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!
Destination BC, for those that don't know, are the official provincial tourism group that promote all activities within British Columbia. They've just released a fun new blog "5 ways to love the rain in BC" - and scuba diving is amongst them!
You notice a very fetching diver photographing a lions mane jellyfish - well that's us! That image was taken at Tuwanek, on the Sunshine Coast. A beautiful beach area with fantastic diving, great swimming, and stunning scenery.
There's also a video on the page too, about some of BC's best sea lion diving in the world!
Head over and check it out: blog.hellobc.com/5-ways-to-love-the-rain-in-bc/
Nope, we're not talking about the TV show, but a fantastic little place Beneath BC. Located in Howe Sound, just half an hour outside of Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver. As we've said before, "the mountains of BC don't stop at the waterline, they keep going". Here is no exception. Howe Sound in BC is actually North America's largest glacial fjord. The towering mountains you can see on the way up to Whistler descend beneath the waves, creating large walls, canyons, reefs, and in the case of Dragon's Den - beautiful overhangs.
Dragon's Den was discovered and named by local dive & snorkel charter Sea Dragon Charters. It's an overhang - meaning a large cliff with an indent part way down. Divers can swim in 10 feet or so. It is not a cave, or an "overhead environment" - which would require special training. The rocks are covered in plumose anemones, hanging from the top, and climbing up the sides. Rockfish swimming around, small fish called black eyed gobies, crabs, shrimp... all calling this Den home.
It's a great dive, full of diverse marine life, colour, epic scale that serve as a great reminder - BC's geography goes on and one and on and...
Last weekend we had a fun dive on the Columbia artificial reef off Maude Island, Campbell River. The former destroyer class ship was sunk June 22, 1996 by the Artificial Reef Society of BC. The 366 foot long ship is now home to dozens of species of marine life, including this cabezon, seen above with Trisha.
The cabezon sits mid-ship, very relaxed, as if it's just chilling out and watching the world go by! Cabezon are a large species of sculpin, and native to the Pacific coast of North America, from Alaska to California. Cabezon feed on crustaceans, molluscs, fish and fish eggs, and can grow up to 23lb in weight.
They are very photogenic fish, and it's always a pleasure to see one on a dive. They are few and far between Beneath BC, so the sight of a cabezon is always a welcome one.
Click and drag this 360 degree image to look at a bunch of happy divers!
Scuba diving is as much a social activity as it is about exploring. One a day of diving you may only spend a couple of hours actually underwater. The rest of the day you spend with like-minded people, bobbing around on a boat or hanging out on shore. Other divers can be a valuable source of educational info, not only about diving and improving your techniques, but also marine life behaviour, names of species, and how to find them. Below we have a group of divers (including us!) on the Pacific Seeker charter boat out of Campbell River with Pacific Pro Dive.
Scuba diving relies heavily on equipment to support your life in a submerged environment. One piece of gear we need when exploring is a dive computer. Normally these look like a large wrist watch and display essential information such as your depth, the time elapsed during your dive, your No Decompression Limit (how long you can stay at a given depth), and a few other bits such as time, and water temperature.
We now use a new dive computer called the NERD 2 by Shearwater Research. It's a heads up display that shows all your information in your line of sight by way of a device that mounts to your regulator hose. In the image above you can see Trisha; her right eye has a cylinder looking device there, this is the NERD 2. It's a brand new piece of high end dive gear that is perfect for people shooting video underwater.
With a glance of the eye, you can look at the NERD 2 and see all your dive information. This is excellent for shooters like us, we don't have to move our wrist. Whaaat - how hard can it be to move your wrist?! Well, if you're filming a cool marine life encounter, the last thing you want to do is move your arm, wrist, and camera and spoil the shot. The NERD 2 puts your essential dive info right in front of you, so you don't have to move or risk messing up a shot, but you can stay safe and informed.
It's an amazing piece of gear, check out this link to learn more.
The north Vancouver Island town of Gold River is also home to this fantastic little spot, known as Deep Hole. It's a popular swimming and cliff jumping spot with locals, and for us, a fantastic place to go for a 20 foot deep scuba dive, or a snorkel. The water is part of the Heber River; crystal clear, and beautifully carved through the canyon rock.