I’m currently undergoing commercial diver training in Campbell River, BC; and part of the course requirements is the accumulation of deep time at various depths. With photography as part of the course, this works out great for me, and my Nikon L22 in its Ikelite housing has gotten a workout on the appropriate dives. One of the best locations we’ve gone to it the Copper Bluffs site, the subject of this week’s entry!
Copper Bluffs is located on the west shore of Quadra Island, a short boat ride from Campbell River or the marina on Quadra. This dive is best characterized as a wall and drift combination, with a few “steps” as you go down the wall. I was down around 21m, but if the spirit (spirits?) took you, you could go much deeper by simply following the rocky seabed down. As per the water has been a balmy 6˚C, with a surface temperature of 7˚C once! This is definitely the outer edges of wetsuit diving and while I’ve done it (both wet and dry), if you’re prone to being cold or plan dives past 15m, a drysuit will serve you much better. Being a drift dive, it’s also a live boat operation, with the boat either following your bubbles or staging near where you should come up and watching. A surface signal device like the high-vis sausage is a must as a safety precaution. The current runs at two gears in this dive; low and high! The first area has a low, pleasant drift rate, easy to maneuver in and easy to fight a bit if needs be. After a bit, you’ll round a “corner”, where the rock face juts out a bit, the it’s go time! The current there is fast and you’ll be doing the “superman” along a Strawberry anemone and urchin strewn wall. This can make safety stops problematic with buoyancy issues and air consumption. Fortunately there are cracks, crevices, holes and outcroppings to grab onto, so use them to your advantage. A final note for both the beginning and end of the dive, descend at the rock face and ascend at the rock face. It’s safer, you have more control and when you surface, you won’t wear yourself out swimming out of a current that wants to take you out into the Strait of Georgia! Photography is a bit of a challenge here, even on sunny days! The water can be quite dark and a strobe or primary dive light is an absolute requirement if you don’t want to kill you batteries with the built in flash. Life is good though, with a variety of sea stars, rockfish, sculpins, monstrous sized Puget Sound king crab, and a smattering of invertebrates. Macro shots are possible in the slow speed area, but challenging to say the least in the high speed area! With some help from my buddies and their dive lights, I got some spectacular pics during the dives there.
Copper Bluffs is what I would categorize as an intermediate level diving experience. This is mostly because of the high flow area and the challenge you can have with a safety stop while you’re zipping along a wall avoiding urchins and sorting your buoyancy. Understanding those factors though, it’s an excellent wall/drift combination dive and a definite to do dive if you’re in the area!