It is good for humans to take a break from their busy lives and have a reminder that there are bigger forces in this world than bills and emails! Marine life diving enriches the soul because it both allows us to marvel at many of the great spectacles of the natural world and simultaneously forces us to be humble before nature. It can be as simple as knowing that the creature we hope to see is not guaranteed, or it can mean planning our whole trip to be in the right place, at exactly the right time, to catch conditions at their best.
My recent trip to the spectacular God’s Pocket off the northern end of Vancouver Island in Canada delivered both of these emotions to an extreme. A major reason that the diving there is so fantastic is the borderline ridiculous density of marine life. Every surface is jammed with colour and critters, with soft corals, sponges, hydroids, anemones, barnacles and more all squeezed together. Then on top of these are crabs, shrimps, nudibranchs and many species of fish. As a photographer, there is subject upon subject; it is underwater photography without the need to swim!
This super-abundance of life is created by the strong tidal currents, as multiple times each day, huge volumes of nutrient and plankton-rich water are forced between the many islands, into and out of the fjords and inlets of the shattered coastline. In short, the resident creatures are supplied with a never-ending, all-you-can-eat, buffet. No wonder there are so many, and no wonder they grow big.
The tides drive the diving here too, as the different sites are only good dives in narrow windows throughout the day when the tidal currents slow, stop and reverse at slack water, or when a particular direction of flow creates either a lee or a reversed eddy at that spot. Detailed local knowledge isn’t just helpful, it is absolutely essential. The tides dominate so much that, even as tourists, we live our lives by them. Wake up, breakfast and dive times in the resort change each day - the whole day’s program is coordinated around key tidal moments, and the resort has everything organised to ensure that the whole group is totally ready to hit the right spot at exactly the right time, without you really noticing.
It can be quite bizarre to begin kitting up for a dive, watching a fierce current tearing at the surface of the water and jellyfish whooshing past the rocks, but as you finish climbing into your gear, the kelp forest pops to the surface as the algae’s buoyant bladders overcome the drag from the diminishing current. We hit the water with just a mild tug from the tide which stopped within the first few minutes of the dive. After about 45 minutes of a technicolour marine life assault on the retinas, the tide began to pull the other way, but by now we were shallowing up into the protection of the kelp forest, finishing the dive within this three dimensional wonderland, sheltered from the flow. There is no underestimating the power of this ocean, and the spectacle.