Thetis Island

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Thetis Island

October 13, 2011 - 23:21

Tallen, my youngest daughter and part-time dive buddy entered the cool emerald coloured water with me as the current slowed to a stop to change direction (slack). Full of anticipation, Tallen and I descended down the southwest side of Virago Rock within Porlier Pass, a .65 km (.4 mile) wide channel between the islands of Valdez and Galiano.

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The rocky reef below wore a blanket of light pink coralline algae, dotted with tiny white and orange anemones. Before long the area opened up, revealing our prize—the wreckage of the 32-meter (105-foot) steamer tug, Point Grey, built in 1911. Looking up at the massive propeller, I marveled at its photogenic, yet mystic appearance.

During February of 1949, while in-route with a load of railway cars in tow, the Point Grey tragically struck Virago Rock in thick fog. To make matters worse, the barge in tow rammed the tug from behind, pushing it higher onto the rocks. There the abandoned vessel remained until it rolled over and slipped beneath the surface during a storm in the early 1960s, coming to rest upside down in 10-15 meters (33-49 feet) of water. In late February of 1993, strong currents and stormy weather once again wreaked havoc, breaking the Point Grey in half and flipping the bow section right side up.

Tallen snapped me back to reality as she waved, beckoning my presence. She hovered over the Underwater Archeology Society of British Columbia’s (UASBC) plaque, pointing down. It has always amazed me how well some people can utilize facial expressions underwater; Tallen is one these people. She gleamed with a big smile on her face, pointing at four little bright red juvenile Puget Sound king crabs huddled tightly together. I tried to return the smile but was lucky to keep my regulator mouthpiece from falling out.

I pointed at my camera housing, then to the huge prop, signifying ‘wide angle’. She shrugged, and off she went to check out the rudder. Marine life covered the two remaining prop blades and the third, which had broken off, was too well camouflaged to identify. Each giant blade housed an array of invertebrate life, making me wish I would have also brought my macro system. Orange social tunicates, small cup corals and yellow zoanthids shared one of the blades with frosted nudibranchs, painted greenlings and dozens of decorator crabs, all protected by a light covering of red and green kelp, closely resembling leaf lettuce.

Originally published

on page 61

X-Ray Mag #26

October 13, 2008 - 21:47

Did you know that reef fish are flourencent and that CO2 makes oceans noisier? Did you ever wonder how the jellyfish get its sting? Explorers find hundreds of undescribed species on Australian reefs. Want to know how to pick Ocean-Friendly Sushi? Steve Jones explores blue waters off three Caribbean islands while Barb Roy guides us below the emerald surface of British Columbia. Charles Stirling reviews Bangaram Island, India. GirlDiver, Cindy Ross, test-drives a designer DPV, the XScooter, and French painter and diver, Stephane Braud, shares his portfolio luminous blue underwater scenes.