Sunday, July 26, 2009 – Butedale, Canada
More sun! I love Canada.
The Transpac Wreck is a fishing boat that sunk in 1986 when a young pilot panicked at the approach of another vessel and veered portside rather than starboard side, causing the Transpac to be “t-boned”. It quickly sank to the tilted, sandy bottom that changed from a slant to a steep drop at 110 feet. The Transpac slowly tilted, teetered, and slid down the steep drop until it hit a ledge at 285’ and came to a complete stop, with its bow sticking out between 110’-130’. It hasn’t moved since.
Dave, Anat and I opted to follow Captain Mike to the wreck so we were the first people there and it was exactly as he described it: we took the anchor line to 80’ or so, continued down for a few more meters, and the bow of the Transpac came out of the dark like a huge shark. It was amazing. The wreck lay in crystal clear water and was covered in algae and other interesting life; though I hardly noticed since all I wanted to do was explore the wreck. Dave, Anat and I coordinated dive plans before the dive and decided we’d go to the back of the wheelhouse at 135’ but no deeper. (Though the dive masters had “topped” our Nitrox tanks with additional air so our oxygen mix reduced from 32% to 26%, we were very aware that diving at depths with enriched air is risky business) Mike had warned us that we would want to go deeper because the wreck is so interesting, and he was right. I just wanted to explore more. But after a few minutes at 135’ we slowly ascended and began our climb us the slope to the shallows.
Luckily the slanted trip up was almost as interesting as the Transpac. The bottom was full of gray brittle sea stars with their spindly legs and wiggly personalities. And we passed a massive sunflower sea star that cruised along the rocks and reef with its large suckers; everything in its path scurried out of the way.
The best part about diving deep is there are many new things to see. The worst part is that the dive always has to end before you’re ready to say good-bye.
Land Excursion – Butedale Cannery
Butedale is an old cannery town that closed many years ago and has been left to erode with the landscape. There’s a old caretaker named Lou who lives in the town fulltime, though “caretaker” is an interesting word since the place is literally falling apart. But we could walk around some of the buildings and explore how quickly the ocean and weather can wreak havoc when left to its own devices. It was actually kind of beautiful.
“Enter at your own risk”
Small version of the power house
Life-sized version of the power house – still in use today
Though maybe not the nails…
Shannon in the boarding house (or what’s left of it)
Nautilus from the boarding house
Dive #2: Dock Dive – “Pool is Open!”
Befre each dive, the crew revisits our initial briefing with any alterations caused by current or conditions, and they punctuate the update with the announcement “The pool is open!” I love that phrase; it combines the wonderful memories of childhood with the thrill diving. Let’s dive!
This particular dive, however, required no updated briefing since it was a simply executed dive off the back of boat and around the Butedale docks. Also knows as a “Muck Dive”. There was a landslide in Butedale years ago – long after the cannery had closed – taking a few structures with it and creating a wonderful dive site. The docks were teeming with life; we almost landed on a Giant Pacific Octopus (GPO) below the drop line.
David and I began to dive to the left until we remembered that all the docks and everything interesting was likely to the right, so we turned around and immersed ourselves in muck, timber, old housing foundations, dozens of dock shrimp, and crabs. I saw a graceful decorator crab and a number of red rock crabs; two of whom were actually mating and scurried off to find some place more private. And I’m finally beginning to recognize nudibranches. Not the specific kinds of nudibranches, but just spotting them in general. For years I’ve just passed them by and not noticed. I can’t believe I’ve missed out on so much.
On our way out of Butdale, Shannon, Peter, Dave and I sat in the shade of the starboard side of the boat and watched the scenery. We set a new photography challenge: to capture one of the dozens of salmon that jump out of the surface of the water. You never know when or where they’ll jump, and it happens so quickly that by the time you have your camera up the fish is always gone. But it posed a fun game and we spent at least a half hour perched on the railing, elbowing each other “There’s one! Get it! Get it! Did you get it? No? Geez you’re slow.” All of mine look like distant, blurry splashes. I deleted every one.
Sunset and the moon