Monday, October 21, 2013

Project Baseline Artificial Reef Saskatchewan - 20/10/2013

I joined Jim Dixon as part of the BC Underwater Explorers to participate in Project Baseline Artificial Reef Saskatchewan. It was an exciting goal, to start documenting the growth of life on an artificial reef. Hopefully this information could be used to promote more artificial reefs in the future.

It was an extremely early start to the day for this. I met Dave Williams at Vlad's house, then we piled everything into Dave's truck to make the 6:30am ferry. I had to get up at 4am! It was also quite amusing in that I didn't get Vlad's phone number and relied on Google Maps to find his house. My phone crashed several times on the way, and Google had a very hard time putting me in the right location. In the end I had to use my brain to find the place. Even then, Vlad's house had no house number! So I was left peering in the windows of a strange house at 5am in the morning. In the end, I emailed him my phone number and we got it sorted out. A good thing too, because Dave had problems finding the place as well.

Vlad made us some excellent coffee, and then we were off to the ferry. Everything was going better, until we went to the coffee shop. When we were leaving, Dave saw all the cars loading! We started to run, but found all the doors and gates closed! Thankfully, hiding off to the side was one open ticket booth door, so we were able to get back to the truck and get on board. Whew.

The trip across was uneventful, and we spent the majority of it planning our dives, as well as some good old fashioned BC Ferry breakfast.

We got to the Sea Dragon without incident and started loading. Kevin and Jan of the Topline were over, as the Sea Dragon was not running that day. It was good to see both of them. Once everything was loaded, we were off. Jim gave a dive briefing on what we wanted to accomplish. There would be two stations set up, one forward of the observation tower, and one aft. Zip ties would attach plastic markers to the location on the railing where a line would be run across to the other side. Then video and still images would be taken up and down this line as a reference. These video and images would be used to document the change and growth of life on the wreck. Temperature would also be taken.

Dave was not feeling well, so did not end up diving. Myself, Vlad and Guy Shockey were the team that set up the station to the aft of the tower. Visibility was excellent. Guy had to do some MacGuyvering of the zip ties and plastic markers. The plastic was too thin and the zip ties ripped through the hole that was made. Nice improvisation Guy! I never thought a dive knife would be used to make holes like that. Vlad then did video and pictures up and down the line. Once all that was accomplished, we went and checked out the other team. They were finishing up too, and we all surfaced basically together.

With the goals we needed accomplished, the next dive was just for fun. Vlad and I teamed up, and explored the wreck mostly where the hull met the bottom. We poked our heads into the cutouts, and just took in the sights. I really enjoyed seeing the keel, where it seemed to knife into the bottom. We found a tremendously large ling cod as well. It was at least 5 feet long, and very wide. It started to look kind of grumpy at our intrusion, so we moved on quickly. Under the stern where the propeller shafts were was also very interesting. I had never explored that area before. It provided a very neat swim-through.

One thing that I found quite depressing was some graffiti on the starboard hull of the ship, about mid-ships. Someone had drawn some rude pictures, and scrawled some names as well. Whoever these inconsiderate divers were really should be ashamed of themselves. It reminded me of the happy face someone had drawn in the floor on one of the Mexico caves. These drawings would not disappear any time soon, and now would mar the experience for everyone who came to experience this grand wreck. It was very sad.

However, that was the only low point. Vlad got some very good video, and I hope to post some of it soon. The ride back to Vancouver was very nerve wracking. We had gotten into the 3 pm ferry line up, and the chances of getting on were low according to the ticket agent. It really came down to the wire, where we were watching rows of cars load, and it was getting closer and closer to us. But the lines kept stopping and pausing so we had no idea if we'd go or stay. Finally, we ended up being four of the last cars let on. We were literally almost hanging off the back of the boat! But we made it.

Kisenia posted her video from the day on Vimeo.

HMCS Saskatchewan from Ksenia on Vimeo.

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