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Dive Review of Nautilus Explorer in
Canada/British Columbia, Port Hardy

Nautilus Explorer, Oct, 2011,

by DONALD MCCOY, OR, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 9 reports with 3 Helpful votes). Report 6305.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments October Trip on the Nautilus Swell

Don and Melinda McCoy, Al Sekol and Bev Ort left Saturday morning October 1st and drove to Port Angeles to catch the ferry to Victoria. From there, they drove to Nainaimo and spent the night. The next day, they drove to Port Hardy where they boarded the Nautilus Swell at 6:00PM. We were extremely lucky that our Captain was Mike Lever himself who hadn’t actually captained this boat. The Swell is a 99 year old refurbished Tug. It is 90 ft long and the interior has been completely redone. It has a single large stainless steel prop and has a 12 cylinder Detroit Diesel Engine. It carries 4000 gallons of diesel fuel. Can you imagine paying that bill. Alongside the Swell is the 34ft Indie Aluminum dive boat that was originally designed to fit inside the Nautilus Explorer. It holds up to 24 divers. We had nine passengers and five crew. Two divers were from Poland, two were from Seattle and another from San Francisco. The four of us made up the rest of the passengers. The crew was made up of Captain Mike, Divemaster Dan, First Mate Karl, Hostess Meg and Chef Mark.

After helping with the luggage, the crew had us assemble in the galley where we had dinner. After a briefing, we headed north since a storm was coming in. That evening we hid in the lee of Baklava Island. Even though the weather was windy and rainy, we were able to dive Browning Passage, Snowfall and Seven Tree Reef over the next two days. The walls were spectacular with an abundance of Plumose anemones, Fish and all the little things you expect to see. This has always supported a tremendous amount of life in a small area due to the currents that pass through here daily. Somehow, the dive operators were able to get us on the walls with very little current. There were a lot of giant barnacles and inside empty one, I saw some jelly like material that I couldn’t figure out what it was. That is, until I saw a male and female greenling mating and underneath them was a barnacle with eggs in it. I confirmed it with Andy Lamb’s book.

On Wednesday, we headed to Dillon rock. This pinnacle has been home to Wolf eels for years. On our first trips here, we often fed the eels with urchins and they would come out of their dens. They stopped feeding them, and they rarely come out anymore. We were able to consistently find four of them in their dens. The reef also had a significant number of octopi. I would see at least four on each dive and three of them would be out. Melinda and Bev got out the kayaks and paddled all over Sushatie Bay looking at underwater life, birds and Black bears on the beach

On Thursday, we headed over to Hope Island where the USS Suwanee sunk on July 9, 1868. The boat was built on the east coast and sailed around to protect the Pacific Coast. It was a double ended iron hulled sidewheel propelled gunboat which was 255ft in length and a beam of 35ft. The boat is located in Shadwell Passage where it ran aground. A lot of the hull is still there, but is fairly shallow. The wreck is covered with kelp and there are numerous rockfish, greenling and even a few ling cod on the wreck.

After the Thursday dive, we headed south past Port Hardy towards Alert Bay. We anchored for the night and then went into Alert Bay for the morning. A number of people visited the town and The U'mista Cultural Centre which is aptly named for a museum that showcases a remarkable collection of potlatch regalia confiscated in the early 1920s, as provincial authorities enforced a ban on this cultural and family ceremony. Gradually these items have been repatriated from museums in Ottawa, Toronto, Washington, DC (the Smithsonian Institute) and London, England (The British Museum). U’mista means “return of something really important.” After that, we dove Haddington Island which has a number of large pieces of limestone broken off from a limestone quarry. It is a sanctuary and has a lot of large ling cod. We headed for Telegraph Cove, diving at Walt’s Wall on the way and got to Telegraph Cove in time to visit the Whale Museum. In addition to a lot of skeletons of sea lions, orca and minkes, there is the skeleton of the huge fin whale that was caught on the bow of a cruise boat. It was pretty impressive. We then dove another tank under the dock. The most impressive thing we saw was a Decorated Warbonnet hiding in a toilet. Hopefully, Al got a good picture of it.

Since the weather was picking up, we headed over to Hanson Island and anchored in the lee. The wind picked up overnight, but we were able to dive in Plumper Pass and Blowhole which both had spectacular walls. They would have been great if we hadn’t been spoiled by Browning Wall. We still saw a lot of life and as if they were waving goodbye, a herd of Stellar sea lions cavorted in the water in front of the divers while they were hanging off the kelp. What a great send off!

That night, we headed back to Port Hardy. We docked in the evening, took care of the bar bill, bought T shirts and packed. We headed out at 7:00AM on Sunday morning fpr the 2:00PM ferry out of Victoria. Between Port Hardy and Campbell River, we saw two Black Bear along the road. Of course in Victoria, we ran right into the Victoria Marathon. We were able to drive around it and spent the ride back with a lot of Marathon finishers. Unfortunately, we never saw the Killer Whales……the one thing we didn’t see. However, on the way to Port Angeles a Pod performed for the crowd and Al and Bev got to cap off their trip with Orca! A late night, but we made it home by 10:00PM back to Portland.
Websites Nautilus Explorer   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Grand Cayman, Cocos Island, Socorro Islands, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, Washington State, Oregon Coast, British Columbia, Channel Islands, Sea of Cortez, Galapagos Islands
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather windy, rainy Seas currents
Water Temp 45-47°F / 7-8°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 25-30 Ft/ 8-9 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions None
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals N/A Tropical Fish N/A
Small Critters N/A Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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