You can read on a place. You can see pictures of it. But unless you’ve been there, gone below the surface and felt the ocean envelop your body, it’s not the same.
As a diver, I’m obsessed with anything to do with water and will go to phenomenal lengths to immerse myself in it. Yet, until last April, my husband Joey and I could probably count on one hand the various places we dived in our home country of Canada. Given my love affair with scuba diving, it’s no surprise that after countless dives all over the world, I felt an unrelenting urge to start exploring what’s out there. in my own garden. We came up with an ambitious plan: dive and explore the 13 provinces and territories that make up Canada to discover the beauty and fragility hidden below the waterline.
Six months ago we flew to Saint John to board our Canadian splash journey. Heavy tides, strong and unpredictable current and less than ideal visibility are chosen words that come to mind when I think of the Atlantic Ocean in the province of New Brunswick. It is a disconcerting place for divers. It is home to the famous Bay of Fundy, where twice a day the world’s largest tides come in and out, moving billions of gallons of water into the bay and then out to sea. The seawater here is dense with silt, plankton and nutrients, which means divers need to be comfortable in an underwater world darkened by hues of green and brown. Although there are a few spots along the Fundy coastline that are considered dive sites, Deer Island has captured our hearts. At the southern tip of the island, we slipped into an icy world teeming with vibrant invertebrates and other alluring macro life.
After a short ferry ride from the mainland, Joey and I headed south to one of my favorite Deer Island dive sites – Cancat Beach. When the tide level was perfect, we donned our heavy gear and slipped into a cold water world teeming with brave invertebrates and other alluring macro life. Swimming from shore, we followed a gradually tapering pebbly seabed. The seabed was strewn with snails and sea urchins. As we went deeper, a cascading wall decorated with colorful creatures, stood out from the seabed. The vibrant pink and red anemones ranged in size from as small as a fingernail to as big as a dinner plate. Anemones were intermittently mixed with other marine species such as starfish, nudibranchs, sea urchins and tunicates. In the rocky cracks and crevices of the Cancat wall, we saw wolves, crabs, gunwales and sculpins taking refuge. As I moved my camera around illuminating them, they seemed to retreat deeper into the darkness. Looking up at the rocky outcrops, I was lucky enough to spot a quarter-sized rolly-polly lumpsucker perched shyly on a plateau. When I tried to take a photo, she didn’t disappear, just turned away from the camera lens and showed me her back.
After a month of working and diving in New Brunswick, the second leg of our adventure was in the neighboring province of Nova Scotia. Having lived in Halifax, the provincial capital, for almost eight years, Joey and I are familiar with the flora and fauna of its many scuba diving sites.