Just before the holidays, as the northern Enbridge hearings were coming to a close for the year, I managed to untie our frozen dock lines to head out for a few days assisting with some routine hydrophone maintenance while searching out some new future locations for hydrophone stations.
Joined by my Bella Bella neighbour Jordan Wilson and Tavish Campbell from Diamond Bay, we were excited by the clear winter waters flowing under the twin bows of our sailing vessel Habitat as we charted a course south down Lama Pass.
Our first dive was off of King Island to investigate a strange clanking sound that this hydrophone station had been picking up periodically over the last few months. This was the same station that first recorded extensive humpback whale song this past summer and the massive 7.7 magnitude quake off of Haida Gwaii.
Tavish dropped down to 80 feet but could find nothing out of the ordinary with the installation. This furthered his theory that the metallic noise was coming from a steel chain that anchored a navigation buoy off of Pointer light – a full three miles away. A poignant reminder of the sensitivity of these hydrophones, but also of the unintentional noise pollution we are already committing to these quiet waters.
We continued south exploring steep walls, old cannery sites and lone pinnacles rising from deep black water. At Koeye, Hakai and Kildidt the strong currents pushed and pulled us over kilometers of underwater wilderness. Each dive was as unique as a river valley; the subtleties of current, tide, depth and other dynamics reminded us why this coast is considered by many as one of the top dive locations in the world.
It is challenging enough to describe the familiar terrestrial environment of the Great Bear, but attempting to put words to the very cold underwater world here leaves the English language unyieldingly primitive. There is simply no way to describe the diversity of life, the kaleidoscope of colours and the jaw-dropping exquisiteness that each dive presented to us.
On the outer coast dives, with the storm surge and strong currents it was a challenge to not get thrown into urchin and barnacle encrusted walls, but throw in a large underwater camera housing and strobes and it gets really interesting. Nevertheless, I managed a few new images and as we enter the year of an expected decision on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project, I hope some of them will serve as a reminder of why this coast must remain free of tankers.
P.S. Thanks to S/V Til Sup and Hakai Institute for the loan of tanks and an air compressor.