Northwest Passage

Date Reviewed:August 2002
Location:Gordon Channel
Access:Boat dive
Site Description:Wall dive
Main Attraction:incredible invertebrate life

NorthWest Passage is a wall dive just outside of Browning Pass in Gordon Channel (to the north of Mecca - err, Browning Pass). I am not certain if all dive charters hit this spot with regularity, but we usually hit it once a trip when diving with God's Pocket Resort. This site is almost directly across the northern entrance of Browning Pass from Croaker Rocks and the Wreck of the Themus. Like the Wreck of the Themus, this site is susceptible to ocean swells, and is not always diveable.

In many ways, this site is similar to that of Browning Wall. It sports the same "Browning Wall" carpet, which consists of bright red Sea Strawberries, brilliant yellow Sulfur Sponges, sprawling creme colored Basket Stars, occasional Puget Sound King Crabs, protruding brown Deadman Finger Sponges, huge Orange Peel Nudibranchs, White Metridium, and all the other colorful invertebrates that make this area the jewel that it is. The wall is very shear and drops deep into the abyss. How deep, I am not certain, but I would guess that it is over 200 feet deep. At 110 fsw with 50+ feet of vis. I could not see any sign of the bottom below me.

The difference between this site and Browning Wall is that the life here is not quite as dense. In fact, the invertebrate life that clings to the walls at this site seems to have organized itself into vertical bands of density. Twenty linear feet of the wall may be packed with invertebrate life as far as you can see up and down, then you might run into a 25 foot section that is sparsely populated. Then you encounter another dense band - you get the picture.

The other difference is that the marine life in the top 40 feet or does not seem as thick, vibrant, or varied as that of Browning Wall. The invertebrate life appears to not have made it way up the wall as far as on Browning Wall, possible because this site is less protected than Browning Wall from storms and swells. Above 40 fsw, robust kelp rules, offering some sanctuary to schools of small rockfish.

The fish life here is similar to that of Browning Wall. The occasional loan China and Quilback Rockfish can be found on parts of the wall, as can stealthy and brilliantly camouflaged Red Irish Lords. Colorful orange Kelp Greenlings dart about. Solitary small Lingcod are sometimes spotted resting on small shelves. Occasional schools of Puget Sound and other small rockfish can be seen hovering along the wall - nowhere near as spectacular as those schools found at Hunt Rock, but fun to swim with nonetheless.

One of the coolest experiences I had here was finding a HUGE Decorated Warbonnet. This Warbonnet was about 18" long, and was hiding in a huge shell. Eventually the warbonnet came out of the shell and worked its way down the wall. I have seen Decorated Warbonnets as big as 12" before, but none nearly as big as this one! You could have got fillets off this guy (what a terrible thought!).

When diving here, we usually start at the east end of the wall and drift west. Our divemaster usually times it so we can start deep (the best deep life appears to be at the east end), then work our way shallower throughout the dive, working west. If the timing is right (and it usually is), the current will change direction as we reach the western end of the wall where most of the life dribbles out. We then work our way back to the east at a shallower depth, and we end up close to where we put in.

The first time I dove this site, I was not overly impressed. However, subsequent trips to the wall have vastly changed this perspective. As this site usually offers great vis and I have learned to really take my time with it, it is now one of my many favorite dives in the Port Hardy area.

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