**This blog entry orginally appeared on the website oceanspaces.org.**/p>

Wednesday, November 7 was a nearly perfect day for diving. The swell was small, winds were calm and there was no offshore current. My buddy and assistant Anneliese Kupfrian and I took advantage of the conditions to dive a pinnacle south of Point Lobos, far offshore. Arriving at the spot, I watched the boat’s depth sounder to find the peak I was looking for. To my surprise, I discovered a ridge emerging from deep water (110′) more than 100 yards from the spot I’d had in mind. A discovery! The peaks of the new ridge were shallower than the pinnacle we’d started out toward, so we dropped anchor without hesitation and prepared to descend.

 The water was wonderfully clear, and we could see we had dropped onto one side of a large rock about the size of a small two-story house. Almost immediately we realized we’d arrived on a very, very special day. Circling the rock were dozens of two to three-foot long ocean sunfish, Mola mola.

Molas often arrive in the autumn, October and November, spending a few days near the shore. Sea lions prey upon them mercilessly, often biting off their fins and leaving the immobilized mola to die adrift on the bottom. We’re not clear whether the fins are an especially valued delicacy by the sea lions, or if this activity is more a kind of sport. We do know that sea lions do sometimes consume the entire mola, because we’ve photographed the feeding, watching big bull sea lions tear large fish to pieces with their teeth and violent thrashing.

But on this day all was peaceful as molas circled us, seemingly without care. Using a bubble-free rebreather, I’ve gotten spoiled by how unafraid of me many fish are. Without the noise and bright lights of bubbles, I seem much less threatening. Once a few years ago, another buddy and I encountered another group of molas. They’d have nothing to do with us until my buddy and his bubbles were far away. Then the molas swam so close to me I could almost have touched them. But today, even Anneliese’s bubbles didn’t spook our friends. They made slow lazy circles around us and the rock, allowing me to click off frame after frame, and Anneliese to record them on video with her tiny camera (pictured, above). It was one of the best dives of the last several years for me, and a peak experience to be sure. We’ll go back to “Mola Peak” when benign conditions again make it possible to do so safely, but the molas’ visit made our first dive there one to remember.

 

This is an authorized re-printing of a post from Marc Shargel’s Living Sea Images blog.