Sunday, October 18, 2015

Whytecliff 17/10/2015

I had tried to get out for a dive the previous Saturday, then again on the Thursday, but they fell through. Fortunately I was able to get out with Dave, and ended up getting in two very nice dives at Whytecliff. Visibility remained excellent, and it was great to take advantage of it.

Here was the video compilation that I put together.

I met up with Dave and his friend Paul early Saturday morning. Dave quickly realized that he forgot his drysuit at home! That would have made for a very very cold dive. So we changed plans. Dave would go home and get his suit and Paul and I would do a dive. Then I'd go for a dive with Dave after that. Worked for me!

The weather had called for a lot of rain, but fortunately it held off. It was a very nice day. Paul and I entered at the Cut, and it was slack tide when we started. Conditions were perfect. I was very glad that the Cut was calm and not full of debris like it had been the last time I tried.

During our dive we saw a lot of golden dirona's along with a very big giant pacific octopus in a crack. We headed to the right along the wall, then turned around and went around the plumose gardens to surface in the bay. The ambient light was amazing, letting you take in the full beauty of the huge cloud sponges. There were huge schools of perch around the plumose gardens, and the vis remained fabulous. Easily it was 40 plus feet, maybe a bit more. When we surfaced, the park had gotten a lot busier with quite a few scuba classes going on. Dave greeted us on the beach.

Paul had to go, and so Dave and I started our dive doing the reverse of what Paul and I did. The visibility in the bay was a bit less due to the classes stirring up the bottom. But it wasn't too bad. Once we got out nearer the day marker it got much better. We checked out the octopus crack I knew of just past the rusty boxes at about 30 feet and it was home. That made the second octopus for the day.

Dave knew of another den further along towards the day marker. At about 80 feet keeping the rock wall on your right you ran right into three large boulders on the sand beside the rock wall. Under the third one we came across the third octopus for the day. Dave almost didn't see it, as it was so big he thought it was part of the rock!

Just past the plumose gardens, I found another crack at about 100 feet with a fourth octopus. And in the plumose gardens, under the memorial marker, there was a fifth octopus! Five octopus sightings in one day was a record for me. It was amazing to see so many in the area, and very encouraging. I was sure I could reliably find at least three of the dens again.

Dave and I did some skills at the end of the dive, then swam back into the bay. I tried to check all the eel grass I could for spiny lumpsuckers, but no luck. An excellent day!

Topline Exploration Dives 12/10/2015

Heather and I went along with Sea Dragon Charters to do some exploration dives. It was a perfect way to spend a Thanksgiving Monday.

Unfortunately there was a delay to the day. When we arrived at Horseshoe Bay, I realized that I had forgotten my backplate at home. Oops! Thankfully we arrived early and I was able to get home and back before the boat left. It was raining pretty hard, and we hoped the visibility wouldn't suffer. We had been up to Squamish the day previously, and noticed a great deal of cloudy water from runoff from the Squamish river. Visibility in Horseshoe Bay looked pretty good though (but it was no guarantee).

Once on board, we were under way quickly. The boat was not very full, with only four other divers. Kevin was captaining that day. The motor out from Horseshoe Bay was quite rough, with a lot of maneuvering to avoid logs and debris. The heavy rains of late had really clogged the waters.

Soon we were up near Gambier Island and things got more sheltered and calm. The visibility was excellent too. The plan was to visit a pinnacle between the West and Center Bay. Before we did that, a shot line was dropped to give a visual reference. Unfortunately the rope got caught in the prop of the Topline, and it had to be cleared. I jumped in the water to do that, and it was fun and challenging.

With the prop cleared, and the shot line down, we jumped in and started to check out the new site. It was a very large pinnacle, with a great wall bordering it.

There were many pretty swimming anemones.

There were quite a few small cloud sponges that were very shallow, about 60 feet. In those sponges were the usual squat lobsters taking shelter.

We saw many giant white dorids.

And a lot of pretty orange finger sponges, which the nudibranchs were often eating.

The top of the pinnacle was vast, with rolling smooth granite rock frequently covered in green urchins. It was a very interesting site! Back on the boat, we got reports from the other dive teams of a juvenile wolf eel, and a pair of wolf eels in a den at 100 feet. With the number of urchins around, it was no wonder that this was a good place for them! Later, the site would be christened "Wolfgang", which was Heather's great suggestion.

From there, we moved to the back side of Hutt Island. Normally we would dive the other side, but this time our goal was to check out the back side. Kevin put in three teams to cover as much ground as possible. We started at the south end and worked our way north. The dive was phenomenal! At the start were huge schools of perch and rock fields, with lots of octopus leavings. There was a sunken tree, and fields of feather stars.

A brown box crab was a highlight.

Along with the biggest giant nudibranch we had ever seen!

Another highlight were several umbrella crabs.

A cool beaded anemone, buried in the sand as usual.

We also came across what we thought was a saddleback gunnel.

The combination of sandy chutes, rock walls, boulder fields and varied topography made this dive site another winner. It was christened "Ferndale" by Kevin due to the large amounts of feather stars. The other dive teams carried on further down the island, making a second dive site named "Krakatoa", again by Kevin due to the large rock crack that marked the start of the site.

Have a look at this video compilation of both dive sites.

A great day, and a lot of fun to participate in naming and exploring some new sites. The fabulous visibility was a big plus!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Egmont 2-4/10/2015

It was finally time for our annual trip to Egmont! It was hard to imagine that this was the fifth year of this trip, starting back in 2010. As usual, we were going with the excellent Porpoise Bay Charters. Kal and Ann were always amazing hosts, and this year was no exception.

With no further ado, here was the video compilation!

We headed up on the Friday, saying goodbye to work, cell phones and internet. Well, to be fair, WiFi had been available at Kal and Ann's place for two years now, but you didn't have to use it. I always liked being able to "unplug" for a while. This year, we couldn't go on the Thanksgiving weekend because there had been a pre-booking conflict. So we went up a week early.

Everyone met on the same 11:30 ferry at Horseshoe Bay going to Langdale. It was a bit cloudy, but it was supposed to be a great weekend. There was an inquisitive harbor seal in the water wondering what was going on. The visibility in Horsehoe Bay was amazing!

The group had a brand-new addition in the form of Baby Pierre. The rest of the group consisted of (from left to right) Vince, Francois, Bridgette, Baby Pierre, Bill, Heather, me, and Josh. This was taken at the end of the trip.

The drive up to Egmont was excellent. The sun came out, and the fall colours were in full force. Heather and I stopped at Halfmoon Bay for a picnic lunch. It was a very relaxing trip up.

We arrived right on time, and unloaded all our gear. Kal showed up just before 3, and we soon had everything on board, including Baby Pierre in his fancy life jacket!

Our ride.

Kal and Ann's two dogs Nemo and Nanuk met us as well. I got a good photo of Nemo looking forward to his dinner.

And Nanuk, guarding the boat.

We got settled, picked our yurts, and then it was time to go diving! It was just a short hop away to the South Sutton Island were we did a fun drift dive. The highlight was a visit by several inquisitive sea lions. Things were off to a great start! Several tiger rockfish made an appearance, and we recovered a really nice urchin test (shell) which survived the trip to the surface.

After a hearty dinner, it was into the hot tub for some relaxing under the stars. The next morning dawned clear and calm, and we were treated to Ann's apple pancakes to fuel our morning dive. We traveled to Agamemnon channel (aka the Power Lines) for a dive on the fantastic cloud sponges there. They did not disappoint! Bill reported seeing several dwarf gorgonian corals. During our dive we also found several cute decorated warbonnets. One in a crack and one in a boot sponge. Look carefully!

Back for lunch, and then out again. We checked out Swede's Reef, but the conditions weren't right, so we hoped over to Jaggy Crack instead. Heather got quite a few excellent pictures.

There was a beautiful leopard dorid.

And a white lined dirona (aka frosted nudibranch.)

And a penpoint gunnel out in the open.

Heather got a short video clip of the gunnel swimming.

A rose star (there were lots of these throughout the trip).

A sea lemon dorid.

Heading back from the dive we were treated to a sea lion sunning himself on a dock. He was a huge male, and I don't know what you would do if you found him on your back porch like this!

Not far away were some in the water, probably part of the big guy's entourage.

In the evening, we had one last dive in the Skookumchuck rapids at Boom Islet. I think it was the best dive of the weekend, with excellent visibility, fun drift, and loads of life. We saw the painted anemone gardens, red irish lords, puget sound king crabs, opalescent nudibranchs, and kelp forests. It was great! The reward after such a great dive was a pre-thanksgiving turkey dinner, courtesy of Ann, complete with pumpkin pie! It was a great night, with more hot-tubbing under the stars.

Cool giant rock scallop, you could see it's "eyes".

A spiny lithode crab. I had always thought these were called red fur crabs.

A bivalve mollusc that needed identifying.

A white lined dirona (aka frosted nudibranch).

A rose anemone with kincaid shrimp, and in behind was a heart crab (look close!).

A really nice puget sound king crab, who was molting. This was a front picture.

And here you could see the old shell, and just how big the new shell was!

A juvenile puget sound king crab, very pretty!

Fringed Filament-Worms, all over the place. Very cool watching them feed.

The urchins liked to decorate themselves. This one was carrying around a full shell!

A great picture of a clown nudibranch.

The next day, we had thought to try for a night to dawn transition dive, but in the end decided the conditions were not good enough to get up that early. So instead, we had a leisurely breakfast of eggs benedict, followed by a relaxing boat ride out to Argonaut Point.

Heading out for the dive. It was a fantastic morning. We really lucked out on the weather.

We had never dove Argonaut Point before, so it was a nice treat. It had similar sponges to Agamemnon and Captain's Corners, but with more shelves of rock for critters and a huge amount of rockfish. This was probably my second favorite dive of the trip.

A swimming scallop.

Another very large sea lemon dorid.

A rhinoceros crab. The filaments covering it were mentioned by some Aquarium people, but I forgot what they came from.

On the way back from Argonaut Kal found us some humpback whales! We spent a lot of time trying to maneuver around to get the best view, and were prepared to jump in the water too if conditions were good. Unfortunately, the whales stayed distant, and we had to content ourselves with viewing their majesty from afar. Josh and Francois did try to jump in on the off chance that one surfaced near us, but Team Whale was a bust. Next time maybe. This was definitely one of the high-lights of the trip.

The last dive of the trip was at Captain's Corners. There, we came across the biggest concentration of krill I'd ever seen. It was like diving in a living, moving cloud. I figured it was krill, and not actual zooplankton as the organisms were small, but not microscopic. It was an amazing sight to see, and be inside of. I could see why the whales were around! We also came across a very nice little octopus in a crack, with its last crab meal neatly arranged on its doorstep.

Too soon it was time to pack up. We got our group picture, chatted for a time, then bid our farewells. Until next year!

P.S. a final nice piece of this weekend was that it put me to dive 600. A milestone and a great set of dives!