I'm not sure how to pronounce it, but Bentinck Island is a Canadian Military explosives training and disposal site off the Southern tip of Vancouver Island. It's right across Race Passage from Race Rocks. Pilot Bay is on the South side of Bentinck Island and it's also the location of the Barnard Castle wreck. The Barnard Castle was a 260-foot-long iron steamer used for hauling coal. It hit Rosedale Reef (off Race Rocks) in 1886 and ran into Pilot Bay before sinking. The Underwater Archaeological Society of B.C. has a nice plan of the wrecksite in their book: "Historic Shipwrecks of Vancouver Island". I took my boat here from the Pedder Bay marina on Nov. 12, 2009. Most of the local diving guide books that mention this site say to dive this site on a flooding current since on an ebb, the bay can be exposed to the flow. I carefully checked the Race Passage Current Table and showed up during the flood 1 hour before slack, but I could see that the current was already ebbing. I remembered some strange info from the racerocks.com website. From what I understand, the Race Passage Current Table doesn't predict the slack for Race Passage. The current meter wasn't placed in Race Passage, but in the narrow channel between Great Race Rock and Middle Race Rocks. The difference in distance and geography may be enough to explain the differences in timings. The books also say that there's a mooring buoy over the wreck, but when I showed up it wasn't there. I figured that I could tie up next to the Western side of the bay and swim out a bit on the surface before descending and continuing to swim across towards the other side. I thought that such a large wreck shouldn't be that hard to find. The bay is about 400 meters across and the wreck is supposed to be about in the middle between 25 and 40 feet deep. I swam out a bit until I reached a large patch of kelp which I thought might be growing on the wreck. When I descended, I could see that it was anchored to a large area of rocky reefs and boulders about 35-40 feet deep. There were some areas covered with urchins, but most of the rocks were grey and silty. I didn't feel any current in the bay. Despite the shallow depths and decent visibility (20-30 feet), it seemed dark and gloomy (probably because of the dark, overcast weather on the surface). A California sealion charged in out of nowhere and did a few spins and turns around me before shooting back up to the surface. I continued to swim along and then the sealion was back. It ended up hanging around with me for most of the dive, taking the occasional break for a breath of air. It never touched me, but did the expected playing around, blowing bubbles, charging towards me and stopping at the last second, etc. Because of the low light and fast motion, most of the pictures were pretty blurry. When I wasn't humouring the sealion, I was still trying to find the wreck. After swimming quite a distance at 35-40 feet deep, I tried swimming back about 25 feet deep. There were less rocks here. It was mostly silty sand and eelgrass. The sealion did her best to stir things up, tearing along the bottom sideways with one of her flippers dragging in the mud. I still didn't see any sign of the wreck so I continued back towards my boat through the shallower kelp forest with more colourful coraline algae, anemones, surfgrass, kelp greenlings, etc. The sealion realised that the light here was better for photographs of sealions so it abandoned me, leaving me to take pictures of sunflower stars instead. I saw a small harbour seal swim by in the distance and a school of perch begged me to stir edible things up with my fins. When I surfaced, the overcast sky seemed to be brightening so I took some surface pictures of the area. I could see the sealion off in the distance "spyhopping" to try and track me down.
-So this is what a dive here is like if there wasn't a wreck to see. I think I gave up too soon and if I swam out for another 10 seconds I would have seen it. The sealion kept me entertained, so it wasn't a write-off, but I'll be back eventually for some photos of rusty metal.