Nakwaktawhat?

There are places that take on a mythical status of existence thanks to story telling. Until yesterday I’d only ever heard stories about the dive at Nakwakto Rapids and it became somewhat of a legend in my mind, a place I might never see for myself.

With ropes off at 7:23am we headed out into the fog. The boat sleepily rolled over the ocean swell as we passed ghostly rocky shores and monochromatic islands on our way through a dreamland of inlets and narrow passageways. After about an hour the fog lifted and we approached the fabled island–Turret (or Tremble) Rock. The Island sits in the middle of Slingsby Channel and the tidal current that breaks on it is the fastest in the world. The trees on the island are decorated with signs from boats who’ve navigated the channel in the past, some stopping for a dive or to waterski on their way through.

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When we arrived at the site the water looked glassy and calm, a harbour seal lazed about in the warm morning sunlight and watched us prepare our gear and revise our dive plan. The rapids relax their rumbling hold on the island once a month and at just the right time when the moon and the seastars align there is a magical triangle of comfort that works its way around the rock, allowing divers to enter a rarely seen underwater realm.

The creatures that live here are some of the hardiest in the world–you’d be tough too if you grew up being constantly pummeled by 18 mile/hour currents. After jumping off the boat we descended into an emerald pocket of some of the rarest and most beautiful sea creatures on the planet. Below the gently waving kelp, clusters of enormous red Gooseneck Barnacles covered the steps of the sloping reef interspersed with bouquets flamboyant feather duster tube worms. The stalks of the fluffy worms are crowded with technicolour Brooding anemones who are of course covered in their own tiny offspring. The rock  is nowhere to be seen below the surface.

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Vibrant red sculpins darted about among the carpet of strange invertebrates while greenlings glanced quizzically at us before disappearing into the dark green depths below. Quite suddenly an invisible force picked us up and threw us forward  into a momentary throng of confusion before dropping us back into the serene triangle of bliss between the flooding and ebbing tides. As the opposing forces of immense volumes of water work their way around the island (with us sitting comfortably at the centre of it all) the kelp dances in either direction indicating to the astute diver when the current is about to catch up to them. As we make our way around the far end of the island and into the shallows the water becomes hazy like the brackish waters where rivers and streams meet the the ocean and mix together. Just a few feet in front of us we watched the kelp swirl and twist as it was violently pulled by the current while we sat still in the miraculous bubble of calmness.

We surfaced and let ourselves be picked up by the current and carried away into the emerging cosmos of whirlpools filling the narrow channel and back to the safety of the waiting boat. An exuberant sealion played about in the swirling water as we drove away from the mythical rock back into the all encompassing coastal fog, completely elated with what we’d just experienced.

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**By the way, Nakwakto is featured in the Tidal Seas episode of BBC’s Blue Planet.

 

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