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Have you ever had the pleasure of scuba diving an oil rig? There are not very many places around the world that you can do just that. The Pacific Ocean is a good place to start as there are several options for diving an oil rig.

Elly and Ellen

Photo taken at Elly & Ellen oil rig pacific coast.

I had the pleasure of diving the Elly and Ellen rig off of Long Beach in Southern California with Sun Diver International. This oil rig actually has two platforms that are connected by a bridge. Diving an oil rig is similar to diving a wreck. But, there is added excitement when you descend and can hear the working machinery as it is an active oil rig!

The Dive

As we approached from our short 15 minute boat ride from Long Beach, we were all getting very excited, taking pictures of the working rig. We were on a very nice semi-private boat with only 6 divers. As we arrived, the seas were calm with no current which was incredible because they usually see pretty good current there. One by one we jumped off into water that was as deep as 260 feet. We surface swam to the rig so as not get caught underwater in an unexpected current. At the surface, the stench of the sea lions that were hanging out on the platform became overwhelming. We descended quickly, just on the outside of the platform, and made our way through the pilings that were engrossed in beautiful coral, sea urchins, and sea stars. We stayed pretty shallow only getting to about 45 feet deep. There was definitely plenty of room to go deeper, but we were taking pictures, and the water clarity was perfect at shallower depths. There were many sea lions coming to check us out. One in particular kept coming back, playing with us, even bringing sea stars as a gift to one of the other divers in our group.

Marine Life

The fish were plentiful with numerous Garibaldi (the bright orange fish abundant in the Pacific) and others such as sheephead and smaller fish. The oil pilings were covered in mussels and barnacles. As we swam over the working rig, there were different pieces of machinery moving and working to run the rig. There was so much to see, but the sea lions definitely stole the show!

This unique experience was something I would recommend to all my diver friends. From novice to professional, oil rig diving has something for everyone! As long as you aren’t scared about dropping into water that deep! Additionally, beginner divers should have experience diving in currents. I suppose even tech divers could venture to the bottom of the rig to explore what is at 260 feet. Contact Atlantic Adventure Divers to hear more about trips to dive an oil rig!

Other Oil Rigs in Southern California

We were told that there are 3 oil rigs off of Southern California that can be dove on. Eureka is another one that is nearby Elly and Ellen and sits in 700 feet of water. Eureka is apparently one of the favorites of divers. I have not had the pleasure of diving on it yet, but it is on my list! The platform Grace is a little further north in the Santa Barbara Channel in 318 feet of water. The dive could be combined with a nearby visit to Anacapa Island which is a fun place to dive as well. The other numerous oil rigs you see off the coast do not allow diving.

Around the World

With decommissioning of oil rigs, there are several projects to turn them into reefs. The Gulf of Mexico has oil rigs that are full of life. They are found in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary located off of Galveston, Texas.

Malaysia offers oil rig diving as a PADI 5 star resort where divers can stay on the old retired platform and go diving. Now that’s a different kind of liveaboard diving! Inquire here for more details on planning a trip!

Coming Soon

Another oil rig in Santa Barbara, California called Platform C is potentially going to be open soon for public diving opportunities. While shallower, with the bottom only reaching 192 feet, it is expected to be rich in life and another great place for photographers to marvel at the scenery.

So, whether you are new to diving or been diving for years, oil rig diving is something you should add to your bucket list of dives. Also, do your own research on the conservation efforts by several groups to turn oil rigs into natural reefs to help protect our ocean!

Article by Candace Reno, avid #AtlAdvDivers scuba blogger and PADI IDC Staff Instructor