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Diving in A Octopus's Garden:
The Nautilus Swell April 22-30 Dive Log

By Carrie Kurk

When I first started diving I loved my logbook. I would diligently write my experiences and the names of the creatures I came across. Early in my diving career I was on a small boat when the captain started frantically throwing tanks around when the bilge pump started leaking. I actually wrapped by log book in a large zip lock bag thinking we were about to sink . We never sank, and today my friends like to tell the story of me worrying only about my precious log book. After about 300 dives I stopped using a scuba diving log book and switched to a journal to write about my favourite dive trips we take. These are my logs from our trip to Port Hardy with some added details.

Day One of Diving! Easter Sunday

Dive One Aquarium at 830 am

NudibranchColin, Ab and I descended into clear baby rockfish infested waters. I found 2 basket stars right away and was super excited to call the boys over to see. Tons of sponges, hydroids, big red soft coral, peach ball sponges that looked like tiny modular homes, glove sponge which I squished and smiled to myself. Rose anemones and king crabs large and small were everywhere. Orange peel nudibranchs in pairs, 2 huge golden dirona’s (I call them anime nudibranchs because of the shape of their lobes look like pointy hair in Japanese cartoons) tiny opalescent nudibranchs with their lobes swaying in the current. As I was swimming along the wall I came across an octopus walking! I frantically called Ab and Colin over, took TONS of video and pictures. Didn’t want to come up.

Dive #2 Browning Wall 1230 pm

Descended into a cotton candy wonderland with a huge school of baby rockfish that didn’t seem to mind I was there. Swimming as one of them is a really peaceful experience.  Found two sea spiders and lots of baby basket stars clinging on the red soft coral. A scaly head sculpin, leopard dorid and a beautiful decorated kelp crab with a tiny hat of red soft coral. 

Dive #3 Eagles Nest 530 pm

Lunch of yummy sandwiches. I had two. Captain Al, Larry the engineer, Chris the right hand man, “B” the cook and the Boss, and Claire our hostess are our hosts on the Swell.  I’m really bad with names, so I wrote them here. Our dive was  around an island with a current on our right then the current changed and brought us back to our starting point.  We found a kelp forest blowing away and took pictures. Two huge light blue sunflower stars.  Dinner of roast beef, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, butter carrots and buns. Desert was apple cake with whipped cream.  Docked in Browning pass for two days.

Day 2 Monday April 25

Dive #1 Snowball  early morning

Woke up early and had some toast and apple juice.  Colin left the dive after the first few mins due to a faulty mask.  Ab and I continued on, keeping the wall on our left.  Lots of opalescent nudibranchs. They are very hard to take photos of as they are so small and white.  Bushy pink mouth hydroids that look like flowers.

Dive #2 Lucan Shute 1130 am

A bright sunny dive on a wall 50 feet max. Came across a grunt sculpin in a shell.  Baby copper rockfish, alaskan ronquil, frosted nudibranch (white), golden dirona and a sea lion came to visit.  Coralline encased filament worms, slime-tube feather duster worms (slime tube a-jiggling).

Dive #3 Toy Boy 5 pm

KelpDocked in Staples Cut. I gave this dive 5 emerald green stars.  Drift dive, Colin showed me a brooding anemone.  These anemones have tiny babies growing all around the base, and when they are ready they move out on their own. You can see tiny ones the size of jelly beans all around in the immediate area as well. Tried to take photos but they are so small!  Ab and I danced in the current together. He twirled me. A huge sea lion was behind Ab at one point and I screamed underwater when I saw him. He was huge.  He swam away calmly.  We played in the kelp, Ab was a model for me. Tons of sea urchins as they like to eat the kelp.

Day 3 Tuesday April 26

Dive #1  Alex Rock  830 am

Ab and I had right glove malfunctions and ended the dive early. Letting your glove dry in front of your room heater is not a good idea. Our rings were warped.  I saw sea lions, a red Irish lord and tons of brooding anemone’s in my 17 min dive before my right hand was so cold it hurt and the water started to creep up my arm.

Dive #2 Strawberry Hill 1130 am

I gave this dive 4 purple star fishes.  Drift current! Flying monkeys! Tons of large shoe sized orange peel nudibranchs .  Found some Palm kelp, which is shorter and has more fronds than bull kelp. Looks like little palm trees stuck to the rock.  As I was swimming along I saw an octopus tentacle, I followed it along and found the rest of it! We took photos and video while clinging to nooks and crannies. We ended the dive in a kelp forest, clinging to the stalks for our safety stop.

Dive #3 Fantasy Island 4 pm

Wolf EelThe dive briefing for this dive was a little detailed. We had to swim along the wall to our right and come to a channel. We had to wait at the opening of the channel for the current to change direction in our favour.I tried to push though, but it was too strong. We waited a bit and made our way through.  Right away I found a wolf eel in its den at about 69 feet. We stayed a while with it and we came close to going into deco.

Dive #4 Staples Cut 915 pm

Our first night dive on our trip. We scooted over to the dive site just right across the way from the Swell.  Our dive briefing was follow the wall on your left, but if you come to a strong sharp left hand turn in the rock wall you have gone too far and may be swept out of the lagoon.  There was a strong current, and it was a bit scary for me to see obstacles in front of me with being in the pitch dark and using  my light which just has a long skinny beam of light.   I made the mistake at first of looking at things on the wall instead of where I was going.  We all came to a “room” made out of rock to our right that had significantly less current.  It was nice to relax a bit and kick up a bunch of silt with six of us there. 

 

Stubby SquidOn our way back out of the room we found the current had completely stopped.  Colin started taking photos of a creature on the sand and called me over. It was a Stubby Squid!  We then spent a bunch of time taking photos and video. These are pretty rare creatures for us to see, I have come across about 3 others before in 8 years of diving.    He was snacking on a fish head that he probably captured in the messy silt we kicked up.  He started swimming in the water column not happy with us and I managed to take a photo of him in the span of 5 seconds of him making an angry tentacle face.

 

Day 4 Wednesday April27

Dive #1 Browning Wall 10:00 am

OctopusI gave this dive 5 emerald green stars.  We descended into sunny waters and 3 minutes later I came across an octo in the open!  Three divers ahead of me actually swam right by him.  Ab got amazing video of him exhibiting hunting behaviours. The octopus was tenting, touching us with its tentacles, and eating top snails off the rocks.  We were all excited and high fived each other  underwater after filming for about 15 minutes.

Dive #2 Franks Rock early afternoon

A nice calming dive in the sunshine.  After diving Browning wall, sometimes a different site seems so bare with life.

Dive #3 Hot Tub Dive

Relaxing , relaxing, relaxing.  Ab and I chose to wait two hours before enjoying the hot tub on the top deck instead of going for the third dive.  We watched tiny deer eat salty kelp off the beach at low tide beside where we were moored.  We waved to everyone on the skiff as they sped off to the dive.  The hot water relaxed our tight camera cramped arms and fingers.

Day 5 Thursday April28

Dive #1 Hussar Point

My camera button responsible for macro or landscape got stuck early in the dive. My zoom also didn’t work at all.  My first horrifying thought was that I had a leak and the electronics had frizzed my much loved camera.  I closely looked to see if there was water inside, and thankfully it was dry.  I turned off my camera and enjoyed looking at sea spiders on the soft red coral.  We found a crack-ta pus, but nobody was excited about it.  On our way back, we came across a “bowl” cut into the wall and went inside.  We found our second octopus hunting out in the open, showed to us by another diver on the trip.  The octo was crawling into holes in the rocks hunting with its tentacles.  Tentacles were popping out of holes like that whack a mole game. Ab was laughing underwater with Colin when two tentacles came out underneath him and attached to his chest without him noticing.  I was freaking out beside him motioning for him to look and yelling underwater cause sometimes Ab can hear me.  Ab looked down, and the tentacles decided he was too big to eat. 

Dive #2 Dillon Rock  1130 am

CracktepussWe saw 3 wolf eels in the wolf eel condo Chris the dive master  told us about.  I fed one a scallop, and two huge china rockfish was picking at it as well.  I tried to feed the scallop to the rockfish, but they enjoyed sneaking bites.   We also came across two crack-ta-pus that seems not so exciting anymore.  We are becoming spoiled.

Dive #3 Seven Tree 545 pm

On our way from our new anchorage on the skiff, we saw pacific white sided dolphins splashing next to us and I screamed like a little girl.  I thought they were killer whales.  Chris looped the skiff around to have a better look, but they are quite snobbish Chris says.  They disappeared. We arrived at Seven Tree island, which I noticed has about  12 trees on it. Haha. We descended into strong current and kept the wall to our right.  We came across a beautiful white shell beach to our right, and Ab decided to take off his fins and walk around underwater and pose for pictures.  I sifted my hands through the shells and saw tiny white bits of coral, limpet and sea urchin shells, and sea urchin spines.

Friday April 29th

Dive #1 browning Islets 7am

Last day of diving, Ab and I slept in for this dive.

Dive #2 Toyman 1130 am

High current, tons of life, Colin found some candycane shrimps on some pink anemones.  Taking photos of them are really hard as they are about 2 inches in length and see-through.  We all love the huge orange peel nudibranchs that are everywhere.  I also took a picture of a sponge that I didn’t know the identity o, Vicki helped me out in figuring that it was a membrane sponge.

Dive #3 Castle Point 5 pm

KelpA nice relaxing dive on a wall. No current and the sun was shining through the water making patterns on the sand. Found many funnel sponges that I have not seen anywhere else.  I took photos of an orange peel nudibranch eating a sea pen. This was our last dive and it ended beautifully with rays of sunshine shining on us like we were in a kelp forest cathedral.


I also added a small list of things I forgot to bring on the trip to add to my bags.  Black electrical tape, pencil sharpener, extra gloves and rings, back up light and Polysporin (Ab and his wounds *sigh*).