A Dip into Gods Pocket
Gods Pocket is a diving resort in a natural harbour off the northern tip of Vancouver Island, where Brendan OBrien enjoyed the rich marine life of the tidal stream
|There are no streetlamps at Gods Pocket, no houses; the only illumination is the moon and the stars. Set in its own private wilderness, Gods Pocket, on Hurst Island off the northern tip of Vancouver Island, is one of the few diving resorts in this part of the world.
Molly and Harry Kerr run the operation, catering for 14 divers on a full-board basis. It is an ideal place to sample some of the most adventurous diving you could ever hope to find - around the rugged shores and channels of Queen Charlotte Strait.
There is little need to fin here. Entering the water at the right moment means the current will carry you along until slack water. Brightly coloured snubnose sculpins hide among the soft corals and sponges; a careful eye will spot the sharp-nosed crab, difficult to see with its beak down, its carapace covered with sponges and weed. The basket star, looking more like a soft coral with its delicate branching arms, reaches out into the current in search of its next meal.
The large Puget Sound king crab does little to camouflage itself, its bright red shell standing out against the background. It has little to worry about. At the first sign of trouble, it merely tucks its legs in, forming an impenetrable box.
Ten minutes later, the direction of the current changes, taking you back to the boat. A slow diagonal ascent allows you to cover more ground. Towards the surface, tealia anemones show off their bright reds and pinks. Taking time to examine the base of one of these, you may be lucky enough to see the colourful candy-striped shrimp enjoying its protected position in the anemones tentacles. Half an hour after surfacing, you will witness the might of the tidal stream, and the current will form eddies where you had previously been diving in calm water.
Browning Wall is a spectacular dive, located on the south-east side of Nigei Island. The wall is so sheer that a plumbline off the stern would drop over 60m before hitting the bottom.
Above us, bald eagles in the tops of the pine trees which grip the edge of the island survey the ocean for their next meal.
Bull kelp clings only to the top 5m of the wall. Below that, the light-show begins. The wall is festooned with 60cm plumose anemones, red soft corals and yellow sponges.
At the end of Browning Passage, on a pinnacle known as Croker Rock, lies the wreck of the Themis. This 82m freighter, a casualty of a strong gale and heavy seas in December 1906, lies in the same nutrient-rich tidal stream that supplies Browning Wall. Its broken frames and plates are covered with plumose anemones and soft corals.
The spaces between the plates are home to octopuses, giant ling cod and Puget Sound king crabs. China and yellowtail rock fish manoeuvre around the wreckage using their large pectoral fins. As we swim down to the wreck, a wolf eel pops its head out of its hole to greet us. Although it looks a vicious creature, the wolf eel is in fact very timid, its main diet being the spiny sea urchin, the sharp spines of which have no effect on the wolf eels tough jaws.
The natural harbour in which Gods Pocket sits supplies the diver with an ideal night-dive site. At a depth of 6-10m, the only thing that eventually forces you out of the water is the cold.
Here we found numerous varieties of nudibranchs, some reaching as much as 25cm in length. Not all of these are brightly coloured. The opaque hooded nudibranch feeds using an ingenious appendage to filter plankton. Sea cucumbers display the red or orange tentacles they use for feeding.
As a photographer, I was spoilt for choice, so rich was the variety of subjects down there. As soon as the boat touched the jetty I would be reloading my camera and exploring the harbour further.
Travelling to and from the dive sites, Pacific white-sided dolphins are often sighted. This is also an area in which orcas can be seen.
Out of the water, Hurst Island has paths through the pine forest to explore. Apart from that, there is little to do but relax, cut yourself off from the outside world and share stories with fellow-divers in the cosy kitchen where Molly serves up her excellent home-cooked meals. These frequently include local fare such as freshly caught giant turbot.
Gods Pocket prides itself on service, both above and below the water. You can see from its repeat business - one of our fellow-divers was making his 12th visit!
- Molly and Harry Kerr, Gods Pocket Resort, PO Box 130, Port Hardy, British Columbia, Canada VON 2PO (tel. 001 604-949 9221).
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