Monday, January 27, 2014

Britannia Beach 26/01/2014

This turned out to be a very special day of diving! GUE-BC had embarked on a GUE Project Baseline for Britania Beach, amongst the other Project Baselines going on. The goal of Project Baseline was to provide "a baseline in which starting conditions such as water quality, water clarity, fish counts, living reef coverage, etc are compared to evolving conditions". Britania Beach provided an excellent location for this, due to the extensive mining operations that had been in the area. I found some information on the environmental impact of the mine site in this report: The Former Britannia Mine, Mount Sheer/Britannia Beach, British Columbia. You can see by this picture the quality of the water flowing into the ocean in 1995.

Josh Gardner started the project, and my first look at the site was through this video.

Britannia Beach Overview - CCGS Ready from Dirk De keersmaecker on Vimeo.

Today it showed just how much support the project had gotten in the GUE-BC community in Vancouver. On Vancouver Island, there had been much more activity, and it was great to see a similar thing happening on our side. There were at least 6 GUE divers participating directly in the project on Sunday, along with our 2 teams of 2. A full list of participants was Josh Gardner, John Campbell, Daniel Wei, Dave Williams, Nick Bowman (fabricator specialist!) Dennis Diamond, Rob Rob, Jim Dixon, Alison Clucas, myself and Heather. I am sure Josh will do a more complete write up of the work, but from what I saw the goal was to deploy permanent stations at specific locations where a visibility card was located. Then you could reliably quantify water visibility periodically. Luckily, Heather and I were there for a purely fun dive, so we didn't have to do any work at all! Jim was also along for a fun dive with our mutual friend Alison. We had not dove with Alison since Tuwanek 17/02/2013!

Even though Jim was on a fun dive, he was still roped into work! Here is Jim attaching the visibility cards to the stainless steel plaques.

A close-up of the visibility gauge that was put on the bottom:

You could not ask for a better day to go diving!

We all met at the Galileo cafe parking lot, and got a run down on the dive site. There were two entries, both requiring a trek across the train tracks. It was an interesting sight to see divers crossing the highway and the train tracks! The entry directly across from the cafe was pretty steep. The project teams entered from there, as it was closer. We opted to drive up the highway a bit toward Vancouver where there was a wide shoulder beside a billboard. There was a small trail under the billboard that led through the bush to a secluded "park". There was a tree house, a fire pit and it looked like it was regularly used. The entry here was quite a bit better, but there was more of a surface swim back to where the wrecks were.

After gearing up, we made our way into the water and on to the wrecks. The site was quite easy to find. All we did was surface swim along shore back towards Britannia Beach. At the first dock piling, we dropped down and followed the bottom contour at about 20 feet or 6 meters. We ran right into the wrecks easily. Along the way, we also found a huge amount of golf balls and a golf club! It appeared that this was a popular spot to practice your golf drive, although the person who lost their club in the ocean obviously needed some more practice!

You can find the video compilation I put together below. Most of the divers featured are Jim (in double 80s) and Alison (single 100 with yellow octo), but we met up with some of the other project teams as well. I think the best bits were the moon jelly we found, along with some of the schools of fish. The visibility was amazing! In the video, there was a great little three-man "conference" captured. John was using his wet-notes to tell people that there was a big octopus under the wreck were he was. We also heard a funny story from John later about deploying the stations. They used a small boat to take the stations out, which were made up of concrete blocks and stainless steel rods. John took one from the boat, and promptly rocketed to the bottom despite his wing. Those stations were heavy!

Heather took some great photos, which can be found in this album. Pretty good for her first attempt at underwater photography! There were some great nudibranchs (Cooper's Dorid I believe), as well as just awesome pictures of the wrecks themselves. There is one picture of a pipe fish, but you have to look very carefully. A few samples follow the link.

All in all, the day was a fantastic success. It showed how much the GUE-BC community had grown in Vancouver, and also showed how divers of all skill-levels could participate, and above all, have fun! Britannia Beach was a great dive site. I wish I had dove it sooner!

Topline 25/01/2014

Vlad and I decided to go out for another dive with Sea Dragon Charters.We were planning on doing two technical dives, which meant a lot of gear! It was a pleasure to have the spacious Topline as our dive platform. Kevin and his crew were always excellent, and this time was no exception.

Here is the video compilation that I put together from the day. I hopped into the water to get some surface shots, and you can see just how great the visibility was! Vlad and I happened on a stubby squid, and a very photogenic moon jelly.

Arriving in the marina, the visibility from the dock looked stunning. We were tempted just to dive right there! Once on board, we headed to the north side of Bowyer Island for our first dive. I didn't get any video, but it was a very good dive. We came across some very large cloud sponges off the east side of the pinnacle. It showed that in Howe Sound, deeper than 100 feet, the cloud sponges continued to flourish. These specimens were about the size of an armchair.

Back on board, we had some nice soup and conversation. As we were doing two technical dives, Vlad and I requested a 2 hour surface interval. During that time, we had ample time to soak in the scenery.

The second dive was the best dive of the day, and the video above is all from the second dive. We came across a stubby squid, a moon jelly, many giant dendronotid nudibranchs, golden nudibranchs, and some great decorator crabs. The other dive teams reported octopus, and puget sound king crabs. I jumped in the water before the dive to film the other dive team leaping in, and that was a lot of fun. Without weights, a dry suit sure was buoyant!

A big thanks to Kevin and his crew for a wonderful day of diving!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Porteau Cove 14/01/2014

Vlad and I decided to go do a scooter dive at Porteau Cove. The tides again were not the best, but since we had the scooters, that wasn't such a big issue. It was quite a low tide, and it was still going out.

It was a very nice evening, however, no rain and a big full moon. We started the dive by scootering out to the first marker buoy and descending there. On the bottom, I picked up the firehose and we followed that, then went on towards the Nakaya. With the low tide, I adjusted the depth that we scootered to the Nakaya shallower. Unfortunately, I made it a bit too shallow and we missed it. We ended up at the rockpile near the highway. Realizing that, I turned us around and went a bit deeper on the way back. The Nakaya soon loomed in front of us, and we scootered around it a few times.

We headed back and scootered around the rest of Porteau a bit. There was not a great deal to note, other than a lot of big ling cod and decorator crabs. We got back onto the firehose, and headed back. At the end of the dive, Vlad did some bottle rotation practice, and I watched. I would have done a few skills too, but I had gotten quite cold on the dive. I had forgotten how much heat you lose while scootering, and had worn a thinner undergarment. Whoops! While Vlad was doing his practice, I did see a cute little baby octopus scuttling along the bottom. He was too quick though, so I couldn't show Vlad.

I was pretty happy with my navigation during the dive. I got us to all the points we wanted to see, and ended the dive right back where we started. Not bad for being frozen!

Whytecliff Park 07/01/2014

Happy New Year! Back to diving after a wonderful holiday season!

My first dive of the year was good old Whytecliff Park. Vlad wanted to do some bottle rotation practice, and a bunch of us came along. There was Jim Dixon, myself, Vlad, and John. I paired up with John, and the tides were not quite with us this time. It was quite a low tide, and still on the way out. Jim and Vlad had extra bottles, so the current was a bit of a factor during the dive. I took our groups out to the day marker, and once we rounded the corner the current really picked up. I turned us around in short order, and we headed back. We spent most of the dive after that doing the bottle practice. I switched gas a few times with John, and we kept an eye on Vlad and Jim. I had Jim pass me a bottle, and that went quite well.

I had a great deal of fun on this dive, even though we didn't see a lot. I felt quite confident and was looking forward to another year of fun diving!

P.S. I did take some video, but my GoPro doesn't work well in the dark. However, it did turn out like a UFOs landing though!

Topline 21/12/2013

Heather and I went out with the Topline for one more dive before the New Year. It was cold again, but not as cold as the last time we were out. The hose to fill the camera bucket wasn't frozen this time! Kevin and Jan were their usual excellent hosts.

We did two dives, one on Hutt Wall, and the other on Worlcombe Island. The Hutt Wall dive was filled with the usual suspects of nudibranchs, ling cod and various crabs. We missed the rock with the octopus den at the start of the dive, but there was plenty of other things to see.

The Worlcombe Island dive was equally as good. Heather decided to stay on board, due to getting a bit more chilled than she would have liked, and I dove with Ahmed. We had met him on a previous Topline excursion, and he was a very enthusiastic and active diver. It was his 100th dive, so I was honored to pair up with him. On the dive we were able to locate a nice big octopus as a reward for his 100th dive!

Back on board, someone even brought along some sparkling wine to celebrate the occasion. Kevin and Jan handed out Sea Dragon calenders to all on board as a Christmas gift. Many thanks to them for that!