Sund Rock My World

Before I started this new blog, I already had several octopus experiences I wanted to write about. And since I started, I’ve got several more. Which means I have an octopus backlog. And two of the dives started kinda similarly.

At the North Wall of Sund Rock down in Hood canal a few weeks ago, I had one of the best dives I have ever had. My buddy and I walked in the water and started to swim to a buoy we were going to drop down. But before I swam six kicks I spotted a lion’s mane jelly in the water. I dropped down to about 4 feet to shoot photos because, you see, I have a never-ending quest to get the perfect photo of a lion’s mane jelly. And the quest is never ending because it might not be possible (at least not with my camera gear). And yet I remain persistent. So after taking photos for a few minutes, I surfaced so I could descend with Stacey.

And what followed was one underwater phenomenon after another. At the bottom of the buoy line I found a sailfin sculpin under the first rock I looked under. And then another swam in. Then another! Sailfins are one of my favorite fish. These guys never came out for good photos, but still – three sailfin sculpins together was a sight I had never beheld.

I moved off and dropped down a few more feet, and a young adult wolf eel was staring me in the face. He/she was beautiful – old enough to be gray, but young enough to still have spots and not yet have the old-man grizzled mug.

The dive continued like this – one awesome animal after another, sights neither of us had seen. We encountered five or six wolf eels, including the largest one I have ever seen (and maybe the largest one on the planet – it is possible). He was gargantuan and his head appeared completely stuck between rocks. He was so jammed into a crevice it looked like the wolf eel mafia had got to him to give him a warning.

I had just found another wolf eel and was about to start taking photos when I saw Stacey’s dive light out of the corner of my eye, and it was going nuts – frantic motion of the light that just got more and more frantic and pleading. I knew I had to abandon the wolfie to see what I was missing. And it was a good call. A free-swimming Giant Pacific Octopus. What a beast. I am not set up for wide angle photography, but I gave it my best. Only problem was it kept swimming up and up, so eventually I had to let it go on without me.

We found a field of a nudibranch species called Flabellina that looked like they were all about to spawn. There were no eggs, but there were hundreds of these little nudi’s on tiny little stalks sticking up from the bottom. It looked like a bizarre scene out of Willie Wanka – an acre of Flabellina lollipops. We also encountered a couple Dendronotids – HUGE nudibranchs, maybe 10 inches long…

Before heading up, I wanted to swim deeper to look for the sea whips I knew were out there. And we found them. As with much on this dive, a completely new thing for both of us. These things were huge, too – surprisingly so. Maybe 3 feet tall. Viz at depth was excellent. I did not want to leave.

Sometimes it is really, really hard to leave. So hard the only thing that gets me topside is knowing there is actually zero choice in the  matter.

Stacey and sea whip

About Jen Vanderhoof

I'm Jen Vanderhoof. I’m an ecologist with a wildlife background, and I spend a lot of time outdoors near water looking for signs of beavers and, when I'm lucky, photographing beavers. I am also a birder, scuba diver, and accordingly bird, nature, and underwater photographer. I write and draw, and I also enjoy carving beaver-chewed wood. I hope to spread the understanding, acceptance, and love of the most incredible animal species I know, the beaver.
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