SBCC biology students dive into learning about marine wildlife

MICHAEL BUESCH, Channels Staff

City College students boarded the scuba diving boat “Truth” at the Santa Barbara harbor to depart for the Channel Islands first thing in the morning.

Before sunrise, young divers were awakened by the intense choppiness of the Sunday morning surf.

The student-organized trip gives students the opportunity to scuba dive for their first time amongst their peers and the chance to get certified without signing up for another class.

“It’s really nice, I woke up and there was already a whole breakfast cooked with bacon and eggs and fruit,” said student Shane Finnerty. “Everyone was really hospitable.”

Plans for the trip were almost canceled due to the intense winds that lasted all weekend. But behind Santa Rosa Island, divers found enough protection from the wind to anchor. Club Officer Richard Chen said underwater visibility was low because of the aggressive currents.

“The waves were so hard that cups were falling off the shelves inside the boat,” said Chen, who did most of the organizing for the trip.

“Everyone was onboard so we just went,” he said. “But sometimes we’d lift out of our chairs when the waves would hit.”

Truth Aquatics takes the students out to the islands to dive at a discounted price. The trip cost includes oxygen tanks for three dives, most equipment and meals at half price.

James Tennant, an employee at Truth Aquatics says, “Diving can be expensive and we want to make sure the industry nourishes the younger divers.” Tennant got his diving certification through the Marine Diving Technology program at City College.

During the last academic year, there was a Scuba club, but its low attendance resulted in it being absorbed by the biology club. Chen and Marine Biology Professor Michelle Paddack revived the club with their diving experience.

“The thing that I think is really cool about [Scuba club] is that it draws people from across campus and brings them together,” Paddack said.

One of the reasons they explained that they promote scuba diving at the college is its proximity to the Channel Islands, which are protected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

They’re within a national marine sanctuary so divers see, “lot’s of fish you don’t see anywhere else,” he said. “The Channels Islands are some of the best diving in North America,” said Chen.

The biology club meets on the first Friday of each month at 1 p.m. in the Earth and Biological Sciences Building in Room 209. They’re planning one more dive this semester shortly after finals, and anyone who is certified in diving is eligible to go.

“Seventy percent of the earth is underwater, so if you decide not to go diving, enjoy your thirty percent,” said Paddack.