Beneath Two Sacred Crosses

BOTH THE PACIFIC AND ATLANTIC OCEANS possess their respective “Sacred Cross Island”: to the West, Santa Cruz of the California Channel Islands; to the East, St. Croix of the U.S. Virgin Islands. On 11-17-2018 I found myself swimming the waters off the North side of Santa Cruz Island. It was a spur-the-moment trip involving a few family members and the 15 ft Boston Whaler. It didn’t occur to me or anyone else that some of us would be, as already planned, in one weeks time swimming in the waters around another island whose name also means “sacred cross”. This “coincidence” was one that none of us consciously planned, and one which I didn’t pick up on until several days before taking off to St. Croix. Now after having been baptized by the waters of both crosses (two lines make a cross–X marks the spot), I can say the most critical experiential difference between the two is temperature: the Pacific version being a nippy 62 F; the Atlantic a paradisaical 82 F. Out of one you emerge with blue lips; the other, possibly sunburn. Below are photos of the underwater environments of both, grouped in twos: the first image from Santa Cruz, the second from St. Croix.

Cold sea cave
Warm coral grotto

Giant kelp forest (video)
Coral reef structure (video)

Kelp forests “are recognized as one of the most productive and dynamic ecosystems on Earth” (wikipedia)
“The annual global economic value of coral reefs is estimated between US $30–375 billion” (wikipedia)

Giant bladder kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera)

Sea grass
Stony corals

Common sea fan (Gorgonia ventalina)

Sea urchin explosion
Queen conch (Strombus gigas) graveyard

Nine purple sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) and a limpet
West Indian sea eggs (Tripneustes ventricosus) on a concrete wall

A salty purple sea star (Pisaster ochraceus) on the rocks (video)
Common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) in a hideout

A couple of kelp snails (Norrisia norrisii)
Empty conch shell (Strombidae)

Seaweed assortment
Coral assortment

Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus), California’s state marine fish
A juvenile French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru) and a juvenile flat needlefish (Ablennes hians) haunting a pyramidal concrete structure (video)

Southern stingray (Dasyatis americana) with an ~4ft wingspan floating above an underwater lawn (video)

Probably sardines…
A school of air-breathing Tarpon (video)

A common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) surfing the boat wake
A full grown Endangered green sea turtle. In addition to the turtle grass, could this one have plastic in its gut?

The Boston Whaler anchored offshore


Epic Gas tanker leaving shore (video)

See more photos here and here