Great Bear Sea Winter Dive Expedition: Part II

Ashley Stocks is on a Pacific Wild diving expedition through the Great Bear Sea and will be uploading a three part blog series with new images and footage.

 

A twice daily flushing and filling of lagoons creates the dynamic environment that supports diversity, strengthening the fabric of the natural world here and the main ingredient that Ian and Tavish are searching for – strong tidal current!  We anchored up shortly before dark and Tavish was eager to get in the water.  Ian fielded media calls from the Habitat while I cooked up some dinner; back at Pacific Wild headquarters, international media are reporting on the amazing fishing wolf coverage their remote cameras are getting.  Tav emerged with stories of an overly curious octopus – apparently he’s a sucker for a good close up.

There’s a special time when ebb turns to flood and the only indication of current is the twisted up bull kelp laying battered on the surface.  This time of year you’re lucky if you have two slack tides in daylight, but we missed it.  Our first dive was about 0900, two hours before low slack, so Ian and Tav ducked into eddies out of the 12 knots of white water that was pouring out of the lagoon.  I tied the tender to an overhanging tree, finding solace in the low boughs like the belted kingfishers.  Peering over the side of the dinghy I got a taste of the beauty below, I could see green surf and plumose anemones and a few schooling striped sea perch, anticipating what Ian and Tav had captured in this challenging environment.

The following day, low slack was timed well; midday it was supposed to turn.  With enough time for a morning dive to get the kinks worked out, I drop the divers on the edge of the raging current.  It was a stunner of a morning: clear sky, great blue herons fishing the shore, cormorants and grebes pursuing the swift water, and a sea lion, investigative of the dual streams of bubbles rising up from below.

Back on Habitat, the crew busily set up for our window of stillness, lights were charged and air tanks were filled.  Ian and Tav donned their suits in giddy anticipation of such ideal conditions – slack tide, excellent visibility, no wind, a reliable tender to fetch them, and sunshine!

We arrived on scene with water still draining from the lagoon. With each diver set up in his chosen spot, I fastened the boat to a few stipes of kelp.  Above the water, everything went quiet and the stillness was enchanting.  It took only a minute for my kelp hitching post to go slack and slowly bow in the opposite direction, indicating the flood was on the way. Below the water, all types of fish came up from their bunkers and swam about freely, enjoying the brief relief from their windy existence.

Our time was spent well in the protection of these tidal lagoons and the divers’ spectacular images and footage will surely become part of the conservation agenda in the coming months, but for now it’s time to move on. The tender is hauled out and lashed in its cradle, air tanks are tied down, and the galley’s contents are stowed securely away as we work our way to the wave-beaten outer coast.

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