Buttertart Reef

Date Reviewed:August 2001
Location:Browning Pass
Access:Boat dive
Site Description:Wall dive, rocky reef dive, kelp beds
Main Attraction:Rock Greenling (if you are lucky!)

Cold water diving just does not get any better than this. Buttertart Reef is located in Browning Pass between Browning Wall and Seven Tree Island. The reef is large (I would guess two to three hundred yards long?) completely submerged, and offers divers one of the most incredible dive experiences they could hope for. If you get to dive this in "normal" Browning Pass vis (which is 50 to 70 feet in August), you are in for an awesome experience. This is my favorite dive in the Port Hardy area, although there are several close seconds.

Bill told me the reef was discovered as a dive site by the prior owner of God's Pocket Resort. When he surfaced after the dive, he was asked to name it. As the crew had brought buttertarts to snack on while out on the boat, he named it Buttertart Reef. I would have named it Utopia Reef. To dive Buttertart, you circumnavigate the reef and can end up doing three dives in one. The outside of the reef offers a spectacular wall dive, hosting many of the same creatures and life forms you see on Browning Wall. The inside of the reef offers a shallow rock sea bed, full of small ledges and crevices and covered with leaf kelp. And for your safety stop, explore the top of the reef which is highlighted by a large kelp bed and fields of colorful sea urchins.

If you catch the reef at close to slack, you can drift down one side, then fin your way around the other side. On one dive here, I actually circled reef three time, making my first pass at 75 fsw, second at 50 fsw, and third at 30 fsw, then did a lengthy safety stop of about 15 minutes on the top of the reef.

The variety of marine life here is overwhelming. Absolutely beautiful bright red, yellow, purple, white, and brown soft corals, anemones, and sponges line the walls. On my last dive here, I found a small Giant Pacific Octopus hiding on the wall side. Schools of Yellowtail and Puget Sound Rockfish can be found loitering on the wall side and in the kelp. Irish Lords lie in blankets of anemones and soft corals and are easily found if you look closely. Large Orange Peel Nudibranch, giant scallops, and volleyball sized Red and Purple Sea Urchin add even more vivid color to the seascape. Schools of Black Rockfish and darting Kelp Greenlings grace the kelp beds. Quillback and China Rockfish, Lingcod, and Kelp Greenling can be found in abundance on both sides of the reef, as can colorful Puget Sound King Crabs, Basket Stars, etc, etc, etc. This dive just ROCKS! Words or pics do NOT do it justice.

During the safety stop of my last dive here I found a Rock Greenling, which is a fish I had never seen before (see the picture on this web site). This is one of the most beautifully colored cold water fish I have ever seen - bright red, yellow, orange, and blue highlight a reddish-brown Kelp Greenling-like body. As I found it at the end of my dive, I thought I had used up my 36 exposures in my Sea & Sea camera and was very bummed. However, I spent about 5 minutes with the fish, and took a picture of it just in case there was one exposure left. To my astonishment, there was one exposure left. I wish I had an entire role to shoot on this fish.

Whenever we dive in this part of the world, we always do so with Bill Weeks and Annie Ceschi of God's Pocket Resort. I have never tried a different dive operator up here, and have no reason to do so. As far as I and thirteen of my diving friends are concerned, Bill has perfected the Port Hardy dive vacation. We have stayed with God's Pocket Resort the last two years and see no end in sight for return trips. Awesome diving, overwhelming hospitality, world class food and service (thanks Grant and Jeannie!), and Bill and Annie's great personalities (not to mention Lewis!) keep us coming back. Bill truly loves what he does and has the utmost respect for all the wildlife in this area, making a vacation here very special. What more could you ask for? If you are extremely lucky, you will get an opportunity to dive the Browning Pass area with God's Pocket Resort. Diving with Bill and Annie is the most enjoyable diving I have done - anywhere in the world. See God's Pocket for more info, and tell 'em Keith and Jon sent you!

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