Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Britannia Beach Wrecks 25/11/2018

I'll start off with the compilation video I made, if you want to start there!

As 2018 was coming to a close, Project Baseline put out a call to submit any data to the database from any of the existing stations. GUE-BC has maintained a station at Britannia Beach, and Vlad and I decided to get out there and recover the temperature sensor he developed. Back in 2017, we did the same thing. A lot of data came out of the sensor, and you could see it by looking at the database entry for the site. The spikes in data were very pronounced!

Project Baseline's mission was to collect temperature and visibility readings from citizen science divers to build a "baseline" view of the oceans and other bodies of water. This year was very exciting as the database had been upgraded to support a more modern platform. You could now search the database with mobile and web browsers!

I found an interesting article on the wrecks at Britannia Beach. Some time soon I'd have to gather more information about them. I put together a very rough map of the site here.

Years ago, someone had put together a much better map. But that link long since stopped working. The red circle was the place to park by the highway. A trail led in to the red X, which was the entry point. Another entry existed across from the Galileo Coffee Company, but it was a bit harder to get in to. The wreck locations are not to scale, but provide a rough idea of where they are. The red stars are the location of the Project Baseline sites.

On the drive out, it was looking rough and choppy, and the weather report called for wind and rain. Thankfully it turned out to be a pretty darn good day. The snow was on the mountains!

The entry looked pretty good. A lot of logs, but doable.

In the water, Vlad and I were pleasantly surprised at the visibility. It was excellent! We actually measured 8 meters of vis, or roughtly 25 feet. Very good!

On the swim out, I found a welding mask on the bottom. I didn't get a picture, but I did ham it up for Vlad. Our funny picture opportunity was a phone we found. Here was Vald trying to make a call!

We swam past the CCGS Ready and explored a bit towards the north. We discovered a new wreck, the remains of a barge with a crane attachment. This was not there last year! It was less than 5 minutes past the Ready, at about 10 meters.

On the way, we came across a cute little octopus hiding in a tire.

At Station A, at the stern of the Ready, it was looking pretty good. The site had been installed over 4 years ago in 2014.

And here was the backside of the marker, note the cylindrical temperature sensor that we were there to recover.

Station B looked great too. Vlad posed for the camera.

There was plenty of life, with schools of perch, yellow nudibranchs, and giant dendronotids.

A fried egg jellyfish got caught by an anemone.

 The visibility was the star. Here was Vlad inspecting the bridge of the Ready.

And the bow.

I noticed some evidence of sea star wasting. I submitted a report on this to the sea star wasting tracking page. Here was one with just a portion of an arm left.

Probably the most interesting discover we made was a very large and long concrete pipe leading off into the depths. This was very close the entry point, but we had never discovered it before! Clearly it deserved some exploration in the future.

UCBC Halkett Bay Sponge Dive 12/11/2018

Adam Taylor of The Underwater Council of British Columbia arranged a dive of the glass sponge bioherm near the Halkett Pinnacle in Halkett Bay Provincial Marine Park. Many will know this site by a different name (Spongebob). Huge thanks to Adam and Sea Dragon Charters for the amazing dives, and for bringing together such a varied cross section of divers for comments on diving the site. Vladimir Chernavsky and myself were lucky to represent GUE-BC, thanks to Liz Tribe. GUE-BC had been building relationships with the Marine Life Sanctuaries Society of BC and now the UCBC. The opportunities for citizen science, photogrammetry, Project Baseline data collection and collaboration were very exciting!

This was an "outreach" day to introduce a broad cross section of divers to the new mooring buoy that the UCBC had installed at the site. It was a heroic installation, and professionally done. I was able to see some of the install photos, and it was some serious underwater work!

Neil McDaniel provided a sponge biology talk as part of Adam's dive briefing. It was very informative and detailed.14 divers were on the outing including Greg McCracken, Deirdre Forbes McCracken, Hamish Tweed, Amy Oxox, Rebecca Barrett, Amy Liebenberg, Diana Belton, Neil McDaniel, Doug Swanston, Vladimir Chernavsky and myself. Also along were Vanessa Heal & Andy Wiggs who helped with topside video and photos. There were several interviews done of the dive teams as well.  Rounding out the day were 4 additional divers on Glen Dennison's boat including John Congdon & Tanya Prinzing.

From my perspective the day could not have been better. While not sunny, the rain held off. Loading up the boat went smoothly and efficiently.

The wind played a bit of havoc with current and waves. This made it challenging to catch the new mooring buoy, but Adam and the crew of the Sea Dragon did a great job. What really made the dive was the visibility. It was amazing. Coming down the new line, you could see the sponge reef from at least 40 feet away. It was magical, as this photo from Vlad showed.

On the first dive, Adam suggested everyone just orientate themselves with the site. The mooring buoy was anchored to a bedrock outcropping. Surrounding it was bare rock, with a few sponges. It was a perfect place. Here you could see two divers near the line.

From the buoy, navigation was quite simple. Heading North East would bring you to a drop off, and following that to the North would bring you into the main sponges. Carrying on to the North East would bring you through a saddle of mud, to the main bioherm. To be honest, skipping that and following the crest of sponges around back to the mooring buoy was a great way to go. The Aquarium had a temperature sensor installed on the ridge, which we found.

The number of divers on the site was impressive. Here was Adam leading a group on a tour.

And more divers!

Everywhere there were quillback rockfish. I counted over 20.

And several juvenile yellow eye rockfish.

Schools of perch were everywhere too, glinting in the lights.

But the stars of the show were the beautiful sponges.

It was too bad, but the day would have to come to an end. I put together some video from the trip, and will leave off here with it!