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Wild and adventuresome scuba diving at Solander Island

June 6, 2009 Written by

Location: Solander Island, Brooks Peninsula, west coast Vancouver Island,  British Columbia, Canada

So who in their right mind would dive Solander Island? Following is  the description of Solander in the British Columbia south coast sailing directions  –  shores are rocky and mountains rise abruptly to elevations in excess of 2000 feet. The continential shelf lies only 4 miles SW where depths increase steeply into Ououkinsh Canyon. Waters are some of the most hostile on the West Coast (of North America). Caution and respect for weather and sea conditions is required. Waters in this area can be very dangerous when conflicting currents meet accelerating winds.

Ooooohhhhh.  Steeply descending canyon on the edge of the shelf.  Conflicting currents.  An area where nobody has likely gone diving before.  Orcas, stellar sealions, puffins and an ecological reserve teeming like life.  Does it get any better?? I have wanted to dive Solander Island each and every time I’ve cruised past but always been nervous because of the reputation of the place. But conditions were perfect this morning so  we pulled in and surveyed the depth contours, dropped the anchor and staged 2 dives. I was reluctant to launch our 38 foot dive skiff Inde because of the swell and instead put one of our 18 foot inflatables to good use shuttling scuba divers around the dive site – I was darn proud watching our excellent crew swing into action and get the divers in and out of the water with great ease in challenging dive conditions  (calm by the standard of Solander Island but there was still a good swell running and a brisk wind from the 

I nabbed Dive #2 for myself and what a dive it was. Absolutely fantastic.  Nice clean blue water with good vis and good light. We  motored across to some pinnacles across the channel from the Nautilus and dropped down to find a pebbly bottom with broken shells and large rock formations.   It reminded me a lot of diving Duncan Rock outside of Neah Bay with channels and canyons cut into the rock formations and underhangs, tunnels and really interesting topography. The sides of the formations were loaded with life including soft and gorgonian coral, sponge and anemones of all types and masses of bryozoans. I found one clump of soft coral that was a very puzzling (and interesting) shade of yellow instead of the commonly seen red or less commonly seen orange.  Very cool.  I spent 5 minutes lying on my belly examining the pebbly bottom to the great puzzlement of my dive buddy – he hadn’t noticed that the bottom was literally crawling with hermit  crabs.  Loads of them everywhere once you looked closely.  Hermit  crabs are great of course but it was a real highlight when we popped  up to the top of a ridge to find 6 stellar sealions doing gymnastics  on the bottom on the other side of the ridge!! Finished the dive by wandering into a kelp forest and being surrounded by a large school of black rockfish.  What a great dive. What a really great dive. I can’t wait to come back.  Captain Mike

Surface Conditions: High thin cirrus clouds, wind 15 knots from the southeast, low NW swell with wind chop on top. Air temperature mid 60’s.

Underwater Conditions: Water temperature 46 F, visibility 25 – 30 feet.



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1 Comment

  • Al and Mary says:

    WOW! The dives at Solander were fantastic! Close to the island there are great rocks and canyons covered by kelp and populated by the usual colorful inverts. Descending into a canyon, finding shelter from the current, gave us a perfect vantage point to watch and photograph the Stellar Sea Lions as they came to check us out. Eagles, Puffins, Cormorants and Seagulls swoop over the mountain and the Sea lion rookery topside, as the pair of transient Orca patrolled the shore.
    We have to thank Captain Mike, and his great crew, for taking the chance to stop and explore this out of the way jewel in the northern Pacific.
    The boat earned its name on this trip!

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