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!

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