Diving Tawanik Island on the Sunshine Coast
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

March 9, 2011

It is sunny 30 feet under the sea. The light glints off the rocks covered in pink encrusting sponge. As the young giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) sway to and fro, the light burst through. They will grow to be giants by the end of the summer, stretching an additional 2ft a day towards the sunlight under ideal circumstances.1

                        I’m here with The Dive Locker located in Vancouver to lead a dive safari. Making my way along the left side of the island at Tawanik on the sunshine coast, my buddy and I find ourselves navigating large boulders. Breathing in, I rise up and over a large rock. A kelp greenling looks at me shifting it’s gaze to follow me, refusing to leave the perch of a crook in the rock. Exhaling on the other side, I drift back down to the sea floor. As we swim along, the left side begins to slope down at first to the sea floor and then with increasing distance as the sea floor drops away. The visibility is remarkably clear. I can see the sea floor some 60-feet away now as it slopes down. Looking up towards the surface I see the sunlight shinning down, outlining four or five inch wide moon jellies pulsating in the water column. Looking at the bell of an approaching moon jelly, I watch the four horseshoe-shaped gonads shine white in the light, the tentacles ringing the outside flaring out with each pulse.

I suddenly find myself surrounded by a suspended community, as if walking from an alley into a bazar, yet this one is three dimensional. Above me, striped perch slowly circle each other moving freely. Below, rock fish and greenlings sit on different rocks, staking claims. A few sea anemones dot the area filtering out plankton. Looking closely at the water, tiny mysids are seen abound. They are few now, but within the coming months, their numbers will multiply until they are present in massive swarms, attracting the great filter feeders from the tropics. Grey whales will feed in great numbers over the coming months.

We make our way around the bend and follow the contour down into the depths. At 70 feet, we come across a ledge. As if rock climbing, I become apprehensive to see what lies beyond, fearful of leaning out and looking down. With no ropes to hold me securely and different rules of gravity, I slowly swim out drifting over the ledge. I find myself starring down a sheer cliff face as I move from it like a bird in slow motion. I spot a 4-foot lingcod some 30 feet down swimming toward the cliff drawing in its pectoral fins close as it accelerates and shoots under a ledge.

The sloping massive rock of this underwater cliff makes it hard for me to discern the difference between this face and those of Skaha Bluffs outside Penticton BC.  The cliff is largely void of the life I saw in the kelp garden and boulders earlier. The difference than is water and 70-feet in elevation.

 I don’t think there is any other place on earth that changes the rules for life, and how it can continue to survive so dramatically, than that of sea level. Something perhaps we should all be reminded of as that level continues to rise. With less than half a tank of air left in my life support system, I signal to my buddy; it is time to return to the world above.


Connor, Judith & Charles Baxter. (1989) Kelp Forests. Monterey, California: Monterey Bay Aquarium

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