Some maps and fishermen call it "Donaldson Island", but the charts I have call it "Secretary Island". It's a 200-meter long, steep island about 300 meters off the Possession Point/ East Sooke Park shoreline. The channel between Secretary Island and Vancouver Island is usually an intimidating mess of ripping current and is a popular spot for salmon fishing (local fishermen call it "The Gap"). Ever since I bought my boat a year and a half ago, I've been dreaming of diving around this island. If the current wasn't enough to discourage me, the swells and wind-driven waves usually present here in the open Strait of Juan de Fuca, don't offer much of a welcome for my underpowered 10-foot Zodiac. On Sept. 17, 2010, all the marine forecasts were showing less than 10 knots of wind from a good direction and all the current and tide tables promised a flooding current in the middle of the day, so I drove out to Sooke and launched my boat at "Jock's Dock". It was about a 5 or 6 kilometer run out to Secretary Island and it was nice and calm with only a slight breeze. My plan was to dive on the East side of the island, where the chart shows a steep drop to about 130 feet deep and where the island itself would block the flooding current. Unfortunately, when I went around to that side of the island, the small waves were smacking up against the steep, rocky shore leaving nowhere to safely tie up my boat. There was however, a small, shallow area protected by a tiny islet on the North side of the island(facing the channel). This made a perfect anchorage, but I still hesitated since this area is exposed to the strongest of the current on both flooding and ebbing tides. I had a careful look at the kelp, floating bits, etc. and realised that there was almost no current at the time so I decided to carefully swim out and turn back if it was too strong. The shallows between my boat and the small, protective islet was a forest of bull and stalked kelp about 20 feet deep. I could see the occasional flash of grey as seals swam by in the distance. Visibility was a bright 30+ feet. Once past the little islet, the bottom sloped down with rounded walls, ledges and boulders. I didn't feel any current at all. There were lots of fish-eating, plumose and crimson anemones scattered around. There was also proof that this was a popular salmon fishing spot. I saw several lead cannon balls, flashers and scattered pieces of painted marine plywood. The bottom was nice and colourful with those anemones, hydrocoral, cup corals, tunicate colonies, and various sponges, but below 60 feet deep, it really started to get good. The rocks down here were packed with colour.  I saw a school of rockfish in the distance and I swam down through hundreds of black and yellowtail rockfish. There were also lots of quillback rockfish, kelp greenlings and small lingcod. The slope was not as steep here (75-80 feet deep), but the bare-rock and boulder bottom was more colourful than ever and the fish life was almost confusingly dense. I almost didn't know what to focus on. I saw an adult male wolfeel poking his head out from under a boulder, surrounded by a garden of hydrocoral. I didn't see any soft corals or basket stars, but I thought that this area reminded me of Race Rocks without the sealions. I'm not making this up, but as soon as I thought that, I sensed a shadow pass over me. I looked up and there was a Steller's sealion checking me out. It didn't hang around and I only managed a couple of photos as it charged away in the distance. My maximum depth here was 90 feet, which according to the chart and fishermen is the bottom of the channel. I wished I had a dozen more tanks strapped to my back, but my single tank forced me to swim back up to shore. I had planned to do a second dive somewhere off East Sooke Park, but this spot impressed me so much and I was already here so I quickly replaced my tank and swam out again. The current was picking up so I didn't get far. I could see that school of rockfish tempting me in the distance, but I disciplined myself and stayed closer to shore. I saw a medium-sized Puget Sound king crab clinging to the side of a boulder. 20 minutes into the dive, the current was really running so I swam back to my boat while I still could. So far, this is one of the best dives I've done off Southern Vancouver Island.
anchored behind islet with channel in background
anemones, urchins, tunicates, etc.
fish-eating anemone
fish-eating anemone
crimson anemone
fish 80 feet deep
wolfeel in middle of picture
wolfeel and hydrocoral
rockfish above wolfeel den
nudibranch
over colourful rocky slope
colourful bottom
rockfish in distance
black and yellowtail rockfish
rockfish
fish-eating anemone and rockfish
rockfish
rockfish
nudibranch
rockfish at base of slope
rockfish at base of slope
rockfish at base of slope
rockfish at base of slope
crimson anemones and urchin
crimson anemone
cup corals
crimson anemones and tunicate colony
crimson anemones and sulphur sponge
anemones 50 feet deep
sealion swimming away
sealion swimming away
Puget Sound king crab
Puget Sound king crab
Puget Sound king crab
crimson anemones and tritons laying eggs
crimson anemones and tritons laying eggs
fish-eating anemone 50 feet deep
hydrocoral
ledge on slope
life on boulders
rockfish
anemones and urchins
fish-eating anemones
shy grunt sculpin
fish-eating anemone
kelp greenling
kelp greenling
colourful boulder and rockfish
wolfeel nose in middle of picture
near top of reef
cup coral and sponge
crimson anemones
anemones, tunicates and yellow sponge
kelp greenling under fish-eating anemone
kelp greenling and urchins under stalked kelp
urchins on stalked kelp
boulder in shallows
sulphur sponge and tube worm hole
fish-eating anemones under stalked kelp
behind fish-eating anemones
bull kelp in the current
bull kelp
bull kelp
hermit crab on sponge
dead lion's mane jelly
another dead lion's mane jelly
crimson anemone tentacles
bull kelp near boat
kelp with no current
nudibranch on hydroid
hydrocoral
side of small islet
tunicate colonies on side of small islet
purple hydrocoral
top of stalked kelp
sunflower star near surface
shallows near anchorage
mussels under boat
mussels under boat
anchorage
on Secretary Island
view of Secretary Island from Possession Point on another day
Secretary Island in distance viewed from Possession Point on another day
Secretary Island