Fjords, bears and natural beauty: Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island

Last week we finished a two and a half week long trip to the West Coast Of Vancouver Island (WCVI). We left Seattle with clear sunny skies and made the transit to Victoria to clear customs. Victoria is a really scenic waterfront city with a unique inner harbor. We arrived just as the last of three large cruise ships was arriving in town for the evening. The city was jammed with tourists. A band played on a waterfront dock and few piers down from us and it was warm. A perfect late summer time to hang out in a waterfront town.




The next morning we departed early and just as we passed Race Rocks, we entered thick fog for the rest of the day. We entered Barkley Sound and began knocking out sampling stations and ended at the head of Effingham Inlet.

This first week was all about taking water and bottom samples throughout the numerous islands, fjords and channels. The main focus was to search for a microscopic sized cyst that is highly toxic. The cyst causes many issues including red tide found in shellfish. The water data that is recorded is used by the next science party the following week. More on that later. Needing to sample such a vast area, we would take a sample with the CTD and the water column would be recorded for temperature, salinity, oxygen, light, etc., then capture water at various depths and move to the next station a mile or two away and repeat. Two or three times we would re-rig the crane wires and drop a bottom core contraption down to collect a bottom sample (mud). They would also tow a little net on the surface that collect material and later sampled for plastic.





The next morning the fog had lifted off the water and hung at about 100′. We wandered throughout the Broken Group Island chain. There are countless little hidden bays, coves, little beaches, and anchorages. We only saw a few boats. This would be an ideal place to bring your kyak and explore for a week or two. Upon leaving the Broken Group and the inland deep fjords, the clouds pushed East and we were met with bright sun….and wind. Plenty of wind. We had to make a run to the North and had about 22 miles of open coast to transit right into the stacked seas.

The Barnes, our converted ice breaking inland harbor tug (notice: no mention of coastal or ocean in the description) made it through but she has this really funny roll / yaw / motion due to the shape of her ice breaking hull. The net result was that everyone but the captain, myself and the Mike the marine tech were sick. A couple really sick.

We made it through and arrived in Tofino. Tofino is one of those towns that was once a sleepy little commercial fishing town and maybe some loggers lived there too. Then the surfers found out about the surf and the whole place exploded. Now it has coffee shops, board shops, hotels, restaurants, art stores, a tatoo parlor and numerous whale watching / fishing / float plane/ and bear watching tours.




From Tofino, the trip included going to the head of most of the big inlets (fjords).






















Taking a bottom core (mud collection). See the little tube with a perfect mud sample:


Near the end of the first week, our anchorage for the night was near a natural hot springs. We pulled in and anchored, launched the small boat and I ferried a could loads of people to shore so they could go soak. I didn’t go because there was about 15 minutes of daylight left and I wanted to catch some rock fish to eat. That plan failed because by the time I got everyone to shore and then made it to the fishing spot, it was really dark. Early the next morning, Mike the marine tech and I left in the dark and when the light came we nuked the rock fish and ling cod in about 25 minutes. We both filled our catch limit and headed back to the ship, loaded the small boat back onboard and pulled anchor right on time. I cleaned fish in between sampling stations much to the horror of the squeamish girls onboard. That night we had a BBQ and some excellent fish tacos!

That night the science party disembarked and the new group arrived and worked late into the night setting up all of their equipment. They use the recorded water sample data that was collected by the first group and look for areas over anoxic water (areas with no oxygen) to do their research.

The main thrust of the project is to test new equipment that will be used in other areas of the world with large anoxic zones, primary Peru, Pacific Baja Mexico and Bermuda. Tofino Inlet, with it’s close proximity to Seattle and it’s very anoxic condition, make it a perfect place to test this equipment. Tofino inlet is basically a long deep fjord (approx 100 meters depth)extending way up into the mountains. A few miles from the head of the inlet are a couple of small islands on either side of the inlet and between them is a high spot (approx 30 meters depth). This high spot essentially cuts off the flow of deep water trapped on the upper end of the inlet. The tides can exchange to top layers of water only. The deeper layers remain stagnant and have so for approx 100 years. They have found microbiology living in these waters that have only been found in areas such as deep hydrothermal vents.

The equipment being tested relates to falling particles. I’ll do my best to pass on what was explained to me. It goes like this: About 1/3 of the world’s CO2 is in the deep ocean, another 1/3 is on the surface (in alage) and the plants etc on land, the last third is in the atmosphere. Some of the CO2 that falls into the ocean is consumed in the food chain such as algae and plankton, etc. Some of that dies and falls to the deep ocean floor effectively removing it from the system. Their equipment is meant to catch these falling particles and measure the rate at which they fall. The idea is that if enough falls to the deep ocean it won’t be in the atmosphere causing global warming.

The way they catch these falling particles is with big nets that hang way down in the water column from a surface float. The particles land in the net and then are collected in a little bottle at the bottom where they can be taken into the lab and studied.


The second way is with traps. These traps will be free drifting in the ocean and have several chambers in the collection bottle that close at different intervals. Here is what the traps look like:

We saw quite a few bears on the beaches during the low tides. If you are closer in to town, the bears are used to the tour boats pulling right up to the beach and tourists taking thier picture. Out away from town they are more skittish. That is unless there are some tasy crabs under those rocks for lunch:







The last couple days the clouds returned and it rained lightly. We had absolute flat water conditions all the way back to Victoria and on to Seattle. I got home late Friday evening and left again on Sunday evening to drive 3.5 hours to Portland, OR for ARPA Class. (see previous post).

I would absolutely love to cruise the entire West Coast of Vancouver Island over about a month or two!

Stay tuned for more posts in the coming few weeks!


2 thoughts on “Fjords, bears and natural beauty: Vancouver Island

  1. Marilyn Jasper

    Hey Todd great pictures! As you know, we did that too for many years with INEZ….however, if you ever wanna do it again….call us!!!!! I’m sure we could bring aboard many esukala (sp). :-)) Auntie Marilyn


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