Thursday, March 22, 2018

Whyttecliff 03/15/2018

Vlad, Nick and I got together for a night dive at Whyttecliff Park. It was steadily getting brighter, and the daylight savings change made it even more so. Summer was on the way!

It was a perfect evening, sunny and dry. Our plan was to go in at the Cut since the tide was high.

When we arrived, we checked out the entrance at the Cut. Everything was clear of logs and debris. What was not so clear were the hundreds of plastic flower petals that had been spread around for some photo shoot. John Nunes reported this a few days ago. It was really unfortunate. With all the marine debris, why are people throwing more in? Spend the extra money and buy real flower petals...

The plan was to have a fun dive, then do some bottle work and skills in the bay. It was a good thing we didn't plan for much more. The visibility was quite a challenge. It seemed like the fish spawning activity lately was having an impact. It was especially bad when we deployed an SMB and started our skills. We started to ascend to 6 meters, but it was just too hard to see each other. It would be no fun if we lost a bottle due to poor vis. Instead we did our skills at 12 meters and it was better.

During the fun part of the dive I saw more yellow tail rockfish than I had ever seen before. There were hundreds and hundreds. We saw the usual interesting hairy lithoid crabs, cloud sponges and plumose anemones. Unfortunately there were no octopus that we saw. I did spy a grunt sculpin hiding.

When we got out of the water, poor Nick said his beard smelled strongly of fish. I was glad I didn't have to drive home like that!

Monday, March 19, 2018

GUE-BC Quadra Island 9-11/03/2018

Jim Dixon helped organize a GUE-BC trip to Quadra Island with Pacific Pro Dive. It was finally time to go! Here was the video compilation I put together, right off the bat.

It would be a two day weekend. Most of the group arrived Friday afternoon, but Vlad and myself arrived that evening. Two ferry rides certainly made for a longer day. But I knew it would be worth it.

Bridget found an Air BnB on Quadra which we all shared. We got to see it first hand on Friday evening. It was set up very well for a big group. The ocean view, deck and Patio were amazing. There was a wood stove and a hot tub too. Unfortunately the hot tub was on the fritz, so that was a bit disappointing. But the dining area overlooked the water and that made up for it a bit. I'd definitely stay again. 

On Saturday we were treated to eggs and sausages by Jim. Then it was off to the boat. There was no dock at the place so we couldn't get picked up at our door. We agreed next time to try and find a place with a private dock.

Here was a good picture of Ian getting on board.

Captain Chris was manning our boat that day. He joked that he'd try and get us back in on piece. I'd been out with Chris before so I knew we were good. There were four other divers on board, two re-breathers and two recreational.

The visibility was amazing. We had already been marvelling at it from the deck. We dove Row and Be Damned first. It was a huge area of strawberry anemone fields and boulders with kelp. Vlad got many great pictures.

Chris said that it would turn into a good drift dive, but that only happened about 15 minutes in. It worked well as it gave Ian and Vlad time to take more pictures. The drift portion was very fun. I couldn't believe the number of strawberry anemones. We came across an electrical box that I pretended to lift.

Ian and Vlad found a few Puget Sound King crabs.

There was also a strange worm, which was crawling across a rock. It was black with white bands. I had to email the Aquarium to see if they had any clue (we didn't get a picture). Another very unique find was a northern abalone (you didn't see those often). The boulders with remnants of kelp on them were very pretty.

There was also some kind of algae or sea-weed growing in fan-like formations.

We also started seeing many softball sized grey jelly balls, which turned out to be Grey Puffball Sponges. They were everywhere! Vlad got this picture of Ian taking a picture of one.

It was a fun and relaxing dive. A great start! We got some good pictures of the group on the boat in the sun.

The next dive was Copper Cliffs. You could really see the copper in the rock. It was blue green all over. Chris said they tried to mine it, but all the rock just fell in so they gave up.

Copper cliffs was a real drift dive from the start. Orange cup coral was everywhere, and there were more strawberry anemones. We saw more Puget sound King crabs, along with two very pretty red Irish Lord's. The visibility was just magic, and the feeling of flying was amazing.

You also never knew when you would be photo-bombed (by Vlad in this case).

Once back at the house we relaxed and helped Bridget and Tori prepare dinner. I remember sitting in the sun overlooking the bay and just being mesmerised by the sun on the water. It was very much like a fire at night. I made a hyper-lapse video of the sunset.

Francoise jumped off the deck as it was so nice out. He did it so quickly that no one had time to take a picture. So we made him jump again! Vlad got a great slow motion sequence.

It was a feast that evening. Spaghetti and moose meat balls (Ian had brought the moose), fruit salad, quinoa salad (Tori), garlic bread that Sylvain made, and Bridget's chocolate cake. It was truly as delicious as it sounded. Stuffed, we talked late into the night.

The clocks went back that evening so we had to get up earlier. The mist in the morning was awesome.

Jim made pancakes for us and we finished off the fruit salad. Francoise tried to get us to eat the rest of the cake but I think we were all too full still.

We also took a great group picture that final morning.

Bill was our Captain on Sunday and I was happy to see him again. It had been quite a few months. We went to Diane's Delight first which I had never dove before. We hunted for the reported wolf eels and octopus, but came up empty. We did find a very pretty clown nudibranch, along with the usual amazing visibility and life everywhere. It was a very pretty dive.

Vlad also noted some interesting rockfish behavior. This tiger rockfish and quillback seemed to have a very social relationship.

We also went past the other dive team. Here was a good shot of Francois followed by Jim in the background.

The highlight of the trip had to be the last dive at April Point. This was right outside where we stayed. Bill said he had only found the site 3 years ago, when the current turned and they decided to just go with it. The wall they found turned out to be amazing. A pinnacle beside the small island sloped off towards town, and you hit a wall at about 70 feet. Bills briefing was funny: "go that way and see nothing, go that way and also see nothing".  It was like the Goldilocks site. You'd only have fun if you got it just right!

Fortunately Bill got us in the water spot on. Even though Ian had a neck-seal failure and had to abort, Vlad and I were still able to get onto the wall. It helped that the current wasn't ripping either. I had done Browning wall before, and this was very similar. I was totally impressed! We came across more Puget sound King crab as well as two ling cod egg masses. We even passed the other dive team during the dive. Lots of fun drifting and lots of life.

Unfortunately, it came to an end too soon! Until next time!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Porteau Cove 11/02/2018

It was a perfect day for a scooter dive at Porteau Cove!

John Campbell, Vlad Chernavsky, Nick Bowman and myself planned for a 90 minute scooter out past the Nakaya and along the wall with an average depth of 21 meters and oxygen deco at the end. It was a bit chilly for sure; my dive computer logged 8 degrees Celsius.

We saw a lot! The highlight for me was a dinner-plate sized sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides). I submitted this sighting to the sea star wasting tracker at the University of California. The Vancouver Aquarium had been tracking this, but had passed it off to the US university to help consolidate tracking efforts. It was good to see a healthy specimen. I certainly had not seen one in the Vancouver area for over 2 years.

The next excellent wildlife sighting was a large stubby squid guarding its eggs. I would say it was as big as my fist, and probably the largest stubby squid I had ever seen.

The next fun thing was the wheel of a sports car. Vlad took a GPS reading of it so we could plot its location on a map.

Another strange man-made object was a laptop bag. We had actually come across a laptop on a previous dive, so it might have been related. But it was hard to say. Nick looked inside the bag, but there was nothing inside (no gangster money unfortunately!)

John Campbell spotted a rusting metal object nearby to the bag, and swore it looked like a rifle. I wasn't so sure, but maybe.

Finally, I did some rockfish counting for the Vancouver Aquarium Rockfish Abundance Survey, counted 3 lingcod egg masses for the Lingcod Egg Mass Survey, and spotted a nice grunt sculpin.

All in all, a great day of diving!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Whytecliff Park 30/01/2018

After Diver's Weekend, I did a dive with Vlad, Nick and Michael at Whytecliff. It was King-Tide-Time, so the exchange was massive. Vlad and Nick took advantage of the water movement to do the Whytecliff Express, getting in the water at Copper Cove and coming out at Whytecliff beach. I gave them a hand getting gear over there, and dropping them off.

Michael and I had a great little dive from the bay around to the plumose gardens. We actually ended up meeting with Vlad and Nick at the end of our dive. We checked out all the octopus spots I knew, but were skunked. There were very little large fish, but a lot of small schooling yellowtail rockfish (very distinctive with the light patches along their backs). I imagined that most of the bigger fish were hiding out at deeper depths due to the king tide effects. I noticed surprisingly little current on our dive however. I was prepared to turn the dive as soon as it picked up, but it never really did. We did come across a large tanner crab, looking very creepy and spider-like.

The best part was surfacing to the giant full moon. It was almost like daylight! A great dive all in all.

Monday, February 5, 2018

GUE-BC Diver's Weekend 27-28/01/2018

For the third year in a row, GUE-BC attended Diver's weekend at the Vancouver Aquarium. Next year with be its 20th anniversary!

Notable folks in attendance were: Sea Dragon Charters, Nanaimo Dive Outfitters, Rendezvous Dive Adventures, Liz Tribe Diving, the Dive Industry Association of BC, the Alberta Underwater Council, and the Marine Life Sanctuaries Society. Hamish Tweed had a table promoting his work with Glen Dennison on the health of the glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound. It was pretty busy! A big thank you goes to GUE Headquarters for material and swag.

GUE-BC got the same location we had last year by the jellyfish tank. It was perfect, a big thank you to Jeremy Heywood for that!

On booth duty, we had myself, Dennis Diamond, Vladimir Chernavsky, Nick Bowman, Michael Shapiro, Evan Soukas and John Campbell. Thank you for helping represent GUE so well! Unfortunately we didn't get a large group picture this time.

The theme of the year was dive training. The Aquarium lined up several people to speak on that theme. Liz Tribe came over and did a talk about GUE. Our booth got quite a bit of interest after that.

We did a lot of talking about photogrammetry. The usefulness of it as a tool for citizen science was quite apparent. The 3D models Jo Hjelm made of Nomash River cave really generated interest. Nick Bowman talked to Hamish Tweed about the possibility of some joint information sharing and diving on the Howe Sound sponges. Jessica Schultz of the Aquarium team came over and talked to us about photogrammetry as well. The GUE Photogrammetry course will have no shortage of interest!

The Alberta Underwater Council spent a good deal of time talking to show attendees. There would be a show called Divescapes on October 12-21 in Edmonton, and they were looking for people interested in attending.

A lot of people were fascinated by Nomash Rive cave. This year's upcoming GUE-BC event to visit it on Aug 18 - 24, 2018 will generate a lot of new material to show people. The photos by Joakim Hjelm made all the difference, along with the interactive photogrammetry models. This was definitely something to keep and expand for next year.

GUE-BC had a meaningful conversation with the Marine Life Sanctuaries Society, and we hoped to re-kindle joint efforts between the two groups. Another conversation was had with the DIABC, and it might be possible for the newly incorporated and insured GUE-BC to join that organization. Lots of opportunities!

To me, what made the weekend was being re-visited by a young and passionate conservationist who had so impressed me last year. She had moved on from her conservation web site project, but was still looking for ways to make a difference. It was repeat interactions like this that made it so important for us to keep attending events like this regularly.

I will leave you with Jeremy Heywood's thank you email to all participants:

Hello –
Thank you very much to everyone who participated in Divers’ Weekend 2018. The event was a resounding success - over the weekend we had over 6000 visitors through the doors. The 32 exhibits looked great, and visitors and staff alike enjoyed the demonstration dives by the Heritage Hard Hat divers and the Canadian Coast Guard. Thanks to those teams for their efforts – these dives were a highlight of the weekend for me.

The Workshop Series was a great success as well – it was standing-room only in most sessions. Thanks to Stu SyJessica SchultzKelly Korol, Lee Newman and Liz Tribe for their presentations.

Stay tuned for dates for the 20th annual Divers’ Weekend. (Wow – twenty years!)

Until then, safe diving.

Cheers, Jeremy.

Monday, November 20, 2017

China Creek 18/11/2017

Two years ago, Joakim Hjelm organized a epic camping trip to China Creek in the fall. Some called the trip crazy, because fall time on Vancouver Island meant 10 degrees and rain, but that's the time of the best diving in BC. This time it would prove to be even more awesome!

It was a fun expedition, feeling like you really were getting off the beaten track. The drive in over the dirt logging road was a pothole fest with plenty of bumps and big trucks. It felt a bit like the road to Nomash River Cave. However the difference was that you could be in town in 20 minutes rather than an hour and a half.

Jo arranged for the camp ground to be opened for us as it was normally closed in winter. My fun experience was with the gate. When Heather and I arrived, it looked closed and locked. It took a bit of coordination over chat for me to realize that the lock was just partially on. It was kind of funny, and we did get in.

Most people arrived the Friday night. They had a great find in a covered event area complete with concrete fire pit. We had no idea such an area existed and would definitely use it again.

The problem usually was with the wind and rain. Portable event tents had been used before to keep the rain off, but they were difficult to secure against wind. This structure was large and sturdy, with 8 picnic tables inside and the large fire pit. With the fire going it was very comfortable. You could even drive up to it, gear up completely and then drive over to the beach. Pretty sweet!

The full roster was Jo, Julie, Jim, Tori, Jeff, Francoise, Bridgette, little Pierre, and Hunter (Tori's nephew). Heather and I were there for Saturday only. Jo and Julie got some great group pictures.

Julie showing off breakfast.

Tori, little Pierre, and Jim playing cars.

Bridgette, Jeff and Francoise.

Tori getting beaten at cards by Hunter and Julie.

Even the bathrooms (complete with showers) were heated. The staff went the extra mile to put in a little portable space heater. You could even rinse your gear with the taps and hoses.

On Saturday morning we did the first dives. Everyone had a great time socializing while leisurely gearing up.

There was some miscommunication on which camp site to meet at for the dive, and this was something to improve on next time. Part of one team went to the usual location of site 42, while the other teams went directly to the area near the rock wall. Oops!

Bridgette had a hole in her dry suit so had to abort her dive. This left the dive teams of Jim and Jo (doing a tech dive with scooters to check out how far the rock wall went), Jeff and Francoise doing photos, and myself and Heather doing the same.

As usual the surface layer was cold water runoff from the creek, but it was only 9 degrees! It did make for a very distinct and cool halocline as if you look carefully in this short video clip.

The visibility was good, but not as great as the West side of Vancouver island could be. I estimated it as easily 18 meters or 60 feet. Heather and I were up at 12 meters and could easily see Jim and Jo scootering below us, and they were at 30 meters at that point.

On our swim out, we almost missed the log tender wreck at 12 meters. I'm not sure how, since when I turned around it was right there. Alas no juvenile wolf eel was living in it this time. Heather got quite a few good pictures. Here was a very nice Leafy Hornmouth.

We happened on many pretty swimming scallops. One swam for it's life. I'd never seen one swim straight up so fast before.

We found the telephone booth and I tried to make a call. Surprisingly, I only heard bubbles.

There were many brown Rockfish and a few Black Rockfish too. Not something that we saw on the Vancouver side. Kelp Greenlings, large Ling Cod, Painted Greenlings, and sea stars rounded out the easiest to spot life.

There were several of these strange solitary tunicates, which turned out to be Glassy Sea Squirts. Pretty cool!

Heather got a neat picture of these Orange Ball Sponges, which looked like they just popped out of a volcano. I certainly didn't remember seeing them in other areas.

The best encounter was the Grunt Sculpin that Heather found. I had been looking at a sea star,  and was quite surprised when she gestured very animatedly at it. Right there was a big Grunt Sculpin, sitting very still trying not to be noticed. It certainly fooled me!

Just after the Grunt Sculpin was a rock crack filled with a film of white substance. It wasn't stringy, but more like a layer of white mold or fungus. I emailed the Vancouver Aquarium about it, and they weren't quite sure, thinking it was some kind of decay. I wish I had gotten some video of it, but I had seen something like it before. I'd keep investigating.

In the shallows was a very pretty Fried Egg Jellyfish, just swimming along lazily.

Jim and Jo reported that there were three fishing nets at about 33 meters, which would make good clean up targets for a future dive. Francoise and Jeff said they saw nothing of particular note, but had a good dive.

Back at camp, Julie, Bridgett and Tori had little Pierre and Hunter well in hand, and the fire was blazing. It was a welcome opportunity for us divers to warm up! Jo had a suit leak so was very wet and cold. There was even time to put together a gingerbread house. Now that was camping in style!

Heather and I left the intrepid campers that afternoon, as we were staying in Parksville. I heard from Jo later that they weren't able to do any more diving due to weather. Still, the fire and camping and socializing sure was fun. And the dives we did get in were excellent. I couldn't wait for next year!