. We had a moment of pride, looking at our haul, knowing we helped beautify this harbor. The volunteers then helped us sort our junk into different piles for recycling.
Overall, the experience was very satisfying- I felt like I was giving back to the island that has given me many memories over the years, and allowing future generations to use the beaches without stepping on trash everywhere.