Our Underwater Backyard: ‘I speak up for the ocean because it gives us life’

Santiago Ramirez (Photo by Annie Crawley)

My Edmonds News is publishing monthly stories and photographs from the Edmonds Underwater Park, with features written by members of the youth Dive Team led by Annie Crawley, Edmonds underwater photographer, filmmaker, writer and ocean advocate.

The smell of seaweed, the blustering wind, the sand under your feet, or the waves making a small crash on the jetty are all things you might experience when you think about Brackett’s Landing in Edmonds. One of my favorite spots at the beach is the jetty. If you want to visit the large rock structure just north of the ferry dock, you can walk out to get a better view of the Salish Sea. The jetty is very important. For one thing, it allows you to walk farther out to the water’s edge without getting wet.

The jetty. (Photo by Annie Crawley)

Originally built in the 1950s, and reconstructed in the 1980s, the jetty acts as a big wave breaker and shelters our beach. This makes it safer for everyone on the beach and in the water, protecting swimmers, scuba divers and beach goers. Below the surface, the jetty is also a very important ecosystem and it holds so much life in such little space.

Underwater photos by Santiago Ramirez

I look at Brackett’s Landing and the jetty very differently than I did two years ago. I used to see it as a place to walk, but now I look at it as a place for adventure. I learned to scuba dive at Edmonds beach two years ago with Annie Crawley. As a member of her dive team, I learned the jetty is a familiar landmark that divers use to get in and out of the bay. To become an underwater explorer, I learned how to control my buoyancy in a dry suit, how to use a compass to navigate the trails, and how to be safe underwater. When we dive at Edmonds, it not only gives our team great memories, it also gives us many things to talk about with our friends and family about what we see underwater. Now, after learning underwater photography and marine science, I have developed an observant eye that allows me to see things I didn’t before. Edmonds beach and our marine preserve means so much more to my life now that I see the jetty as a whole new world and habitat for everything that lives there.

Edmonds Underwater Park is 27 acres and one of the most popular underwater parks in the Pacific Northwest. Every year more than 25,000 divers come to dive at Edmonds Underwater Park. If you spend any time at the park, you will see Bruce Higgins, who is a park steward and always maintaining the underwater park. The surface buoys mark our underwater trails and deter boats from driving through. The underwater trails act like a roadway of sorts consisting of ropes overgrown with algae helping divers navigate the entire park. There are also diver features throughout. Some are natural and others are man-made, all placed to help divers navigate and to provide habitat for the various creatures that live there.

I love diving at the jetty and wanted to document this region. Before I could dive, I always wanted to know what lived underwater. I learned to dive when I was 10 and all the younger kids on the beach would ask me as I entered and exited the water what I would see underwater. Now, I get to show them! At high tide it’s full of activity with kelp crabs feeding in the algae, juvenile lingcod looking for a meal, sea anemones feeding, and dueling hermit crabs. It’s a tidal zone, so stationary animals are robust as our low tides expose the rocks. Fish always school by the rocks at high tide. You can see perch, gunnels, great sculpins, and flounders in the sand. On one of my favorite dives we witnessed more than a dozen hermit crabs hanging out having a hermit crab party. The shallow water and protected structure serves as a nursery for many small fish. When the fish grow larger, they move to deeper water. It’s a predator-versus-prey world under the sea. Adult lingcod, cabezon and rockfish are some of the biggest predators in our park. The lingcod can grow bigger than me!

We also see a lot of sea stars on the jetty. They are usually moving to a new spot or hunting as they slowly feed on barnacles as they move. The two main types of sea stars we see at the jetty are the ochre sea star and the mottled sea star. The purple ochre sea star has a thick body and arms. It also comes in a deep orange color. The mottled sea star has thinner and longer arms and a more muted color of browns and oranges..

At the jetty, anemones are abundant. If you look closely, you will find the painted anemone, aggregating anemone, and moon glow anemone. The painted anemone has a stocky body, and comes in reddish-pink, white, and green. Aggregating anemones are normally found on rocks or sandy places, and have a light-dark greenish color. It has reddish-pink tentacles, and you can find many of them in groups. The moon glow anemone has a smaller body with skin that comes in light green or brown, but their tentacles come in white or green with small white lines. They are soft and squishy to the touch. At low tide, they suck all their tentacles in and are hard to spot. When the tide comes in they open up all their tentacles and look like flowers. It is truly a rainbow sea underwater.

The jetty is very different not only between high and low tide, but whether you are walking on land or diving underwater. When people are out walking at low tide, you need to be careful so you don’t step on any of our magnificent hidden animals found all over the beach. The jetty also looks much taller at low tide than high tide.

I think diving is a great experience for anyone because you experience a new world that is so different from anything on land. When I dive, I love everything about the adventure and feeling of floating and exploring. Exploring the ocean makes me want to know more about it. Diving has changed the lives of every person I know, and it impacts how they live every day.

I love the ocean because it provides such peace to me and I think this feeling can happen to other people. When we scuba dive we move slowly and learn to take slow deep breaths, and to me, deep breaths can really help calm me down no matter what is happening. Breathing slowly makes me feel more relaxed and comfortable not only underwater, but we use this breathing on land too. Right in our backyard is an unbelievable world just below the surface. Diving is so much fun and holds unlimited exploration. No two dives are the same!

I speak up for the ocean because it gives us life. It gives us oxygen, food, water and good times.

We have to speak up for the ocean because climate change and pollution impacts our Salish Sea. The water is getting warmer and some animals here at Edmonds cannot live in warmer waters. We can start helping the ocean and Edmonds by telling our friends about climate change and plastic pollution and they can start to tell their friends and family. Edmonds Underwater Park is our backyard. We must take care of it. It’s our responsibility to clean up the sea. We do clean-ups whenever we are at the beach. I want everyone to start thinking about how what we do in our community drains right down mainstreet to Edmonds Underwater Park.

I have loved going to Edmonds ever since I was a little kid because there are so many fun things to do at the beach. As a member of Annie Crawley’s Scuba Diving Team, we are committed to not only underwater exploring, but to speak-up for the ocean we love. It’s our communities underwater backyard and we want other people to understand what lies just below the surface at Brackett’s Landing North and help us protect it.

I speak up for the ocean and I hope you do too!

— By Santiago Ramirez

Santiago Ramirez (Photo by Annie Crawley)

Santiago (Santi) Ramirez is 12 years old and from Mountlake Terrace. He learned to dive in 2018 at Edmonds Underwater Park when he was 10 years old. Santi wanted to dive because his dad inspired him. Now, Santi loves the sound of bubbles leaving his regulator and sharing the experience with his dad. Santi believes diving is fun because it is unlike any other experience, especially the feeling of being able to float through the water effortlessly. He enjoys shooting macro photography and exploring the Edmonds jetty at high tide. When he is not diving, Santi is a gymnast, fixes cars and cooks with his family. He likes to listen to rock and rap music, especially The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac. He also plays trombone. Santi’s favorite food is gorditas, which have chicken, lettuce, salsa, tomatoes, lime, chili and avocado.

You and your kids do not need to be a scuba diver to join Annie Crawley’s Dive Team, you just need to commit to becoming a voice for our ocean. Our mission and vision is for everyone in the community to share stories about our ocean because without us, the ocean has no voice. Join the dive team today and lend your voice to ocean conservation: www.ouroceanandyou.com/join-now


  1. Heartfelt writing complemented with nice photos – what a marvelous feature about yet another Edmonds asset. Great job everyone.

    I’m looking forward to more.

  2. What a great new column! These photos are wonderful and such a treat for those of us who love to walk at the jetty but don’t get the opportunity to see what’s below the surface. Thank you so much for sharing both your photos and your experiences. Looking forward to seeing more!

  3. Enjoyed this 1st feature and look forward to more. Thank you. What’s status of sea stars since many were effected by disease several years back?

  4. Thank you for writing such an informative and fascinating article about what lives in our Edmonds backyard!

  5. Thank you for sharing your passion and knowledge. A long time ago when I was your age the local beaches of Puget Sound were areas of discovery of various shells, `sand dollars’ anemones, seaweed, all kinds of crabs etc.
    Now I know that fortunately there is still an environment underwater that needs protecting and your presentation and photos are amazing and educational as well. Great photos!

  6. Fascinating article and photography! Thank you, Santi, for sharing your love for the ocean. You are an excellent writer.

  7. Great article. The intersection of two of my favorites — Edmonds and the underwater world which so few ever have the opportunity to experience! I did my scuba certification dives at our now ell-known underwater park. Boy, our water is cold! But, Annie’s story and wonderful “up close and personal” pictures demonstrate how extraordinary that underwater world is. An Edmonds asset that far too few have opportunity to enjoy.

  8. Thank you, Santi, for your amazing personal story, specifically about Edmonds Underwater Park and in general about the importance, beauty, and necessity of our amazing oceans. I especially appreciated your plea for us to protect our large waterways from pollution and degredation caused by us humans. Because we have been the cause of the problems, we can also be the solution, led by intelligent and active young people like you.

  9. Ocean Annie is awesome! Our kids went to Beach Camp in north Edmonds for five years when she ran the camp. Annie made the camp so fun and so informative! In addition to her love for sealife, her passion for people is also very contagious.
    SO many of my best memories have been spent at the beaches in Edmonds. I remember in the ’70s how fun it was to swim out to the diver platforms between the ferry and jetty! The Puget Sound has always been such an incredible “playground!” Thank you for your wonderful article Santi! We are all so blessed to live here! The waterfront and beaches are such a precious place and so important to take care of.

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