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One of the best parts of a night dive are the different animals that come out in the evening hours. Our night dive last week had Harbor seals join us for most of the dive, using our dive lights to hunt for invertebrates.
Harbor seals are fairly common marine mammals in Puget Sound with healthy populations. The can be brown, tan, or grey with spots on their back or underside and weight up to 290 pounds. Harbor seals are “true seals” meaning that they do not have ear like Sea lions do. Harbor seals do not migrate and will live their entire lives within a several square mile area. Our Puget Sound Harbor seal pups are born in late summer and are weaned from their mother after just 30 days.
Diving with Harbor seals can be exciting and a bit nerve wracking at first, as divers get used to having a large wild animal swim along side and dart out in front of them. Harbor seals also tend to swim up from behind divers, so that they are not noticed until you see them out of the corner of your mask. Once divers get used to having Harbor seals in the water, it quickly becomes an entertaining and memorable dive experience.
Have you thought about a night dive but just weren’t sure? Here are some great reasons to get you in the water at night!
During a night dive, everything takes on a new look. Your focus changes as you move about the dive site, observing life around your dive light and seeing ambient light from the surface.
At dusk and again at dawn, nocturnal and diurnal species “trade places” on the dive site to seek food and engage in social activities. Rockfish seek out holes and ledges in the reef to sleep while other fish species, such as Ratfish, become more active. Our famous Giant pacific octopus is also more active at night, sometimes venturing out of their dens to hunt for food. Harbor seals are especially enthusiastic, occasionally following divers around Puget Sound dive sites and hunting using diver’s lights to illuminate prey.
Even a familiar dive site can look completely different at night. Wrecks and small boats underwater become compelling and mysterious. Reefs light up with your dive light and display colors not seen in the daytime.
During the fall, billions of small microorganisms in Puget Sound become excited by water movement, which causes light emission in the microorganism. While on a dive safety stop, simply point your light down or towards you (for safety, do not turn your light off) and wave your free hand in the water. You’ll see thousands of light pinpoints, an amazing experience to end your dive.
The PADI Open Water Diver course taught us that colors degrade underwater, first starting on the red end of the spectrum. A dive light can bring back the “true” colors of fish, invertebrates, and corals. Vermilion rockfish (Sebastes miniatus) become a beautiful red, Stubby squid (Rossia pacifica) can turn red to deep purple, and California sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus) reveal their deep reddish-orange to yellow colorings.
Go diving after work or even later in the day. Night diving is great way to squeeze in a dive after work or in the evening hours. We offer night dives every day of the week, and they can be scheduled anytime after sunset. A night dive is a perfect option for visitors to Seattle with a full daytime schedule of meetings, conferences, or even just sightseeing.
Our busy Spring diving season is in full swing right now, with travelers coming from all over the United States, plus Spain, Singapore, and Panama to experience diving in the Pacific Northwest. On a recent dive we came across a Stubby squid, one of the more interesting and unusual invertebrates we see on our Guided Dive Tours as they look similar to Cuttlefish and exhibit Bioluminescence. As we’ve mentioned before, Puget Sound itself has beautiful Bioluminescence in the water during the fall season.
Stubby squid, also called a Bobtail squid, are closely related to the Cuttlefish and are a member of the cephalopods order in the family Sepiolidae, with the scientific name Sepiola atlantica. They have eight arms and two tentacles, and are roughly golfball sized. With the help of Bioluminescent bacteria in it’s skin, Stubby squid can change colors and patterns to match the environment or confuse predators. They can be found at all the most popular dive sites in Puget Sound, plus the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Cape Peninsula of South Africa. We typically see them on night dives or during times of lower visibility, and in shallow water near eel grass beds.
With a 1-2 year life cycle, Stubby squid will mate and then die shortly afterward, leaving their egg clutches buried in the sand to hatch by themselves. Baby Stubby squid hatch as tiny versions of their parents, able to forage and hunt immediately. Adults and juveniles eat shrimp that they catch with their tentacles and eat with a horny beak inside their mouths.
Stubby squid are not considered threatened, and do well in urban waterways such as Puget Sound. Ready to see s Stubby squid? Now is a good time to book your dive tour and see these amazing creatures in their Pacific Northwest habitat.
We took a break from our regular dive tours in mid-February to teach the PADI Advanced Open Water certification course, and even had a rare Seattle snowstorm in the middle of the course. Our divers for the weekend were Mike, taking both the PADI Advanced Open Water certification and Dry Suit Diver courses, and Eric, taking the Dry Suit Diver course.
The first day (Saturday) started off at Redondo Beach, very popular for it’s well marked dive site and easy access. Plus we’ve had good luck finding GPO’s (Giant pacific octopus) and Wolf eel at the site. The day started off cold, but I had brought a propane heater to help keep everyone warm between dives. The first Adventure Dive of the weekend was Dry Suit Diver, which helped Mike & Eric to orient themselves to their dry suits, and also to work out weighting issues and buoyancy. After some snacks, Mike & Eric went back in to try the second Adventure Dive, Underwater Navigator. The dive had Mike navigate out and back to find a small boat on the dive site at approximately 45’, fist using natural navigation techniques, then using his compass. We had gone out to the boat on the first Adventure Dive, so he had a general idea of where it was and what was around it, plus a map for reference. Mike reported after the dive that using the compass was actually harder than using natural navigation, as there was more task loading involved, such as watching the compass & keeping it level, searching ahead, and keeping track of his buddy. Mike finished off the dive with a square pattern underwater, navigating back at the starting point. For divers using navigation, remember the key is to cooperate with your buddy, one diver navigating while the other diver searches. A dive slate can really help with communication underwater as well.
After a dinner break we met back up at Alki Seacrest Park (Cove 2) across from downtown Seattle for our night dive. After a dive site briefing, we entered the water under clear skies and a beautiful nighttime view of the Seattle skyline. Playful Harbor seals followed us on our dive, using our lights to hunt for fish & invertebrates. As we surfaced, the weather topside had changed to snow showers!
Sunday morning brought 3 inches of snow to the Seattle area, and we decided to return to Alki Seacrest Park (Cove 2) instead of our original plan of Three Tree Point. First Adventure Dive was Deep Diver, followed by Search & Recovery Diver, and finally a second dry suit dive to complete the Dry Suit Diver speciality course. During the deep dive, Mike got to see how pressure effects gasses, colors, and even thinking and judgement. The search & recovery dive involved learning how to rig and use a lift bag (Mike said this was his favorite part of the weekend), tie knots, and use search patters to find Spiderman and his friends. The dry suit dive had both Mike & Eric practice buoyancy and demonstrate removing and reattaching their dry suit inflator hoses while underwater. We had our post weekend lunch and wrap up next door at Marination Ma Kai, my favorite because of the SPAM sliders & coleslaw.
Thought about earning your Advanced Open Water? Our PADI Advanced Open Water course is scheduled on the second weekend of each month, plus we can we can teach it any other day (weekends or weekdays) for divers visiting Seattle. Check out our calendar or contact us to set up your own class. We teach all of our classes with as few as one student, so that you can get the instruction you want on your schedule.
Fall scuba diving is finally here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Visibility is improving daily as well as the chances of experiencing bioluminescence during night time diving. We’ve also been seeing some dramatic fog in the early afternoon as light breezes carry it in from the coast. Harbor seals have also returned to Puget Sound after being out to sea for the summer, and we are seeing several seals at each dive site.
Throughout the fall, Seattle Dive Tours be offering our daily dive tours starting at 9:00 am weekdays, while our night dives will progressively start earlier as sunset pushes into the late afternoon.