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Hornby Island Diving

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Diving Hornby Island :
A Smak of Jellyfish

By Carrie Kurk

Every time we visit Hornby Island Diving Lodge, it’s like we are returning home.  Amanda and Rob, our Hosts, come out to greet us when we pull up the driveway to give us hugs.  Ab and I have been visiting Hornby Island for almost 8 years now, sometimes visiting two to three times a year. Last March we got married there and this trip surprisingly marks our 3 month anniversary.  Hornby Island is a quiet, relaxing, beautiful getaway where you fall asleep smelling campfires in the summertime, your ears ringing because it’s so dead quiet compared to living in the city. 


Ab and I, as was well as 4 of our close friends were the only guests this weekend, so it was really nice to share one table for all our meals with Amanda, Rob, baby and a family friend visiting for two weeks.  When we arrived Friday afternoon around 6pm, we settled into our rooms and prepared our dive gear for a night dive.  Everyone ends up chatting in the dining room, catching up with Rob, Amanda and Samantha, one of the amazing cooks who works for the lodge and lives on Hornby.  Dinner was fried rice in roasted red peppers, ginger glazed carrots, and an amazing salad with tons of yummy chunks of avocado in it.  

Dive # 1 Friday June 3

House Reef 9pm

Zebra LeafSlugOur night dive was on the house reef, a short walk down the driveway and a few steps past the local island convenience store and art gallery.  It was still light out at 9pm, and the tide was nice and high so we giant strided into the water.   We descended into clear jellyfish and comb jelly infested waters.  With a compass heading of 210 degrees, we swam towards the wall dive, passing through a beautiful tall eel grass bed that had moon snails crawling on the sandy bottom and bubble shells and kelp crabs clinging to the grass.


 A few minutes later we found the wall and then descended to about a max of 50 feet to the sand, following the wall on our left.  Ab and I had so much fun trying to capture all the floating cross and moon jellies, gooseberries, and dancing nudibranches floating by in the slight current.  I scanned the sandy bottom looking for dog sharks, but I didn’t find any.


On our way back to our starting point, I came across a green nudibranch I have never seen before on the eelgrass and took a few photos.   Our exit was nice and easy, someone was really nice and fixed the natural rock staircase that we use to exit the water.   Colin and Dane gave us a hand pulling us out of the water with our heavy twins on and holding our fins for us.  Back at the lodge we gathered at the table to talk about the dive over beers.  I checked Andy Lamb and Bernard P Hanby’s Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest and found out my green nudibranch is called a Zebra Leafslug! 

Saturday June 4

Dive #1  Achailles Bank 930 am

Achailles Bank is a pinnacle half way between Hornby Island and Texada Island.  We were going to do a technical dive, as the top of the pinnacle was at about 110 feet.  When the skiff neared the location, the water became quite rough.  I mistakenly did not take any gravol, and I quickly became sea sick.
 I was all geared up and ready, a lesson I learned years ago to prevent  worsening seasickness when you gear up on a tipsy boat once arriving at a dive location.  I gear up completely on solid ground before we leave, then sit in my spot until it’s time to go into the water. I also pick the seat closest to the exit as well, to be the first out of the boat. It’s weird I don’t get sea sick while bobbing in the water.  I focused on the horizon to lessen the effects of wanting to die. I think sea sickness is the worst feeling in the world. 


The waves were making the skiff tip and tilt pretty high, and I jumped into the water with my deco tank on, once Rob secured an anchor line to the bottom.  I did not take my camera as it would be too much for me to deal with in the churning water. I immediately descended down the line navy seal like with a purpose, so the next diver could descend right away after me.  Another reason to immediately descend in rough water is to prevent from getting hit on the head from the skiff.  One minute the skiff is there beside you, the next its coming down almost on top of your head. You always have to keep your eye on the skiff in rough waters.  Looking down to clip your camera on your BC takes a lot longer than you imagine. 


There was a current on the line, so you had to pull yourself downwards to the bottom.  Our plan was to go against the slight current for 15 minutes, and then turn around to our starting point and the anchor line.  The anchor line was important for us as we were going to be doing decompression in a current.  My max depth was to be 130 feet.


 When we all were on the bottom, I discovered the rock pinnacle was covered in bright red pedal stars that Rob told us about. I have never seen these before.  I immediately regretted not having my camera, but I know my limits on what I can handle in stressful situations.  There was a massive sea blubber floating in the distance with beautiful dark red tentacles that must of been 60 feet long.   The rock fish and cloud sponges were huge.  When we gave the signal to turn around, we were swept to the anchor line in 4 minutes.  We then just explored around the anchor and then made our way up. The water was still a bit rough.  Waiting for everyone to be on board the skiff and then bringing up the anchor made me feel a little ill for a few hours afterwards, even when we were on shore.  For sure I would love to visit this site again with my camera in calm flat waters, and go even deeper to the cloud sponges. 

 

Dive #2 Nash Bank 3pm

Blob Top Jelly FishOn nice calm waters we descended with Amanda who was diving for the first time after having her baby.  Ab and I immediately started taking photos and video of a bright yellow fried egg jellyfish.  The water column was filled with comb and moon jellies.  I photographed a blob top jelly that I have never seen before. It was beautiful.  Amanda gracefully and calmly pointed out to Ab and I two separate wolf eel dens with the wolf eels peeking out at us.  We found the old large resident yellow eye rockfish pacing in front of its den that Rob told us about in the dive briefing.  Yellow eye rockfish can live to be over 100 yrs old!

 

Dive #3 Dinner Plate 8pm

Hooded NudibranchDinner plate is one of our favourite dives on Hornby.  It’s called Dinner Plate because years ago someone on shore threw dinner plates into the water probably after some crazy party.  It’s a shallow wall dive on a sandy bottom that is covered in creatures.  The walls are made from sandstone that is shaped in beautiful curves and overhangs that almost form caves that are covered in creatures. We like to call it our critter dive. There was a bit of current that was filled with jellies.  I discovered large oblong translucent comb jellies that were about 15cm long floating in the current that I have never seen before.   I snapped a couple of photos that were in focus showing the coloured “disco lights” of red, yellow and blue.  Ab called me over to a super weird creature floating in the current that we were both fascinated with.  Amanda helped me out later by identifying my picture as a hooded nudibranch!

Sunday June 5th

Dive # 1 Wreck of the Ocean Investor  8am

Our second technical dive of the trip, the wreck of the Ocean Investor is a 1926 fish packer that sank into 140 feet of water near Chrome Island in high winds in March of 2007.  On the dive skiff Marcos, Ab, a Dane and I were going to descend down the anchor line to the Ocean Investor at a max depth of 140 feet.  When we got to the site, there was a strong current.  Rob sent down an anchor line with a buoy on top. Rob used his side scan sonar to get the anchor beside the wreck


When there was talk of possibly doing deco on our lift bags in a strong current, I opted out of the dive. One of the rules in scuba diving is, anyone can cancel the dive at any time, for any reason. Dane also decided not to go for the dive.

 

Marcos and Ab were the only ones left that were keen to get to the wreck.  Rob dropped them up current about a 100ft from the dive buoy so the current was going to take them to it. About 10 minutes later they surfaced again.  They said at 60 feet they stopped to make the decision to continue on or aboard the dive. At this point they noticed they were still descending while staying stationary on the line. The current was so strong that it was pushing the line sideways. On the surface we saw the buoy disappear under the water. At this point they decided to aboard the dive..  We will for sure try the wreck another time in better conditions. I was really looking forward to taking photos of it and opening the huge white tote locker on the sand beside the ship that possibly contains treasure.  Rob says its probably filled with rotten fish.

 

Dive #2 Norris rocks 12pm

Dive TreasureSadly this was our last dive of the trip.  When diving I have an eye for treasure. My eye picks out shapes that I know are not natural to be found underwater. This is how I got my nickname “Treasure Hunter”.   If you have lost it, I will find it! I have received many beers for my lost gear retrieval expertise.  On the bottom I immediately found 4 large 10 pound lead fishing cannon ball weights.  They are super heavy and I don’t bother bringing them up anymore. Rob says they are probably just worth their weight in lead.  Beer cans and fishing boat parts were strewn about on the sand and I followed Ab as his eye picked up on something interesting that may of been dive gear, but it turned out to be a piece of tire tread.  As we swam around the pinnacle, Dane was very excited to try out his new video camera on the large schools of rockfish.  Marcos brought me a raft paddle which I played with underwater.  Comb jellies and moon jellies with tiny creatures attached to them floated by as we did our three minute safety stop to the surface.

When we returned to the lodge, lunch was ready and we all sat around the table chatting with Rob and Amanda just like a big family.  I bought some cold fizzy drinks from the store and checked out the Art Gallery with Vicki.  Dive gear was rinsed and packed, and the truck was loaded to the brim with all our bags.  Just like leaving your Mom’s and Dad’s place, we said our goodbyes with a promise to visit soon.  Hornby Island is just like home.