Underwater Exploration

    Filter-feeding red calcareous tube worms carpet both rocks and seafloor. © Jill Heinerth, FRCGS, Explorer in Residence, Royal Canadian Geographical Society

    Polar regions teem with life

    Devon Bayly-Jones believes those who enjoy seeing marine creatures in their natural environments will give Arctic diving their seals of approval. The Adventure Canada employee oversees the tour operator’s diving program, which has participants don dry suits and then enter frigid Nunavut, Greenland and Newfoundland waters during the June to October northern cruise season. They can find themselves sharing the water with a variety of different creatures, including some that are feathered and others that are finned.

    “The Arctic Ocean is teeming with life,” says Bayly-Jones, who reports underwater exploration enthusiasts may spot the likes of seals, beluga and humpback whales, ducks and a host of other creatures. “The water can be crystal clear, allowing for fantastic visibility. We dive along the sea floor among the kelp and sculpins. The cold-water corals are surprisingly colourful, with pops of white, yellow and pink. We dive near grounded icebergs, too, and last year we dove in the same fiords as pods of beluga whales. The 24-hour sunlight allows for fantastic photography opportunities. We surfaced, surrounded by eider ducks and dove around brash ice that had recently calved from nearby glaciers.”

    Giant starfish is found on old wharf cribbing in Botwood Harbour. © Rick Stanley, Ocean Quest Adventures

    Bayly-Jones says northern diving is more difficult than diving in tropical locales.

    “Diving in the Arctic takes specialization and skill but once you acquire these skills, there is no limit to where you can dive and what adventures you can have,” she says. “Everything from shipwrecks, diving among seals and whales and ice to visible continental divides. Diving in the polar regions attracts curious divers looking for beauty as well as a challenge.”

    Adventure Canada has teamed up with Newfoundland’s Ocean Quest on its dive program, with Ocean Quest supplying the weights, tanks and dive masters. Divers bring their personal gear. The maximum group size is 12. Zodiacs — each of which can hold six divers and their gear — are used.

    Bayly-Jones — whose work and travels have taken her through much of Asia and Latin America — is convinced that those who do visit the North will appreciate it, regardless of whether they strap on fins and tanks.

    Diver Sandra Clopp emerges in the middle of a massive bloom of moon jellyfish in Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland. © Jill Heinerth

    “Once you experience the North, meet the people, view the wildlife and witness the dramatic landscapes and ice, you will want to return,” she says. “The same goes for divers who have experienced what it is like to dive in the serene waters of the North, testing their limits in one of the most remote places you can dive. It’s beautiful and I wish more people had a chance to experience it.”

    SOURCEIan Stalker
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