The shark was laying on the white sandy sea bottom, and made no move to swim away as my dive buddy and I approached.
We don’t often see sharks in these waters, and I’d never seen one just laying around. It wasn’t a big one, only about four feet long, and wasn’t aggressive so we slowly swam up and settled onto the bottom next to it. My dive buddy Don and I had the same idea; count the gill slits to see if it was a Sixgill shark.
It was the last dive of a trip to Barkley Sound, a waterway that extends well into the body of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada. My wife and I had joined a few other members of our dive club, along with their significant others for a week in this remote location.
Our hosts for the week were Peter Mieras and Kathy Johnson, who run the Rendezvous Diving lodge. Peter’s originally from Holland and in addition to speaking dive lingo, manages four languages, captains the dive boat, and runs the dive operation. Kathy’s a Canadian, and after retiring from being a lab tech she runs the lodge side, and does her experiments in the kitchen with great success. One wonders how such a genial couple ended up out in the boondocks.
And boondocks it is. If your idea of an ideal dive vacation is dive all day and go into town and party all night, this isn’t the place. To get there we had to drive from Portland to Vancouver B.C. for customs, catch a ferry to Vancouver Island, then drive a few more hours to get to Port Alberni. Peter met us there, where we transferred our gear to the dive boat for a couple more hours of cruising before we got to the lodge at Rainy Bay. There’s no road access.
But if you like a scenic, quiet spot, with steep forested mountains running down to the Sound; if you don’t mind seeing the occasional bald eagle, or whale, or bear while kayaking around; if you like ending your dive day watching the evening sun descend over the Sound from a hot tub on the deck, this might be the place for you.
All these shots were taken near the lodge…
Although the visibility underwater on our most recent trip (I’ve been there three times) wasn’t the greatest due to a late summer algae bloom, diving in B.C. is normally of excellent quality – considered by some to be the best in North America. Lots of life is the rule of the day, especially if you don’t mind looking in the nooks and crannies.
After a week of good dives, good food, and good company, it was time for a parting visit to Poseidon’s domain. Our last dive was across the bay from the lodge; a wall dive on a cliff loaded with hiding spots for all manner of creatures. And at the bottom, a white sandy seafloor with an unusual occupant.
No, not me (although some might call me “unusual”), the shark, lying doggo. Even after Don and I settled in it hung around, making for an odd threesome on the ocean bottom.
Sixgill sharks are a bucket list critter for NW divers. Their normal neighborhood is deep water, but on occasion they’ll do some slumming in shallower water – maybe a mere 100 feet deep or so. When Don and I came upon the shark, we were only about 80 feet deep, but it was worth a look at those gills.
Let’s see, one, two, three – hey stop moving around! One, two, three, four – dang it, lost my place, all those gill slits look alike. One, two, three, four, five. Again, just to be sure – yep, five again.
Oh well. Guess it must be a Dogfish Shark. On the rare occasions you do see a shark in the NW it’s usually a Dogfish. The Sixgill is still on my wish list.
Barkley Sound isn’t the most accessible place in the world. But if you make the extra effort to get there, you’ll be glad you did.