Diving The Oil Rigs: After Dark

By Michael Zeigler and Todd Winner


Oil platform Eureka near Huntington Beach, California.

As anyone who has experienced a dive amongst the underwater structure of an oil rig would tell you, there’s sense of wonder and a rush of adrenaline makes this type of dive like no other. Add to that a blanket of darkness, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for an unforgettable adventure.

Here in Southern California, diving the oil rigs is considered to be for experienced and advanced-certified divers only. This is due in part to the “bottomless” depths of the platforms (which can reach over 700 fsw), the live-drop entry/exit since boats cannot anchor, the open ocean currents that can arise seemingly out of nowhere, and an array of other reasons.


The setting sun reflects off the paint of the topside structure of the rig, casting a warm yellow hue to the water below.

Jumping in for our first dive before sunset, we were able to enjoy a dive full of dappled light and a lively bait ball. At the same time, this gave us an opportunity to gauge the conditions so we could anticipate what was going to greet us on our dive after dark.


A large school of baitfish hung around for our dusk dive but seemingly disappeared once the sun went down.

We experienced a slight surface current which all but vanished in time for the night dive. After a healthy surface interval we descended, some of us for the first time, under an oil platform lit only with our lights and those from the undercarriage of the structure above. Having dived oil rig Eureka so many times before made navigation fairly easy. Visibility was 40-50′ and there was only a very slight current. Not to mention the water temps were in the mid to upper-60s.


Lights from the rig above pour in through the lattice-like structure, providing just enough light to illuminate the first several feet of the water.

Not for the faint of heart, this dive is definitely reserved for only the most experienced divers and operators. Unique in its structure alone, diving the oil rigs at night puts a whole new spin on the adventure of diving this offshore underwater playground.


Faint surface lights flank this growth-covered pillar just a few feet below the surface of oil rig Eureka.


Michael ZeiglerMichael Zeigler is a contributor, instructor, and trip leader for Samy’s Underwater Photo & Video, as well as an AAUS Scientific Diver. More of Michael’s underwater photography can be seen at www.seainfocus.com. For the latest information on workshops and trips, sign up for our newsletter.

Todd WinnerTodd Winner is a contributor, instructor, and trip leader for Samy’s Underwater Photo & Video and has over 20 years of experience in underwater still and broadcast video. To see more of Todd’s work please go to www.toddwinner.com. For the latest information on workshops and trips, sign up for our newsletter.

Samy's Underwater Photo & Video

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