Under appreciated and often forgotten, just off the shores of Vancouver lie some of the greatest cold water diving in the world. A short boat ride from Horseshoe Bay and into Howe Sound and you could find yourself experiencing everything that makes BC diving legendary, from octopi and wolf eels to jelly fish. Follow Kate O’Neill as she goes underwater.
Waking up at six a.m. to the first overcast, raining, and cold summer morning in weeks, my dive buddy and I drove across the city to the University of British Columbia Aqua Society to load into our car two aluminum tanks each, about ten pounds of gear, plus at least 48 pounds of added weight. Another 45 minute drive back the other way and all ten of us in our dive group were hauling the gear and ourselves onto a dive boat at a lofty 8:15 am. It seems like a whole lot of effort for less than an hour of joy more than 30 meters below, but this hour below sea can barely be described, let alone quantified, to those who have never been lucky enough to experience it.
After a short 20 minute boat ride, we were anchored in one of Vancouver’s most renowned dive sites. There are plenty of spots to explore in Howe Sound, that day we visited the Pinnacle (you begin your dive at the pinnacle of a cone-shaped rock) and also the Canyons (shaped similar to a giant wedding cake under water). All the reasons people would want to go cold water diving can be taken advantage of in Howe Sound. Sea anemones, rock fish, ling cod, and kelp greenling are just a drop in the ocean of the sea life to be found here. Other local dive sites such and White Cliff are great places to see some larger life such Steller’s sea lions and harbor seals certainly a site that needs to be seen from underwater.
The Howe Sound area is protected by the Underwater Council of BC (UCBC) who has started, among other things, the Mooring Buoy program where buoys are placed at popular dive sites to protect local reefs. Here dive boats can station themselves at without having to drop their own anchor. The UCBC “acts as a unified voice for underwater safety, underwater environmental awareness and conservation, and to provide information to the public in these fields.”
During our dive, talk on the boat consisted almost exclusively of the Annapolis, a 371-foot destroyer scheduled to be sunk in Howe Sound sometime in the coming fall by the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia. This will be a first-time event in the area and very exciting news for divers as it will afford lots of new opportunities for diver training as well as pleasure diving. After a couple years in its new underwater home, the Annapolis will be barely identifiable as it will be so encrusted with sea life.
Learn how to dive with:
UBC Aqua Society
Photo by Brendan Andresen