By MARINA SACHT
Did you even wonder what’s under “Dog Patch” in Ladysmith Harbour? Historically, this area has been the site of heavy industry and is now a popular moorage for transient boaters and liveaboardees. We asked diver, and Cedar resident Andrew Gunson, to check it out, and he dove right in. The result is a fascinating short 22 minute documentary produced by TAKE 5 in partnership with Terra Marine Adventures in Nanaimo. The video can be viewed on take5newstv Youtube channel.
Gunson, a former commercial diver says BC coast offers worldclass diving. “I love wreck diving particularly, and this is probably one of the premier places in the world to do that.”
“There’s been a lot of conjecture regarding industrial pollution, residential pollution in the area, and we’re very curious to see what is really down there and what impact it may have on the environment,” says Gunson.
“We found a lot of interesting artefacts and wrecks in a very small area. We probably only explored maybe 15 per cent of the inner harbour area.” Gunson made two sets of dives using a sled which enabled him to cover a large amount of territory. In the initial surveys he didn’t find much in the shallower regions but it was when they moved out into the deeper waters near the concrete pilings where he found most of the artefacts and wrecks. “Once we hit that spot it was mind-boggling what was down there. It is shipwreck upon shipwreck.”
Although the visibility was poor Gunson described the scene as incredible.“You’d be swimming along the bottom and a shadow would appear in front of you and as you approach the shadow you realize you’re in the presence of this very large vessel just sitting upright on the bottom.”
Gunson located numerous vessels piled on top of each other. “The wrecks are literally overlapping.”
Also on the bottom were artefacts mostly boat equipment, generators, milk crates full of miscellaneous boat parts, things you’d have on the deck of a working vessel. “We also located numerous piles of old wire rope and chain dating likely back to the harbour’s coal mining past.”
Despite a number of people living on boats in the area he was very surprised how little domestic or household garbage there was down there.
Also surprising was the amount of life that had attached itself to wrecks. There was an abundance of crabs, barnacles, mussels, oysters, sea cucumbers, ling cod, perch and a forest of sea anemone. What the wrecks have done is brought life to a muddy bottom which normally would be desolate. “You’ve got a whole new ecosystem growing down there that wouldn’t be there otherwise.”
John Roe founder of the Dead Boat Disposal Society estimated there are approximately 60 wrecks in Ladysmith harbour and about 1,400 boats abandoned on B.C.’s coast.
Please note that this is a potentially hazardous dive with numerous obstacles to get fouled in and is not for amateur or casual sports divers.
Watch video here Diving Dogpatch