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.
This is fishing line, it was cut away from around the neck of a sea lion.
On a recent dive to Hornby Island to swim with the sea lions we noticed one little guy swim up to us appearing to have some kind of string around his neck. We tried to remove it but the sea lion had to surface for more air. He took a big breath, and came right back to us, hovering in front of us, specifically for us to help him. We successfully managed to cut the fishing line away and he swam off happy as a pig in mud!
On the same dive we retrieved more fishing line from the ocean bed. A common site underwater.
Fishing line, nets and rope pose a particular hazard to sea lions. It gets caught around their necks, and as the sea lion swims and turns in the water, the line or rope tightens, eventually killing the sea lion.
BC actually keeps it's coastline pretty clean, we don't find too much garbage underwater on most occasions, normally cans when we do. But fishing line is a big threat to marine life of all kinds and one that can be very easily avoided.
Help us spread the word and ask fishing friends to properly dispose of their lines, ropes and nets. Let's keep our oceans clean, healthy and safe!
Vivian Island, a 30 minute boat ride from Comox marina has a stunning little underwater playground. This time of year sea lions call it home, and the clear, crisp winter water makes for some incredible underwater exploration.
It's a good spot to observe sea lions with a little less chaos than the likes of Norris Rocks at Hornby Island. On a day like the one above, a few steller sea lions entered the water to check out us clumsy land dwellers. The interactions are often more personal here, with sea lions swimming to you, hovering, looking you in the eye, and then showing off their swimming skills, or playing catch with a pebble.
The topography around Vivian Island also offers a wealth of other, much smaller marine life. Beautiful nudibranchs, anemones, cheeky little crabs, lingcod, hermit crabs battling for a new home, black eyed gobies... the longer you look at a spot, the more you see. Every square inch is home to something, even if it's teeny tiny marine life that at first glance you don't notice.
Purple sea stars are a lovely colourful addition to any underwater habitat. As larger sunflower sea stars still continue to suffer from the "wasting disease" that began in 2013 (see video below), these little purple ones are a delight to see and always make for a fun photo op.
As Trish went in for a closer look, I could see this cheeky steller sea lion descend from the service, and swim right behind her - they love to see what you're looking at. He then swam away at a speed no human could ever match.
It was a playful little move from a curious and cute creature. A pleasant reminder that we were in his backyard, and we felt most privileged to be there!
This is Trisha on Christmas Eve, diving a small sailboat wreck off of the Comox coastline. It's not the most amazing dive site in BC, but it is fun. A 30 foot long concrete sailboat found in about 70 feet of water has given life a chance, in an otherwise barren area. Plumose anemones (seen in the photo), rockfish, cod and octopus can be found, calling this little shipwreck home.
The snow doesn't stop a good dive though! It started snowing Christmas Eve morning and continued through the night, when we went for our dive the beach was covered in a thin layer of white, and the air temperature was actually lower than the water!
If you wrap up warm and wear the correct diving gear, such as thermal undergarments and drysuits, you'll stay nice and warm whilst exploring beneath BC.
Hope everyone had a great Christmas, lets make 2018 the year to rediscover British Columbia!
On 5 December 1992, the former HMCS Chaudière became the first Destroyer Escort ship converted to a reef by the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia to be sunk in BC waters. Located off Kunichin Point in Porpoise Bay (Sechelt Inlet), this is still a popular destination for avid wreck divers.
We had the pleasure of attending a very fun 25th anniversary dive with members of the ARSBC and BC dive community. New lines were installed on the wreck, helping to make it a safer and easier site to dive for the future, photos aplenty were captured by underwater photographer Diane Reid, and we shot some very nice video which you'll see on this site in the next few days.
Howie Robins, President of the ARSBC supplied a birthday cake in celebration, whilst Kal Helyar of Porpoise Bay Charters supplied us with fanciful accommodations (amazing yurts!).
The Chaudière was the first Destroyer Escort ship converted to a reef by the ARSBC. She was purchased from the Department of National Defence for – wait for it – one dollar, plus seven cents for GST.
The ship is 366 feet long, weighing in at 2900 tons. When it sank it fell on its side, making for an unusual and unique wreck to explore. The wreck has a good amount of life on it, lots of plumose anemones, some ling cod, rockfish, and lots of tunicates, even a few deep glass sponges.
If you're looking to dive the Chaudiere we'd recommend contacting your local dive store and asking if/when they'll be visiting. Or you can contact Porpoise Bay Charters.
For more information on BC's artificial reefing program, visit the ARSBC website.
We’ve just returned from a fantastic week in Ottawa where Trisha Stovel and Russell Clark both had the pleasure of being elected as Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
We're very honoured to be amongst such distinguished company in the RCGS College of Fellows, all of us charged with making “Canada better known to Canadians and to the world”.
We had lots of fun visiting the amazing new RCGS HQ on Sussex Drive, checking out the excellent giant floor maps, catching up with Jill Heinerth, and another BC diver Andy Lamb (also made a Fellow this year), playing a game of “No, you first” door tag with the Prince of Ethiopia, and of course meeting lots of interesting Fellows from many walks of life.
It’s a great end to an incredible year for us. We have some fantastic things planned for 2018, and we’re looking forward to sharing a submerged Canada with as many people as we can!