Thursday, November 17, 2016

Whytecliff Park Scooter Dive 15/11/2016

Vlad and I decided it was high time to do a scooter dive, and we picked the perfect night. It had been rainy and miserable, but the weather did an about face to a clear and calm night. The super moon was happening, and the resulting King Tides were also. We hit the high tide perfectly, and I had never seen it so far up the bay. There was a lot of debris and one huge log in the water. When we surfaced we'd have to pay attention!

The visibility wasn't great, but it was still pretty good. I would say it was around 20 feet or so, even in the shallows. On the scooter out past the Day Marker, we stopped at the boulder field and one of the octopus was at home at around 70 feet. A good start! We scootered through the plumose gardens and past the Cut. Vlad found the biggest decorated warbonnet I had ever seen inside a cloud sponge. It was easily as thick as your hand, and probably close to 2 feet long. There were surprisingly few rockfish out. Normally I would see dozens, but this time only close to 10. It could have been due to the fast currents from the tides. I certainly noticed the current, and it would not have been a fun dive without a scooter!

The cloud sponges were amazing as always, and we were buzzed several times by a playful harbor seal. He was using our lights to help him hunt fish. On the way back, we spent some time looking for the missing anemones and found an area of rock where there were quite a few black circles. Whether these were new or not was hard to tell. The circles and missing anemones were definitely still present though.

Throughout the way back to the beach the same harbor seal came out of the gloom many times to hunt fish in our lights. It was a bit disconcerting, but we got used to it. The seal seemed quite happy, and we even chased him around a few times with our scooters. It was great fun.

But in the end, it was time to surface and pack it in. We dismantled our gear in an empty parking lot, under a full moon. It truly was night diving again!

HMCS Annapolis ABIS Dive 23/10/2016

Doug Pemberton of the Artificial Reef Society of BC had secured some funding to bring divers out to the HMCS Annapolis to further the Vancouver Aquarium's Annapolis Biodiversity Index Study (ABIS). Heather and I were lucky enough to be picked to go along for one of the dives.

The previous weekend had been scrapped due to very bad weather. A huge storm blasted through, cancelled ferries, and generally wreaked havoc. To be honest it wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it definitely was not a good weekend to be out on a boat!

The next weekend was good though. We met at Horeshoe Bay, ready to go out with Jacques and New World Diving. On board was myself, Heather, Doug, Dirk and an old dive buddy Cedric. I had first met Cedric way back in 2010 for a great dive in Dodd Narrows. It had been a long time! Here was our ride.

Doug brought donuts, and we were off to the Annapolis. We had not been out with New World Diving, and the boat was set up nicely. The twin ladders off the back were a nice addition. Doug was keen to help the Aquarium track species growth on the Annapolis, so that was why he was organizing teams of divers to periodically visit different areas of the ship. The key to data collection for ABIS was to take lots of video and pictures, but also to make careful notes on where on the ship you were. Also, documenting what was not there was just as key, since in the future, if something new shows up, you can tell when. This was a difficult concept to grasp, as most of the time when we are diving we look for the best picture and video possible.

The first dive plan was for Heather and I to video and photograph the bow area of the ship. Unfortunately the photo part didn't work out due to a flooded camera, but we did get good video. From my perspective life had seemed to plateau a bit, with a lot of sea stars, shrimp, and mussels, but not a lot else (at least to my eyes). According to the ABIS study, over 70 species had been observed so far, so there definitely was something happening!

On the second dive, we did the bridge and antenna circle. Even more shrimp looked out from all the nooks and crannies. Our dive team wasn't the only one with technical problems. Dirk and Cedric had a camera failure as well. Such things happen, in diving unfortunately.

Another thing that Doug had us look for was graffiti on the ship. The brown algae mat that covered the ship formed the basis of the food chain, but people had also been using their fingers to write in it. Not only were they creating annoying (and sometimes offensive) pictures and writing, it was destroying the foundation of life on ship. I guess you just can't get away from childish and fool-hardy people, even underwater. I hoped that Doug's message to the diving community would hopefully put a stop to this behavior.

Heather and I also took the opportunity to collect some data for GUE Project Baseline Halkett Bay. We stopped at Station B on top of the bridge and took temperature and visibility readings. From my recent work on this project, I even got a write-up in one of the GUE Project Baseline newsletters. Yes, that was me tooting my own horn!

If you would like to see the resulting (long!) video, here it is. Remember, it was not meant to be pretty, it was meant as documentation of a point in time, with detailed notes on ship locations.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Whytecliff Park Anemone Dive 28/09/2016

After the Sea Star Wasting disease incident (which seemed less serious but still present), one of my friends Vlad Chernavsky noticed plumose anemones missing from the rocks of Whytecliff Park. The tell-tale sign was a bare black circle of rock where the anemone used to be. The black circles were quite easy to see, but what was causing them? Dead anemones were not readily seen.

In an impromptu Citizen Science effort, members of GUE-BC and Jessica Schultz from the Vancouver Aquarium met at Whytecliff Park to gather some data. The plan was to use 1 meter square quadrats and do counts of anemones along a transect. Jessica went above and beyond developing a full research plan on how the measurements would be done. Very nice!

After some practice in the park, the data collection went quite well.

Heather got some good pictures, as usual.

Getting ready to descend.

A friendly shrimp.

Some stubby squid eggs (I think!).

A very pretty Red Flabellina.

And a quite large sailfin sculpin. I never would have spotted it until Heather pointed it out!

All in all it was a good cause, and a fun time. More data collection was needed, so we would be out again for sure!

Finally, we met a very friendly shrimp. It seemed to want to come home with us!