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Dive Sites

British  Colombia Sites

Nanaimo

Clarke Rock:

A dual pinnacle site which comes as close as 10 feet (3 metres) to the surface  from the surrounding 98+ foot (30+ metre) sea floor. Many species of Rock Fish live here although this site is most popular for it's tall chimney sponges, sea pens and wildly coloured Nudibranchs. Numerous  Wolf Eel and Giant Pacific Octopus make this twin pinnacle site their  home.

Dodd Narrows:
Situated 5 nautical miles SE of Nanaimo, Dodd Narrows is rated the #2  dive site in BC. Only 180 feet (55 metres) wide at the narrowest point  with a max depth of 108 feet (33 metres). The 8-9 knot currents in this picturesque channel create an ideal habitat for a lush assortment of colourful marine invertebrates. Due to the strong currents, Dodd Narrows can only be dived from a boat at slack water.

The Mudge Island side of the Narrows with its heavily colonized sheer vertical faces and overhangs is the diver's preferred bank. Living in Dodd Narrows are many species of Sea Anemone, Aggregating Anemone, Sea Stars, Mosshead Warbonnets, Puget  Sound King Crab, Orange Cup Corals, Red Irish Lords and all genus of  Rockfish and Cod. Occasionally during the winter months California and Stellar Sea Lions can be observed feeding on Salmon in the swift tidal stream. A photographers dream!

Four Fathom Reef:
An underwater pinnacle rises as shallow as 26 feet (8 metres) from a surrounding sea floor depth of 130+ feet (40+ metres). Four Fathom is known locally as a prolific spawning ground for all species of Rock Fish, Lingcod, Greenling, Cabezon, Spiny Pink (swimming) Scallops and Giant Pacific Octopus. At  this location divers have a good chance of seeing the Octopus out of their dens and active during daylight hours.

 

Gabriola Passage & The Flat  Top islands:

Gabriola Passage will soon be BC's next marine life sanctuary. Approximately 394 feet (120 metres) wide at its narrowest  point with an average maximum depth of 98 feet (30 metres), its tidal currents can run up to 8 knots. As a result, diving is limited to intervals  of slack water. Gabriola Passage is an area of incredibly diverse marine  life and colourful rocky ledges. Inhabitants include Rock Scallops,  Kelp Greenlings, Lingcod, Tiger Rockfish, Cabezons, many species of  anemones, Urchins, Giant Barnacles (good buoyancy is a must) and Giant  Pacific Octopus.

Jesse Island:

This small island located in Departure Bay boasts at least 3 separate and distinct dive sites in very sheltered conditions. Each site has a unique ecology ranging from rock pillars, sea caves and walls to gentle bottom  slopes and pinnacles. Marine life varies widely from site to site and  ranges from dainty to full size specimens of Giant (swimming) Nudibranchs,  Sea Pens, Sea Whips, Plumose Anemones, rare Crimson Anemones, Sea Perch,  Cabezon, Lingcod and Wolf Eels. This island is a very popular night  dive location.

Neck Point:

A long time favourite of local Nanaimo divers this site is a rocky peninsula  with fringing islets and pinnacles located 2 km (1.24 miles) north along  the coast from Ocean Explorers Diving. The east face of the peninsula is a rock wall which tumbles down to 82 feet (25 meters) and is inhabited by Ling Cod, Cabezon, Kelp Greenlings, Rock Fish and Scuplins. Invertebrate life includes Sea Pens, Sea Whips, Telia and Plumose Anemones and several  large Giant Pacific Octopus. In the winter months the wall is cruised by curious Sea Lions.

Orlebar Point:

Itís a spectacular wall covered with big scarlet dahlia anemones, pink ones,  and fluffy plumrose anemones cascading out of sight. There are tiny hard pink hydrocorals, transparent sea peaches, orange cup corals and  chimney sponges from 50 feet (15 metres) on down. Tiger rockfish, yelloweye  rockfish (commonly called red snapper) kelp greenlings, black rockfish and lots of quillback rockfish can be found at 120 feet (37 metres).

In the shallows there are more different types of kelp than you will probably see at another site. Iridescent blue kelp, feathery kelp like red shoestring potatoes, broad-leafed bottom kelp striped red, white and brown and tall brown trees of kelp standing upright like ferns to mention a few. Lots of purple urchins reside in the rocks and tube-dwelling  anemones and sea pens can be found in the sand.

The bottom is rocky and sandy 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 metres) in the shallows at Orlebar. Itís a five-minute swim over these shallows  to the sheer wall of sandstone that starts at 45 to 55 feet (13 to 17 metres) that plunges to greater than120 feet (37 metres).

Snake Island

Snake Island is a wall dive that begins in approximately 66 feet (20 metres) of water and descends vertically to well over 700 feet (213 metres). Most notable  on the wall are large colonies of Cloud Sponges and Plumose Anemones.  This site is a deep diving favourite and the shallow water ledges provide an ideal and most suitable area for safety stops. Here divers can pass  the time playing with one of the hundred or so friendly Harbour Seals  that have made this site their home.

Wrecks

Rivtow Lion:

The Rivtow Lion is a 147-foot (45 metre) long North Sea Rescue Tug. Built in 1940 in Selby England, she was originally named the "HMRT (Her Majesty's  Rescue Tug) Prudent", later named "Cautious" in 1947  and finally becoming "Rivtow Lion" in 1966.
This 561-ton vessel was first stationed in Iceland and the Shetland  Islands. Built to tow convoy ships damaged by German U-boats in WWII, throw together crews of these tugs accompanied convoys across the North  Atlantic on a three week voyage through winter gales and U-boat attacks,  towing damaged ships in all kinds of weather. She was part of a rescue fleet that saved 140 American, 245 allied and neutral ships, 750 British and Commonwealth ships along with 245 allied warships and millions of  tons of supplies during the war.

Retired from Navy service, the Rivtow Lion worked from 1966 to 1985  towing log booms on the BC coast from Alaska to Puget Sound. After 17  years of log boom towing she was moved to Mosquito Creek where she was  used as a breakwater for the marina for many years until she started spilling oil. Saltaire Marine Service was hired by the Coast Guard to  clean the spill site and the vessel. It was towed to Ladysmith Harbor where more than 44,000 litres of oil and waste were removed from the  tanks and bilges.

The Nanaimo Dive Association (NDA) acquired the ship in early 2002,  and following the remainder of the clean-up operation, plan to sink  her near Nanaimo early in 2003 as a shallow water artificial reef, ideal  for novice diver training and sport diving all year round.

The sinking of the Rivtow Lion is very much a community-supported project. The NDA is a non-profit society working diligently to develop diving tourism as an economic driver in the local economy for Nanaimo and the surrounding area, but support from the community is a key component  to making such projects happen. Donations to the NDA are gladly accepted and can be made at Ocean Explorers Diving, Sundown Diving, A&W Longwood,  and at BC Ferries Departure Bay terminal.

HMCS Cape Breton:

HMCS Cape Breton was launched in 1944 at the Burrard Drydock facility in  North Vancouver, British Columbia as the HMS Flamborough Head. Flamborough Head was one of a series of ships intended to operate with the British  Pacific Fleet in the war against Japan and for the re-colonization of Asian territories. While they were under construction, the British Royal  Navy was experiencing a severe manpower shortage. To this end the war finished before the whole class was completed and several were completed as merchant ships. HMS Flamborough Head commissioned into service of  the British Royal Navy in North Vancouver in 1945. It sailed from Vancouver and remained in active service with that service until 1952 when purchased by the Royal Canadian Navy. The ship was commissioned as HMCS Cape Breton in Halifax on January 31st, 1953 and served there as a repair shop and training establishment for technical apprentices until August 25th 1958.

Converted to an escort maintenance ship at Esquimalt, she was commissioned there on November 16, 1959 for service on the West Coast. On February 10, 1964, Cape Breton was paid off into reserve, but since 1972 she  functioned as a towed mobile support facility and accommodation vessel at Esquimalt, designated Fleet Maintenance Group (Pacific). As part of the base redevelopment of the late 1980's, Cape Breton was declared surplus and assigned to the reserve fleet in Colwood.

In May 2001, The Cape Breton was put in dry-dock in North Vancouver  and her triple expansion steam engine and stern were removed. These  items will become the centrepieces of a new museum that the North Vancouver Museum and Archives is building to bring back to life North Vancouver's  waterfront heritage. This shoreside museum will allow landlubbers to see a part of what divers from all over the world will see for hundreds  of years!
On October 20, 2001, at 12:40 pm, The Nanaimo Dive Association (NDA) sunk The HMCS Cape Breton off Snake Island, Nanaimo. THE WORLD'S SECOND  LARGEST DIVER PREPARED ARTIFICIAL REEF WAS CREATED!

The Cape Breton sunk in 3 minutes and 37 seconds and she went down in style. Alpha Blasting of Victoria created an outstanding pyrotechnics  show that thrilled over 1400 people on board the British Columbia Ferry MV Queen of Coquitlam and the thousands of boaters on the water.

Saskatchewan:

The location of this 366 foot (111.5 metre) ex-Canadian Navy destroyer escort on the other side of Snake Island makes this an excellent two-dive  destination.

The Saskatchewan was sunk in two steps. On the day prior to the sinking, the engine room was flooded in an attempt to lower the shipís  center of gravity. The engine room had been opened up for diver access  for the first time of any of the artificial reef projects completed  by the ARSBC. Other preparatory work had been completed to reduce the  instability caused by air trapped below decks during the sinking.

At 10:30am on June 14, 1997 the final holes were cut by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police bomb disposal unit. The Saskatchewan  sank to the bottom in only 2 minutes and 45 secondsShe lies upright in approximately 130 feet of water with a 15 degree list to port. The majority of the "interesting" parts of the ship lie between  80 and 100 feet, while the mast is at 45 feet.

 

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