Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Nanaimo 18-19/08/2018

The Nomash River cave trip got cancelled due to wild fires in the area. There was a fire burning near the town of Zeballos, which was only 10 km away from the cave. Also there was a fire threatening the only access road. We planned for emergencies, but this was too much. We decided to put the trip off until the situation improved. It was ironic that we needed rain to keep the fires down, but don't want rain to dive the cave! Instead, Jim invited me over to dive around Nanaimo. It was a nice consolation.

Saturday we went out with Nanaimo Dive Outfitters and went to Elephant Wall (it was a bit too rough to go over to the wrecks). I'd not done Elephant Wall yet, so that was great! The ride out was indeed rough. Elephant Wall was near Gabriola Wall. Ewan Anderson came along with us and we planned for a nice long scooter dive. Captain Steve got us in the water with his usual aplomb, but Ewan and I had some challenges meeting up with Jim in the back eddy by the wall. The swells were high so it was difficult to keep the team together. But we sorted that out and off we went. Having the scooters really helped overcome the current and rough conditions.

We pretty much scootered the whole dive. The wall was excellent with lots of giant scallops and rockfish. There was a big overhang much like Gabriola Wall which was festooned with giant plumose anemones. I found the whole dive very relaxing.

Back on board, we headed to the Rivtow Lion wreck in Nanaimo harbour. The water was just too rough to be pleasant that day. I'd not done the Rivtow in forever so I was looking forward to it. We left the scooters behind as the Rivtow didn't need them. We splashed and had fun doing a quick light recovery as we dropped one, whoops. No fuss, though. On the wreck I had forgotten how big it was. Another dive team actually found an octopus on the deck, but we missed it. We did a bunch of swim throughs, found several freakishly large decorated war bonnets, and enjoyed the schools of perch swimming about the structure. It was a very fun and pretty dive. Here was Ewan and Jim checking out the bow.

After a great evening chatting with Jim, it was back to diving! We met Greg Nuttall at Tyee and did another scooter dive. I'd not seen Greg for some time. We went out to Dolphin cove and back. It was one of the best scooter dives I'd had in a long time. The visibility was excellent, we kept our speed leisurely and just enjoyed the trip. We came across two octopus out in the open and the usual several Puget sound king crabs. We did search for the wolf eels but came up empty.

We were off to Madrona next, where we left the scooters behind. A very serendipitous meeting happened there, where we met the sister of David Watson whom I had met at the Florida cave conference! She and her husband Aron Tremble, a GUE fundies diver, had just moved to North Vancouver! You never knew who you would meet out diving. So now I had a new dive buddy to show around!

Without scooters we still managed to see all three walls. Greg tested out the electronic compass of his dive computer and it seemed to work well. He put us on the marker for the wall with no issues. We lost count of the number of octopus we saw (it was at least 7 or 8). One den had the remains of 6 crabs outside, the octopus sure were well fed at Madrona. Most were monster size too, but it was hard to tell as they were all sleeping in cracks.

Here was another octopus hiding.

The visibility was not as good as Tyee, but decent.

The thermocline was much more pronounced. Under 18 meters it was very chilly. Above it was almost tropical!

There were thousands of mating opalescent nudibranchs on the sand flats. They were seriously every where. This was a very green picture of them

Try as we might we did not spot any wolf eels unlike the last time I was there. We even tried to check out the top of the little wall, which was where Steve from NDO had said there were some. No luck.

I spotted 6 or 7 sunflower stars. Two were adult size but the others were smaller. I did see one set of wasting remains, but it was for a different species. This was more encouraging evidence that the disease that hit two years ago was on the decline.

For me the highlights of the dive were the octopus, but another was finding a few sailfin sculpins. One was sitting right on a rock, camouflaged. 

We also came across a really big cabezon that wasn't also doing its best to hide. Jim likened them to a grouse, you can't see me, so I'm not going to move. Often you could poke a cabezon and it still wouldn't move.

After the diving we went to the Rocking Horse Pub. It was a place I'd always wanted to go, but had always been in a rush. The pub was great and there were lamas. The made the oddest noise!

A fantastic bunch of diving and a fantastic visit with some good friends. The ferry ride back really showed just how bad the fires and smoke situation was, however. A spectacular sunrise was one consolation.