Diving Near Vancouver – An Octopus’s Garden…

Photo: Stephen Pearce

Photo: Stephen Pearce

By Stephen Pearce

The end of January was a crisp, overcast day with intermittent showers – a typical winter’s day in Vancouver.

My buddy, Paul V, and I headed off in Marc’s boat to check out the reef at Passage Island – only a short distance away from Horseshoe Bay but not always accessible to divers because of the strong winds that can sweep down the Strait of Georgia.

Photo: Stephen Pearce

Photo: Stephen Pearce

But not today – today was a perfect day to explore…

We dropped a float to mark the reef and got in the water soon after. Plans for a surface swim to the float quickly changed because of a strong surface current and we descended; reaching the top of the reef at about 61 feet.

The reef is a spectacular site and huge – lots of boulders and varied terrain; housing all kinds of life. Gardens of plumose anemone, rockfish, lingcod, nudibranchs and even a large Puget Sound king crab who obligingly posed for a picture.

But the highlight was 34 minutes into the dive when we accidentally discovered a very large giant Pacific octopus. I had been looking at a much smaller octopus in a rocky den, when I saw movement in my peripheral vision and turned to find a huge creature rearing up within an arm’s length. I could hear the muffled sounds of Paul whooping and hollering in his face mask at the same time which made the whole situation very surreal.

How big was it? The largest suckers were about 2-3 inches in diameter, and its tentacles were as thick as my arms. It was wonderfully impressive, watching curiously as I took a picture or two.

Then a tentacle unfurled, reaching out tentatively to touch me.

Photo: Stephen Pearce

Photo: Stephen Pearce

The second that it made contact with my glove, the whole body of the octopus instantly turned white. Amazing! That was my signal to give it space, and I backed off, watching its normal coloration quickly come back again.

Glancing at our air gauges it was also time for Paul and I to start our slow ascent back to the surface – a perfect end to an awesome dive.

Total dive time was 52 minutes with a maximum depth of 67 feet. Average depth of the dive was 51 feet. Visibility was about 20-30 feet.

The Captain of the boat was Marc Palay with HSA Diving and President of New World Diving HSA.

Passage Island is recommended for advanced divers when conditions are perfect.

Click here for more scuba diving operators.

Safe diving.

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