I wanted to try diving someplace in Saanich Inlet that no one has heard of so I picked this spot on the chart because it gets deep quickly and is close to boat launching facilities. I launched my canoe, loaded with dive gear from the Goldstream Marina ($8 fee) and we paddled up about a kilometre to Lenfesty Point. It's just South of Misery Bay and Christmas Point. There was a small, flat ledge exposed at most tides that was perfect for beaching a canoe and putting on gear. I jumped in to the water and the bottom fell down almost immediately as a wall . Visibility was about 30 feet in the shallows (near the end of October). There were lots of large jellyfish at all depths (no surprise in Saanich Inlet). I looked closely at a jellyfish and noticed tiny creatures (copepods? amphipods?) on it's tissue. I don't think they were living there. They seemed to be stuck. On the wall, there were clusters of lightbulb tunicates and masses of strange clam-like bivalves (lamp shells?) covering the wall in places. This wall ended in a semi-circular "amphitheater" with a sandy bottom at about 45 feet. It was kind of neat to hover near the bottom with sheer walls surrounding me on three sides. By this depth, visibility had cleared up to well over 50 feet. There were several strangely-pale quillback rockfish and a painted greenling near the bottom of the wall. As I swam out over the silty-sand bottom, I saw giant nudibranchs, tube-dwelling anemones, lots of medium-sized lingcod and a field of bones. These seemed to come from a larger animal like a cow and were scattered over quite a large area. I looked around for a skull that might identify the animal, but no luck. At a depth of around 60 feet, another wall dropped down. With the good visibility, the topography was very dramatic, with sheer walls, sharp canyons and even a few decent overhangs. There wasn't a whole lot growing on the wall, but I was in Saanich Inlet so I didn't expect it. There were a few swimming anemones, large transparent tunicates, lingcod and quillback rockfish. An overhang was covered with zoanthids. I was really hoping to find some sponges (actually, I was expecting to), but I didn't see a single one. No boot sponges. No cloud sponges. I went down to over 120 feet deep and covered a fair distance. With the good visibility, I could see even farther and I'm sure that if there were any sponges I would have seen them. Maybe they were right around the next corner when I gave up. Even without the sponges I was enjoying the visibility and the underwater cliffs. I ascended back to the shallows where huge schools of little perch were everywhere. I noticed some strange encrusting sponge (or tunicate?) that looked like it had veins. It says something about the North-West's marine diversity that after years of diving, I see something new on almost every dive.
ABOVE PHOTO BY CARISSA HIEBERT
ABOVE AND BELOW PHOTOS BY CARISSA HIEBERT