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Its been a fun and exciting 6 days with our March 2015 Hornby Island dive trip, where we spent two days of diving in Puget Sound before heading up to Hornby Island, British Columbia to dive in Canadian waters, and to see the Lions of Hornby Island. Our divers traveled from Florida, Hawaii, California and Washington state to join us on this underwater adventure.
Our trip started out near Seattle with two days of diving on Bandito Charters out of Tacoma WA. We visited some of our most popular south Puget Sound dive sites, including Z’s Reef, Point Defiance North Wall, and Maury Island Barges. Maury Island Barges was particularly beautiful as we had sunny skies (which meant lots of ambient light underwater), and 50+ foot visibility. We saw large populations of Copper and Brown rockfish, schools of various perch, and a favorite of mine, Painted greenling. On the invertebrate side we saw Plumose anemone, lots of sea stars and Giant barnacles.
After completing our two boat dive days, Friday was a travel day from Seattle north to Hornby Island, where we met up with more of our divers. The journey from Seattle to Hornby Island included a border crossing and a total of three ferries. The scenic drive north between Nanaimo and Port Hardy was especially beautiful with old growth forests and occasional views of the Salish Sea. While passing through Nanaimo, we had a chance to stop and try the famous Nanaimo bars.
After arriving at Hornby island Diving around early evening, we unpacked and had dinner. A few of our divers decided to try a night dive at Ford Reef, a shallow dive site accessible from shore next to the resort. The divers were amazed to find several large and brightly colored Puget Sound king crab out and about underwater in the early evening hours. After a good night’s sleep Friday, we were all up early Saturday ready to begin the first day of diving. The morning started out with sun and a few high clouds, and after breakfast we headed to our first dive site of the day, Flora Islet. The dive site was a wall dive with an easy line descent down to 60’, then divers followed the wall with a gentle current as they poked among the rocks for sea life. We found lots of Pile and Kelp perch, Copper and Quillback rockfish, Kelp greenling, and a very large Giant Pacific Octopus easily viewed in its den.
Once the dive was finished, we headed back to shore for air fills and a hearty lunch before traveling out to the second dive at Nash Bank. This boulder strewn dive site features hundreds of Lingcod, some guarding eggs, and a rare Yelloweye rockfish thought to be 100+ years old. Several of the divers happened upon this calm and friendly fish, who allowed us to take photos and video from a respectful distance before we moved on. After a second return trip to shore, a few of our divers headed back out for a third dive Repulse Point.
A storm came through Saturday night, bringing thunder and heavy rain to the island. We woke up Sunday morning to choppy seas and decided to delay our morning dive by 1 hour to allow for the weather to pass though. Once the seas had calmed down, our divers headed to Toby Islet for the morning dive. After a return to shore and lunch, we headed out for the main event, a dive at Norris Rocks with Steller sea lions. The sea lion colony is a temporary group of juvenile and adult Steller sea lions mixed with a few smaller adult California sea lions. As soon as we pulled up to the dive site, the juvenile Steller sea lions were in the water ready to meet us. Underwater, we settled in at about 30’ to watch the sea lions swim and carefully approach us. The sea lions are wild animals that are very curious, but can also be unpredictable. We took lots of still photos and video as the sea lions swam around us, checking out our dive gear and occasionally nipping at our fins and hoods with their mouths. It is quite exciting and unnerving to have a large wild animal put his mouth over your head and gingerly try to pull your scuba hood off. Our divers were able to spend up to an hour underwater with these amazing marine mammals.
Video by Christine Simon
Sunday evening consisted of naps, massages by a local masseuse, and a fresh salmon dinner before venturing off resort to Middle Mountain Mead artisan honey winery for a private tasting. Mead wine is a honey based wine that has been fermented since ancient times and was popular with the Vikings. After learning more about this unusual drink, and picking up a few bottles to take home, we headed back down the mountain. Monday morning was out last dive, where many of our divers headed back to Norris Rocks for more diving with Steller sea lions before packing up to catch ferries and eventually flights back home.
The dive trip was a great success, with divers experiencing dive sites and marine life that can not be seen elsewhere. We’ll definitely be coming up to Hornby Island and other parts of British Columbia again for more diving, and hopefully we’ll get another chance to meet the Lions of Hornby Island.
One of our Seattle Dive Tours divers, Norwegian Claes-Gøran Bye, posted this video from his recent guided scuba diving tour with us at Redondo Beach, WA. Looking at the footage, I found Giant Pacific octopus, Plumose anemone, Sunflower star, Copper rockfish, Giant barnacle, Northern kelp crab, and Spiny pinkstar. If you can identify anything else, leave it in the comments section below of let us know on our Facebook page.
While scuba diving at many dive sites in the Pacific Northwest, divers will notice groups of creatures with long tapering bodies and short frilled tentacles on the top. Many times, divers new to Puget Sound mistake them for some kind of plant, but they are actually an animal referred to as a plumose anemone, Metridium senile, and its larger cousin, Metridium farcimen. Their coloring can be white, orange, brown, or even tan or cream. A single plumose anemone is always one even solid color.
Colonies of plumose anemone can bee seen anchored to rocks, pilings, or sunken boats. Solitary, larger plumose anemone can be found anchored to the silty bottom areas of dive sites down to 120’. The colonies are incredibly beautiful, and underwater photographers can get dramatic shots by staying lower than the plumose anemone and photographing up towards the water surface.
Plumose anemone feed by catching small organisms floating past in the current. If accidentally bumped by a diver, they will fold in their tentacles and close up. Reproduction can be both sexual or asexual, with colonies of hundreds from the same individual being reported. Next dive tour, make sure to slow down and appreciate these beautiful creatures right here in Northwest waters.
Here is a little bit about the Porteau Cove British Columbia dives from last week while I was up in British Columbia:
Dive One we just sort of went down the stairs and swam underwater to the artificial reef and poked around the tires and concrete stuff. Lots of shrimp, Dungeness crab, Decorator crab, and a shy Kelp Greenling. We looked around for an hour or so and headed back for a surface interval and to change cylinders.
Dive Two we did a surface swim out to the buoy marking the Granthall wreck, then dropped down the line. Viz opened up to 40′ below the algae layer on top. Lots of Plumose Anemone, Copper Rockfish, and some very large Lingcod. Also saw Moon jelly, Sea blubber, California Sea Cucumber plus another type that I haven’t seen before, and a single Orange Sea Pen.
Dive site is pretty shallow, don’t think we got below 50″ and the tide was going out. Both dives were lots of fun, I plan to go back soon and take some more pictures. Check out the photographs from this trip on the Porteau Cove, BC Facebook album.
On May 22nd I went up to a beautiful dive site north of Seattle on Whidbey Island, called Keystone Jetty. Also along was my friend and PADI Assistant Scuba Diving Instructor, Ken Bell. Lots to see at this protected marine preserve, including Copper and Black Rockfish, Lingcod, Kelp Greenling, Painted Greenling, Kelp Crabs, and lots of Plumose Anemone.
Once we finished our dive, we headed up to Oak Harbor and some lunch at Seabolt’s Smokehouse for some Fish and Chips and then over to Whidbey Island Dive Center to chat with the owner and check out the vintage dive gear.