In May 2018 I returned to Vancouver Island on a mission to photograph Wolf Eels and a Giant Pacific Octopus. Again! However it’s an ill wind… my camera and photos had been stolen on my previous visit but now ten months on I had a much better camera, could see Meagan, Natalie, Andy and Laura again and as it turned out, was going to take much better shots. As my dive trips go, this was one of the more intensive. Just over seven days away from Australia, less than six days in Canada and diving three different locations.
Meagan and Natalie collected me from the airport, we took a car ferry to Vancouver Island and drove to Victoria. Our first two days diving were in the Juan de Fuca Strait, as in 2017 with Rockfish Diving from MV Loup De Mer. Meagan, Natalie and I dived North Race Rocks and North Bedford, a fog bank and current making the diving interesting and the following day, William Head and Ned Point. Andy and Laura flew in from their honeymoon and not being too young, I really had to make a conscious effort in the evenings not to get carried away celebrating their recent wedding!
Our third days diving took us up the east coast to the Comox Peninsula for two dives at Vivian Island with Pacific Pro Dive from MV Pacific Ata’tude. Wow! The water was green, the underwater visibility mostly just three metres but the first dive was spectacular. There were up to thirty Steller sea lions on the rocks and several joined us underwater, playfully nipping away at us. They reminded me of large happy puppies but being up to three metres in length and three hundred and fifty kilos in weight, these were “puppies” that needed to be treated with caution. Suddenly the mood changed. Meagan, Natalie and I did not know it but a pair of Orcas were now present and the rest of the sea lions decided to join us on the seabed. Surrounded by so many was pretty intensive and the already poor underwater visibility was not helped by all this activity. We decided to abort the dive. It was only upon surfacing that we became aware of the Orcas which were charging into the sea lions. Our skipper instructed us to quickly get back aboard where we stayed until the Orcas had left. Predictably the second dive was an anti-climax as all the local sea life was now in hiding.
Our final two days diving took us to Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island to dive Barkley Sound. There we met up with Meagan and Natalies friends, Bartek Radziej, Lauran Liggan and Diane Reid - all superb divers and great company. MV GPO took us to Renate Reef, the first dive there was so good, we stayed there for a second. There was an abundance of Wolf Eels and I knew my shots of them would be an improvement on my stolen 2017 pics and to cap it all I had my first sighting of a Spotted ratfish. It was really skittish and in poor light at around 30 metres, photographing it was tricky. The next day we dived Seapool Rocks, Ohiat Islet and Beg Island, Ohiat Islet being the pick of the three. To my great excitement, Diane spotted a well camouflaged Giant Pacific Octopus and it certainly was giant, being all of 4 metres. I was thrilled We spent most of the dive with it until it finally had enough of us and slowly made it way deeper. A brilliant ending to a wonderful time on Vancouver Island. Thank you Meagan and Natalie.
Boarding the flight back to Sydney I asked the air hostess not to disturb me: “Some Canadians have exhausted me, I need a really long sleep”
Pics to follow