This time of year is a glorious in British Columbia. As the flowers start to bloom and the trees begin to blossom, the water starts to take on a new life. Smacks of jellyfish bloom in the waters, plankton and algae starts to gather, and life begins to flourish. For diving this can either be a blessing or a curse. On one hand the visibility in some places reduce drastically, in others (normally further up Vancouver Island heading north) it comes and goes and brings with it new life.
The above photo was taken on a wall at Steep Island in Campbell River. CR is a great place to dive all year round. It has very high tidal exchanges (some of the largest in the world), which means it can flush out bad viz and offer spectacular diving all year round.
Steep Island is a unique site in BC as it is home to a magnificent cliff of tube worms. Imagine a feather duster stuck inside a plastic pipe. The duster pokes out the top, feeds on particulate in the water, and when it senses danger, it retracts in the tube. The duster is a rich red colour, while the wall it is fixed on is covered in sulphur sponges bright yellow, decorated by stunning strawberry anemones.
As summer draws closer, as the nights get longer, the skies blue and water (at least at the surface) get a little warmer, consider dipping your toes in our incredible emerald seas. Remember - its not just land that flourishes under the increased sunlight. Most of our ocean life also relies on photosynthesis, and this time of year things start to get interesting!
We've just come off the back of an awesome week of diving in British Columbia. It's no secret that the winter time is the best time to dive. Crisp air and crystal clear waters make for some stunning dives full of colour, marine life, and adventure.
Last week saw a great group of divers from all over North America descend upon the Comox Valley and Campbell River, visiting some classic local dive sites such as Row and Be Damned, April Point Wall, Steep Island, and Norris Rocks. They were stunned by the wall to wall colour, the abundance of marine life, and clarity of our beautiful emerald waters.
Along with Trisha and Russell, Jill Heinerth and Jaqueline Windh bought the Royal Canadian Geographical Society Fellow head count up to four. Jill (Explorer in Residence) also bought out the RCGS flag for this group shot (photo by Maxwel Hohn).
We were shooting some immersive (and rather amazing) 360 video for a client. We'll be sharing some 360 virtual reality footage ourselves in the future, but for now we're just very happy to shot some of the coolest BC dive footage we could have hoped for.
As the snow continues to fall the dives keep happening. It may be cold out site, but the water is warmer than the air, more inviting, and full of things to keep us busy!
As this entire website shows, there is much waiting to be discovered beneath BC. But it's not all about the diving. A huge part of the appeal for many is the social aspect. This shot above was taken last night at a local site in Comox. Four of us (Russ, Trish, buddy Krystal, and photographer Maxwel) decided to nip out for a quick dive near Little River. We had great visibility, great surface conditions, a few curious sea lions, lots of fish, a big octopus, and we even surfaced to a nice pink sunset. Perfect!
Having a good group of dive buddies makes diving much more fun. It's not really a solo sport, so sharing with like minded people that are as equally as passionate about the ocean, about video, and about marine life as we are, makes it an addictive and super fun activity for us.
Most dive stores have a very active social aspect, with regular dives, BBQs, and hangouts. Often a post-dive drink or meal happens and everyone can chat about what they saw on their sub aquatic adventure. Some parts of BC have very active dive clubs, not associated with a specific store, but a group of people that do local, and destination based trips. Offering a strong camaraderie these clubs can be great places to learn about diving and hone your skills.
From beneath BC to above, from the depths of the ocean floor to the table of the nearest pub - diving is a fantastic activity for the social minded explorer.
Thanks to Maxwel Hohn for this photo, you can see more of his great work here.
We shall be talking at this years Divescapes scuba show and conference in Calgary, October 19-21.
Divescapes is the bi-annual scuba show and conference organized by the rather amazing Alberta Underwater Council. The AUC is an incredibly active council that puts on a huge variety of events throughout the year. Alberta, despite being a wee way from the coast, has a hugely active scuba diving community. Their show, Divescapes, is the only dive show of its kind in Canada, and pulls in some top speakers from across the global dive industry.
This year we have been asked to speak, and shall be giving a 45 minute presentation at the show in October. There's a great roster of top speakers, so get a ticket, get a seat, and help support Canada's only dive show!
Yeah, we know this site is called "beneath BC" but sometimes in order to get a good perspective, you need to get a little distance. This shot was taken way above BC, above the emerald green waters off Hornby Island to be exact. You can see the Hornby Island Diving boat, divers bubbles, and the wall as it descends into the deep.
As these walls drop off to depth they become fantastic dive sites. Like the steep slopes of a mountain, forest or hill - they are teaming with life and things to explore.
A three day diving trip to Hornby Island gave us an incredible experience with huge ling cod, cabezon, octopus, wolf reefs, schools of rockfish, puget sound king crabs, even ratfish!
With sunny days, and amazing underwater visibility like this - who needs the tropics?! Not us, we're happy at home, here beneath BC.
Snorkelling is an often overlooked activity. It's cheap (mask, fin and snorkel can be purchased from your nearest dive store or even Costco), there's access to snorkelling sights all over BC - really, just find any bit of water, and it's a perfect way to cool off during an insanely hot summer.
Snorkelling can be an easy way to gain access to our underwater world. You can stay near the shore, be very shallow, and even be within arms reach of the shore. It's a great way for those with little water experience to get out there and discover new life.
For scuba divers it can also be a nice refreshing way to view the world. At this time of year putting on thermal layers and heavy gear can be quite unpleasant, but a thin wetsuit, or even shorts and rash guard can make getting into the ocean super fun.
If you've never snorkelled before we recommend you head to your nearest dive shop and talk to them about a quick swimming pool lesson, or guided snorkel excursion. Learning how to prepare your mask, and "clear" it if it gets flooded is a good skill, and for those not familiar with it, breathing through your mouth and snorkel alone, can take some time to adjust too. But once these quick to learn skills are taken care of, the world becomes your oyster!
So what's there to see? The top few feet of water is home to kelp and sea weed, and where this thrives, life follows. Kelp crabs are a big resident of these shallow waters. You'll see tons of the little guys walking around, going about their business and stuffing their faces with kelp. Take a few moments to just watch them as they feed, it's very relaxing and incredible intriguing!
You'll see lots of little fish too, some teeny, some a wee bit bigger. You may get lucky to see a greenling, or a call school or perch. You'll even see fish in gangs of about a dozen swarm some of the crabs as they feed, hoping to grab an easy snack after the crab does the hard work.
You'll also get to see the way the light enters the water, the sun carving out definitive light beams in the emerald green water. It's very BC, very therapeutic, and makes for an exciting, and rewarding day on the water.
British Columbia has a new addition to its waters - the artificial reef YOGN-82. A former US WWII gasoline barge, YOGN-82 has been part of Catalyst Paper’s Powell River breakwater for some years, finally being delivered to it's new home this past Saturday by the Artificial Reef Society of BC. Over the coming years it will become a bustling marine life habitat and a welcome addition beneath BC.
The ARSBC, which has sunk more ships and aircraft than any other non-profit group in the world to create marine habitat, has worked and consulted with Catalyst Paper for the sinking of their vessel YOGN-82. In addition to the letters of endorsement from the Tla’amin Nation (Sliammon), the Regional District of Powell River and the City of Powell River, approvals were granted by federal government agencies following strict preparation and cleaning guidelines.
The YOGN-82 is the first of four ships planned to be sunk for reefing. The break-water vessels are all American Second World War surplus which were purchased over time by the mill. Constructed from cast reinforced concrete, they have survived afloat and have been part of Powell River’s seascape, acting as a breakwater system protecting the mill’s log pond and foreshore.
Ranging from 109 to 128 meters long, and weighing between 6000 and 8000 tons, these historic relics are the last of their kind afloat anywhere in the world. Consequently, this project has the potential to become a significant scuba dive tourism attraction for British Columbia, as well as hugely positive effect on marine life in the area.
Accessible only by boat, the ships will be prepared in succession and sunk within easy scuba swimming distance from each other, effectively creating a cluster of historic wrecks.
These wartime relics are already well past their lifespan. In essence they are already floating artificial reefs, based on the generations of biodiversity in place on their hulls. When fully submerged, these ships will form a pinnacle oasis for marine flora and fauna settlement with scale and habitat complexity.
If you want to explore this new marine habitat, you can book a dive charter through Pacific Pro Dive & Marine Adventures.
Drift diving is a fun way to view the underwater world. You jump off a dive boat, descend, and let the current take you on a journey of discovery. It's like standing on one of those conveyor belts you get at airports, but cruising by walls of colour and marine life.
Campbell River's Discovery Passage is one of the best places in BC to drift dive. It has some of the highest tidal exchanges in North America, and the narrow channel results in currents in excess of 14 knots. Now, you couldn't dive in 14 knots, you'd be half way around the world before you know it! But one or two knots of current can make for a pleasurable drift dive.
This past weekend we were out with Pacific Pro Dive diving two sites, Whiskey Point, and The Rock. The current was pretty low so it was a mixture of light swimming and drifting at a leisurely rate. Hovering a few feet about the sea floor, we traveled at about 1 knot, nice and slow and smooth, keeping our eyes open for wolf eels, giant pacific octopus, ling cod, rockfish, cabezon, and any other signs of life hiding amongst the coloured sponges and anemones. It's a great ride, being a sub Aquatica passenger is a lot of fun, and a privilege.
You can see a short video here.
To quote someone that we can't name "the best camera is the one you have with you". Well for the vast majority of people that's a smart phone, and for us, it's a shiny new iPhone 8. Not convinced? How about a pocket camera that shoots 4K 60fps video? Sold.
During a non-working fun dive we may not want to take the big camera system with us. The option of diving without a camera is obviously not an option at all! We can't not have a camera underwater! So we're always on the look out for a super easy, super handy, super practical little camera to take on adventures underwater. With the iPhone 8, we found it.
We've tried a lot of iPhone and iPhone housings over the past few years, the latest iPhone 8 paired with the Lenzo housing (made by ValsTech) is by far the best. By a massive margin. It's the solution we've been looking for, and really does pack a ton of amazing video and photos features into a system that is small enough to take anywhere, and easy enough to use on a day off (little brain activity required!).
Lenzo iPhone housings are tough, they have great optics, the latch is reassuring, the buttons feel nice, and the two little "arms" mean you can focus, select different functions, and dismiss any "low battery" error messages. It's the most versatile, practical, highest functioning and best design iPhone housing on the market.
The iPhone 8 is a fantastic camera to have underwater. Using the iPhone's native camera app we can take "Live Photos" - essentially 3 second snapshots, we can shoot HDR images, switch between 240fps slow motion at 1080, time lapse, and video functions. Using Camera+ we can shoot RAW still images, and using the awesome Filmic Pro app we can shoot a ton of video with more options than ever before (an app that really shines above water), such as focus peaking, increased bit rate and an incredible stabilization mode.
The Lenzo is now our go-to "day off" camera. We always have it, it shoots remarkably well, and it makes for a very fun dive! In fact, it really gives a lot of other, more expensive cameras a run for their money. Never underestimate the power of a telephone!
Find out more here: https://www.valstech.com
As Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society we are charged with helping to make Canada better known to Canadians. Our way of doing this is simple - this Beneath BC website. Showing people what lies beneath British Columbia's surface is what excites us, and hopefully you too. One day we hope to take the project national and show people what lies beneath Canada. Until then we hope you learn something new about our waters here, and maybe even jump in yourself!
Today Canadian Geographic (a spectacular magazine you should subscribe to) has us listed in their 'Seven amazing things RCGS Fellows are up to this year' article. It's a good read, and inspiring to see what other fellow Canadians are doing to help show off the best of our country.
You can learn more about the Royal Canadian Geographical Society here.