SCUBA Diving Beneath Oil Rigs Eureka, Ellen and Elly in Long Beach, California

I recently made a few dives underneath the oil rigs “Eureka”, “Ellen” and “Elly”, about 8 miles off Long Beach, California. Oil rig Eureka is located in about 700′ of water, so from the perspective of recreational divers it is a bottomless dive. Ellen and Elly are in shallower water, about 260′, which is still out of reach of recreational dives but I suppose if you wanted to you could check out the bottom, at which point you could then direct your captain to take you directly to the Catalina chamber. The Power Scuba group with whom I was diving had chartered the dive boat Pacific Star for the day. We left the dock at 7am. I thought the boat looked familiar and indeed it was: I had divemastered on this boat 20+ years ago when it was named Bold Contender. About an hour later, after eating a great breakfast, getting a briefing and putting together gear, we arrived at the Eureka. Seas were flat calm and glassy, and the captain made our lives easy by bringing the stern of the boat close to the rig so we had only a short swim to reach the enormous pilings.

Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720' of water

Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720′ of water.
Image ID: 31093
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Scuba Divers at Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720' of water

Scuba Divers at Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720′ of water.
Image ID: 31089
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Water visibility was not great and the sun was still low on the horizon, so I had to resort to shutter speeds of about 1/8 to have any reasonable light to balance my strobes. My goal was to photograph the invertebrate life covering the underwater beams and columns. In preparation for a series of dive trips I have starting in October, I’m practicing wide-angle lighting again after taking about 14 years off of shooting underwater seriously. I figured big, stationary oil rig pilings with lots of color in relatively clear water was just the thing upon which to practice. The beams above about 50′ had been cleaned recently so did not offer much color, but below the first set of cross beams (at 60′) large clusters of Corynactis and Metridium anemones were growing and provided something to photograph.

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure and invertebrate Life, Corynactis californica, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure and invertebrate Life
Image ID: 31073
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure
Image ID: 31080
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

After finishing our dive on the Eureka we moved to the nearby twin rigs Ellen and Elly, and made a dive on each. Conditions were a little better since the sun had risen further and the water seemed a little cleaner. On all the rigs, we saw large schools of bait along with a few California sea lions in the shallower reaches of the beams, which was fun — I love diving with sea lions.

Oil platforms Ellen (left) and Elly (right) lie in 260' of seawater 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California

Oil platforms Ellen (left) and Elly (right) lie in 260′ of seawater 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California
Image ID: 31095
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31114
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Corynactis anemones on Oil Rig Elly underwater structure, Corynactis californica, Long Beach, California

Corynactis anemones on Oil Rig Elly underwater structure
Image ID: 31121
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Starfish on Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure, covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Starfish on Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure, covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31117
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

I plan to return and try it again, hoping for cleaner water and thicker schools of bait. It was a lot of fun, and pretty easy to do (provided one has excellent control of one’s buoyancy), and offers something very different than most of the other diving pursuits in California. Cheers and thanks for looking!

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig, Zalophus californianus, Long Beach

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig.
Image ID: 31087
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Bait fish schooling underneath Oil Rig Elly, Long Beach, California

Bait fish schooling underneath Oil Rig Elly
Image ID: 31143
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig, Zalophus californianus, Long Beach

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig.
Image ID: 31088
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31100
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Metridium anemones covering Oil Rig Elly underwater structure, Metridium senile, Long Beach, California

Metridium anemones covering Oil Rig Elly underwater structure
Image ID: 31125
Species: Plumose anemone, Metridium senile
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Metridium anemones covering Oil Rig Elly underwater structure, Metridium senile, Long Beach, California

Metridium anemones covering Oil Rig Elly underwater structure
Image ID: 31129
Species: Plumose anemone, Metridium senile
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Corynactis anemones cover Oil Rig Ellen underwater, Corynactis californica, Long Beach, California

Corynactis anemones cover Oil Rig Ellen underwater
Image ID: 31096
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31112
Location: Long Beach, California, USA