Port Hardy, 2010

Posted on 27. Apr, 2010 by Greg Mossfeldt in West Coast

By "Sketchy" aka James Dixon -

Greg Mossfeldt and myself began our long trip pointing west on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010 at 7 p.m. following a long day of work. We blazed scenic Highway 3 over the Salmo Pass, to Princeton and finally down through Hope. At the highest elevation of the Salmo/Creston Pass we stumbled across a respectable herd of eighteen caribou. This was the first time either of us had observed a band this large and for Greg it was his first to see a Caribou in the wild period. The rest of our travels were not so eventful with the exception of the fog and snow increasing the intensity of my focus.

We finally pulled into Port Hardy at noon on Wednesday, April 21st where I met Captain Dan Ferris for the first time along with his first mate on the trip Steve Redding. Not long after we arrived, the transport truck arrived with our T cylinders of helium and oxygen. We were just on time as all these cylinders would require transfer onto the Mamro, our gas mixing base. We loaded the cylinders and then began to transition our heavy gear onto the skiff for the short ride to the Mamro mooring. An early night was in store after a long sleepless two days of travel.

Thursday started out well, with the local California Sea Lions yelping which was a beckoning alarm clock. After breakfast the day’s duties began with setting up the Haskel booster and running along with some fine tuning of the diving regulators. Once Greg and Leigh Ann McCuaig, Brian Nadwidny, Shane Mortimer, and Leon Borbandy arrived we cycled through another transfer of gear to the skiff which left her sitting quite low in the water. With everyone now on board, the individual gear was secured for the following days sail over Goletas Channel and finally to our hide out for the week in Clam Cove just off Browning Pass.

The journey seemed short as Dan and Steve awoke very early to lull the Mamro through the ocean while the majority of us slept soundly. We awoke with the the gentle sway of the boat which stayed with me long after I touched foot back on land. Once in Clam Cove just a tuck in out of Browning Pass, we were greeted by wafting chimney smoke and strumming banjos wailing just around the bluff :)

Once we arrived, and the Mamro safely anchored in Clam Cove, thoughts were focused on my first ocean splash in the window of green ocean below.

Leigh-Ann, Shane, Leon and myself did a short dive in the shallows of Clam Cove to check salt water weighting and ensure all systems were a go for the challenging dives ahead. After a slight surface interval the dive skiff found it's way to the picturesque Seven Tree Island in Browning Pass. Everyone was more than eager and ready to splash and enjoy the magnificent color so many have already pondered. We sectioned off into two groups - Brian, Leigh-Ann, Shane and Leon formed one merry band, while MossMan, GDM and myself piloted the Dive Xtras Cudas for a deep sea test.

This was the first blast on my new Cuda 850 and a joyride hardly explains the exhilaration experienced on this sail! It was awesome to experience my first descent, forward, into the deep green sheath of Pacific North West Ocean water on my cherished 850! We focused on our gear and the marine life at 150’ for a short duration and everywhere I looked, I was greeted with gleaming color and enrgetic movement! It was a breathtaking moment for me viewing this ecosystem, and I wasn’t expecting the abundance of this visual, one which I surely won't forget !

As it goes we had to ascend back to our earthly confines but not before on our 30' decompression stop, a sea lion came in for a split second to slide behind GDM and I. Then with the same urgency as it appeared, it disappeared back into the darkness from whence it came. Once back onto the skiff our thoughts turned to food and it was back to the Mamro to replenish. Steve had dinner waiting which was greatly appreciated at this time before a long/focused first evening of preparing and gas mixing for the following days journey to 200' where our Technical planning came into play.

Day Two began with a nourishing breakfast which really hit the spot, thanks to Steve. Then it was down the ramp to begin the first dive of the day on Browning Wall. After a short skiff ride we were in the water…. Myself, MossMan, GDM, and Brian…. with the scooters pointed down into the darkness, a comfortable mix of 18/45 and away we went into the deep! Just after our turn around point, Mossfeldt tried to catch me off guard with an "out of air" at 194'. With a calm quick transfer of Primary and Back up regs we were squared away and back on the trigger. Shortly thereafter, we came across a Gigantic wolf eel squatting in it's home under a large flat rock at 190 feet. This was the first time I saw one of these cranky looking buggers, and what a site it was just sitting in it’s home so peacefully. It didn’t seemed concerned of our presence whatsoever. With our bottom time quickly counting down it was time to ascend and meet with our decompression obligations once again. Truly another serene and awe inspiring dive the loggers back home in Elko could only imagine when I begin on my adventures.

After our great dive this morning the gang felt they could use another visual on Browning Wall so it was back to see what else it offered. Steve joined our group for this excursion while we took in the sights. I spent the majority of my time just dipping my mental sponge and soaking in this beautiful and tranquil environment. Day Two, Three, Four and Five concluded along similar lines as the first…. A great meal, the pumping sounds of the booster filling cylinders which continued long into the night, and is a sound I’ve come to love, preparing for the following days activities!

Day 3 - By GDM - aka Greg McCuaig

It was a late night mixing gas for our upcoming dive at 250' feet. We mixed our twinned HP 130 cylinders and an 80 ft3 stage tank with a 15/55 mix along with deco cylinders of 35%, 50% and 100% oxygen content. Along with this agenda we ensured our Dive Xtras Cuda scooters were fully charged and ready for the excursion.

Morning came early as our group of three including James Dixon, Steve Redding and myself reviewed the dive plan at the Mamro's round table. With our plans in place and reviewed we adjourned to the skiff where our tools awaited us and off we went to dive on Browning Wall.

The divers sat in anticipation and content as our enthusiastic group slipped through the ocean water on the dive skiff. We organized the gear on our persons while in transit, all along utilizing the mental ledger in accounting for the technical excursion we would enjoy, while challenging all of our senses. Our group went through our traditional "head to toe" safety check before contemplating further matters and began our single file while making our splash into the water.

Once at our target depth we energized the scooter triggers and out of the starting gate we launched gliding effortlessly over our artificially lit landscape. We scanned for marine life all along focusing on our dive systems. It was very rewarding as I contemplated my own position and peered over at Steve only to observe his good form and the glow in his eyes as he was piloting his CUDA scooter.

We easily gained headway with our CUDA's pushing against the current and cruised along for half our prescribed bottom time. It was now time to reciprocate our direction and flow back to our starting point while picking up some speed with the capacitance we were expecting.

At the end of our bottom time we reluctantly bid farewell to the depths and marine life experienced at this place in the water column. It was then up to our deeper stops and then to the accelerated decompression obligations before breaching the surface.

It was now back to the Mamro fill both our physical and diving systems and prepare for the experience once again on the days to come. Another great dive day :)

Day 5 - by Leigh-Ann McCuaig

The day began with tanks to be analyzed for content and adjustments made to alignment for the depths we would be visiting today. It was a late evening and the safety card was dropped after a late night of preparing for an anticipated early kick off that would have kept us in line with our schedule.

The late evening contributed to delay diving the 7:30am slack and moved us to a 14:30 afternoon splash. The safety card played was fine for the morning dive but did not really move us into position as the divers were tired in the evening for the drive to Nanaimo along with our diving the following morning ... the decision complicated and compounded the inevitable delay.

The gas mix we used was 21/35 so we could reach our desired depth with little to no effect of nitrogen narcosis.

Greg Mossfeldt, Leigh-Ann McCuaig, Leon Borbandy and Shane Mortimer would form a posse for a 150' dive to observe and image the prolific ecosystem Browning Wall offers here in the Pass.

At 150' we were greeted to a beautiful, colorful and abundant ecosystem that only applying technical systems will safely allow those to enjoy. A curious Sea Lion decided we were worthy of a visit and flew in to greet us out of the green.

The ascent is often viewed as arduous but the wall was so complete with color and marine life it was an enjoyable decompression all the way to the surface. We then headed back to Clam Cove and the Mamro then bid our farewells to the landscape ... our home for the past five days.

The divers again secured the equipment for the sail back into Port Hardy with anticipation of the wreck diving in Nanaimo yet ahead of us.