Friday, September 22, 2017

Whytecliff Park 20/09/2017

What could be better than an evening dive for Whytecliff Wednesdays? The answer, not much!

After the previous weekend beach cleanup organized by Khrista, it was the perfect time to enjoy the newly cleaned surroundings. There were quite a few folks out, probably close to 15 I would say. An excellent turnout.

I was diving with Vlad Chernavsky, and our plan was to do ascent drills and skills, then go on a fun scooter dive. The evening was perfect, and the tide was at high slack. When we brought our scooters down to the beach, John Nunes joked that he was going to throw them back in the water. This was in response to my staged joke picture from the beach cleanup where I pretended to put a side-mount tank into my garbage bag. All in good fun of course!

Our dive couldn't have gone better. We scootered out to 30 meters, deployed an SMB, did two ascent drills, mid-water valve drills, and cleaned up in record time. The visibility was pretty good too, which was a big bonus.

We scootered over towards the plumose garden from mid-bay. On the way, we found some very interesting cartilaginous skeletal remains. It looked like some kind of skate. We also came across some of the largest sailfin sculpins I'd ever seen. I did not take any pictures, but here was good example.

We passed by the plumose gardens and headed North. There were hundreds of juvenile yellowtail rockfish schooling. I'd never seen so many. We passed several groups of divers on our way. Vlad spotted a juvenile black rockfish in a crack which was very unusual.

When we turned the dive, we ascended to about 15 meters and came across a large patch of strawberry anemones. They looked similar to this.

We made a note to come back along that way and check out this patch again. It was not something that you saw often at Whytecliff, and a worthwhile thing to see again.

On the way back, we came across a well camouflaged buffalo sculpin, hiding in plain sight on the sand. Again, no picture, but similar to this.

Back at the plumose gardens, we spent some time investigating a "deflated" giant plumose anemone. It looked like it had just fallen over. Neither of us had seen something like this before. The plumose anemones would retreat back into themselves, but I had never seen them fallen over like this. Previously there were reports of plumose anemones "missing", and just leaving behind black circles where they were attached. We didn't see any of the black circles though. It was very odd.

We also saw only two nudibranchs, a giant white dorid and a white-lined dirona. It must have been in between nudibranch spawning seasons or something.

On the way back, we passed several more groups of divers. It was certainly a busy night!

On our way back into the bay, Vlad saw a pink sea star and noted some lesions on its central disk. Hopefully the sea star wasting disease wasn't spreading further. There were still no sign of the sunflower stars that were so common at Whytecliff. They had been completely wiped out, and were not seeming to recover at all.

All in all a very successful dive, and we saw and learned lots!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

HMCS Annapolis Project Baseline 10/09/2017

It had been a long time since I had been out to the Annapolis, so Vlad and I decided to get our scooters and have some fun while doing some work for Project Baseline Halkett Bay.

It couldn't have been a better day with Sea Dragon Charters. It was a very full boat though, and I'm glad that we didn't have anyone else along with as much gear as we had. There were at least 15 divers on board.

Once out at the Annapolis, we got into the water first to clear the deck. We also decided and planned a long two hour dive instead of coming back to the boat. We figured this would be easier with the amount of gear we had. Our first stop was Station B, away from the ship. The line that had been run the previous year was still in place, but it was covered in brown gunk and difficult to see. Once at Station B, we found the float and Secchi Disk in disarray. Vlad touched the float and it broke away and took off to the surface. The metal clasp that had been used had just rusted straight through. We realized that we'd have to replace all that with plastic zip ties later.

Vlad deployed and attached his temperature sensor, and also snapped a great picture of me.

Next we scootered around the ship. We checked out the stern, where there seemed to be a million shrimp. We also noticed ripples in the hull metal from the sinking. It seemed to stand out more, or maybe I'd missed it on previous dives. Vlad commented later that the area around the props seemed more excavated, maybe due to water action. We scootered through the swim throughs, down the breeze-ways, checked out the mortar bay, helicopter bay, and just about everywhere. With scooters it was very easy to see everything several times. On the bow, the railing seemed damaged on the port side, probably by getting hooked by someone's anchor. We actually started to run out of things to do!

We visited Station A above the bridge and took visibility readings there (as we had at Station B). I headed in to the bridge to try and do some photos, but none of those turned out. It was still fun!

In terms of life, there were even more shrimp and green urchins. I counted several copper and quillback rockfish, and submitted those to the Vancouver Aquarium Rockfish Abundance Survey. In the helicopter bay, there were a large abundance of scallops. The plumose anemones were really growing, and were everywhere. They were especially starting to grow from the ceilings in many areas.

Back on the boat, Nick from OceanQuest dive center was out on his sailboat, and actually recovered the float from Station B. Quite a lucky find! We would have to replace that on the next dive.

I put together a short video if you would like to see more:

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Porteau Cove 30/08/2017

After seeing Jim, Dennis and Jo scootering in the Nomash Cave, I figured it had been too long since I'd been out for a scooter dive to. Vlad and I got our gear and headed out to Porteau Cove for a Wednesday night dive. It was a perfect evening. The heat wave had subsided for a bit, and it even rained some during the day.

Our plan was for an hour and a half run time with some decompression on oxygen. Visibility was a challenge at the start and end of the dive. We were basically in touch contact while we scootered out to the Nakaya. It was still fun, doing it all by compass but a bit nerve wracking because we almost ran into the pipe reef on the way!

Once we got below 30 feet / 9 meters visibility improved. The water temperature also plummeted to about 9 degrees as we passed through a distinct thermocline. There was also a huge swarm of moon jellies that made it like a doge-em video game. Unfortunately at least one got sucked through my prop despite my best efforts. Sorry moon-jelly!

We missed the Nakaya on the way out due to the challenging vis, and aimed instead for the rock wall. Half our dive was planned at 100 feet / 30 meters, and the visibility was around 20-30 feet which was quite good. I did some rockfish counting for the Rockfish Abundance Survey and just generally enjoyed the dive. The boulders and rocks were always interesting, with cloud sponges and anemones here and there. There were several large ling cod, and a few white nudibranchs. At the end of the scooter Vlad deployed his GPS on a string and got a fix for how far we went.

On the way back was the best part. We came across five Dogfish sharks at various points. Several of them were at least 4 feet long and very cool. I had not seen so many Dogfish at once in a long time. This was not one of my pictures, but came from Wikipedia.

We also came across a wrecked car chassis on the bottom. We had come across similar wrecks before, but this time Vlad took a GPS reading so we could reference where it was on a map.

We successfully found the Nakaya on our way back. It was continuing to deteriorate and with the bad vis and an ever increasing dive-time we needed to keep going. We headed past the Grant Hall, and the vis just kept getting worse. We got onto the fire hose then headed in to the bay. At 6 meters we started our deco and tried to see anything in the soup. There was one last Dogfish surprisingly, as well as about a million Pacific Snake Pricklebacks. It was fun and challenging to do some deco in such conditions. Finally we surfaced and were not far from the stairs. The current was quite impressive and we had to use our scooters to get us back.

All in all a very fun and successful dive!