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Well now...since you asked....we just got back from a week of diving on the Nautilus Explorer and I have to say it was one of the most memorable dive trips we've ever taken. We dove the area north of Prince Rupert- Dundas Island, Baranof, several others. The diving was awesome - and the water temperature was only 51- warmer than some areas in California. We had some fun diving with the icebergs- just don't bink your nose on the things - they are essentially transparent on the edges. Vis near them is generally low since they are shedding glacial flour (ground up rock) into the water.
There are divesites on the south end of Baranof Island that are an invertebrate heaven. I have never seen so many varieties of nudibranch, shells, crabs, anemones etc all crammed together in layer upon layer of STUFF And yes I have already dove Browning Wall. We could have spent a week at that site alone. And conditions are generally great- 30-60 foot vis with 80 feet reached on flood tides. Depths are moderate and most places there was no need to punch through a top layer of murky water.
Yes, yes you say but what about the fishies? This is not a strong point of the diving- though there are large schools of a few species. BUT! The Stellar sea lions will make you forget about not having sharks and barracudas and clownfish around. Yah right you say- I've already been diving with california sea lions...been there done that....NOT! Those CA beasties are PUNY....these Stellar guys average like 400-600 pounds and the bulls top out at well over a ton. We spent one dive with dozens of these behemoths zooming around and nuzzling us- my wife thoughtfully offered up a rock with some kelp on it for each one to nuzzle and was rewarded by being able to pet their whiskers- veeerrrryyyy carefully. And these guys want to PLAY...NOW!! I shudder to imagine what would transpire if you had a scooter. I had four try to pull me away by clamping down on my elbow- you know- like a really, really big dog..... On other folks they apparently just mouth your head.... You can just feel those pointy teeth assessing what lies beneath. And you wonder if the drysuit manufacturere ever tested for this. But they DO get boisterous - as bored boys will- we eventually called the dive since we were surrounded by over a dozen pairs of very intent, big, black eyes at like 3 foot range. You could almost see them contemplating and wondering just what we were and if we were FUN or WHAT. It became rather intimidating- much more so than diving with fish-brained predators. They only bolted to get air and when the REALLY big bull came cruising by- he doesn't stop and doesn't play either ( thank God) and the other guys stay CLEAR of him. I have to say that he is really loooong when in the water- very different than when they are on shore. And he sort of exudes a sense of "bossness" that does get across even to us. These animals were completely unhabituated to humans- a real treat these days. The ascent was entertaining as they continued to mob us at the safety stop and we felt safer from this crazed herd by staying very close together on the surface.
THere were a lot of very experienced divers on our trip and most of them remarked on this being an extraordinary experience. This area is pristine, virtually unexplored and based on what we saw can provide a world-class experience. WE are going back at the next opportunity!
And for those of you who imagined that we braved the elements to enjoy this we were pleasantly surprised that there was virtually no wave action and most days the ocean was like a lake. It is coldest on the ride back to the mother ship when the wind blows over your wet gear. Keep your hood on. Currents are another story though- they can be ripping. We generally dove at slack but not always- there were times when a reef hook would have been handy- except that there is no place to attach it that is not occupied by someone. These currents include a really impressive but avoidable down-current at one site. I had never seen all the anemones blown DOWNWARD along a wall before. So be heads up. This does not mean that you have to be a heroically strong swimmer- just do what the fish are doing and DODGE the flow.
Oh yes and did I mention octopus and wolf eels? Well they have them too- There were four octos and as many eels sighted on our first dive....guess we got that quest out of the way quick eh?
So call Mike at Lever Diving and get on that boat- he is the only guy doing this sort of trip and is the only guy I know who is willing to take the time and risk to wend his way through thousands of bergy bits at no-wake speed to get us up to the base of LeConte glacier and then let us jump in the water and just play like seals in the ice (no not RIGHT at the base). A truly magical experience. Or take the kayaks out to explore the maze of these bergs or go ashore and check out the brown bear tracks. Add to this spectacular scenery, waterfalls, so many whales that no one cares later on in the trip, ripe salmon berries, and the impressively hot Baranof Hot Springs and you will have the trip of a lifetime. Oh yeah and one of the friendliest, hardest working crews we've come across- just as Megan the naturalist about kelp! THey went the extra mile to make our trip the best they could. Perhaps if you ask nice they will make their killer blueberry scones more than once. Also I recommend AGAINST taking the Nautilus Burger challenge.
The boat has argon, steel 95's for rent, Nitrox, the works. There were four or five rebreathers on the trip we were on.
And last but not least a wonderful, top deck hot tub to soak in as you cruise.
You will see why the mega-yachts go to this place - except their frumpy owners would never think of jumping in the water.
A few years ago my job had me in alaska for three months and we dove right in portage marina right next to the aquarium. We had everything flown in so I dont know what palces there is to use. It was def alot of fun. Good luck.