High Tide at Ohiat!

Orange Sea Pen

You know it’s a good summer when you get to spend a good chunk of it underwater, and I’ve lucked out this year. While my dives during the week are for science, my weekends are all about fun dives! Barkley Sound is an area of remarkable beauty and biodiversity on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Riddled with islands, reefs and rocks, the area is a constant hazard to navigation, which prompted the creation of the West Coast Trail in 1907 to aid shipwrecked mariners in this treacherous section of the Graveyard of the Pacific. For divers, it’s a cold water paradise, with numerous species of marine life, from the tiniest shrimp to whales!

Ohiat is an islet off the northwest tip of Helby Island, and is a spectacular dive. With a maximum depth around 21m at the highest of tides, the water is a balmy 8˚C at depth and the area is subject to light currents at depth and some surge near the surface. Best described as a wall dive for the most part, vis is excellent in the winter, but can be quite murky and soupy during the summer months. Our best vis has been about 6m+/-, and lights, while not required, certainly make life easier at the bottom where giant pacific octopus can be found out on the rocks! Ohiat, like most dives in the area, is a boat dive, with live tending and pick up as anchoring is prohibited.

The marine life and potential for macro photography here is good. While urchins make up a good chunk of what you’ll see, closer examination reveals a variety to tiny organisms waiting for their photo op! Schools of Black and Quillback Rockfish, the odd Vermillion Rockfish, gobies, various sculpins, Puget Sound King Crab hermit crabs, and of course, Giant Pacific Octopus! I can’t stress how awesome it is to find an octopus, never mind two that aren’t even hiding! Suffice to say, it made it a dive to remember.

Ohiat is a great location for divers of any experience level. With low currents, some areas with heavy kelp growth, varying visibility and light surge near the surface, it can also be a great confidence builder for newer divers. As the summer goes on, I’m sure I’ll be back there again a few more times! Next week: more pics, more video and more dive related goodness! Good luck, and Good Diving!

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About the author

Graeme is a professional diver, qualified as a PADI and SDI Divemaster, DCBC 40m Unrestricted Commercial Scuba Diver, 30m Restricted Surface Supply diver, and CAUS Scientific Diver Lv.2. Graeme has an Associate Degree of Arts in Environmental Studies, where he focused on archaeology and physical geography, and an Advanced GIS certificate.