Saturday, October 1, 2016

Campbell River 24/09/2016

Heather and I took a relaxing weekend to Vancouver Island and included a dive with Pacific Pro Dive in Campbell River. It gave us a chance to see their new shop which recently opened. Previously there had been only one shop in Courtney/Comox. The new shop had a great location right beside the boat dock. We arrived at a leisurely 10 o'clock start-time. The weather was good, overcast but not raining. We had a full boat of 10 divers, although it didn't feel too cramped. We had been on the Ata-tude before, and it was laid out well for divers.

Our first dive was on a site formerly called "Training Bay". It had been re-named Expedition Bay. Captain Josh explained that even though it was a great dive site, people were often put off by the word "training". Its name came from the fact that it was a training site for commercial divers in the area. There were many things sunk in the bay for training platforms: several barges, boats and even a crane. It provided ample habitat for a large number of critters. When we descended, we came face to face with a barge that was home to baby rockfish as well as decorated warbonnets! Not a bad start. There were lots of urchins too.

From there, we headed over eel-grass beds full of more baby rockfish and a large number of red flabelina, clown and opalescent nudibranchs.

The sandy bottom and eel-grass gave way to a sloping rubble rock wall with lots of nooks and crannies. Another dive team found a very large puget sound king crab. Heather's big find was a huge grunt sculpin trying its best to hide.

We came across a medium size sunflower star, and another that looked to me to be completely disintegrated by the wasting disease.

I submitted the find to the Vancouver Aquarium Sea Star Wasting page. Jessica at the Aquarium reported to me that they were partnering with The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) which also collected sea star observations and had a much larger database. The new website was, or you could access the observation log directly at

During the dive, we were mobbed by kelp greenlings. The commercial divers must have been feeding urchins to them, and they would come right up to you expecting a handout.

The second dive was also a new site, and a very new one at that. It was called Arbutus Wall, and it did not disappoint. Josh said it had been described as a lot like Browning Wall with so much life that you couldn't touch it. While it did have a lot of life, it was really nothing like Browning Wall in my opinion. It was still very beautiful though! The difference was that Browning Wall had much more soft coral and sponges. Arbutus Wall had a large number of cup coral and anemones, but it still had a lot more exposed rock. As far as walls went though, it was impressive. It was a true wall, with a vertical sheer smooth surface dropping into the abyss. We found a very nice juvenile puget sound king crab which was very photogenic.

There were many lampshells, swimming scallops and we ended the dive in a kelp forest hanging off the wall. The current was moving along quite well, and it was a great drift dive.

And a lovely variable nudibranch too.

All in all, another great day diving! As a final bonus, on the way back we encountered 3 humpback whales breaching the surface, as well as diving. They dove several times, giving an added treat of a full on tail up in the air. Amazing!

And finally, a bit of video.