Usually, if I were to wake up early on a Saturday morning and I were to open the window to be greeted by a cold, rainy day, I would go back to sleep and hope it clears up in the next hour or two. Not this morning however! This morning was different. This was because in just a short time, we would be heading out on the boats to see what marine life we could find around Bamfield!
Unfortunately, much of the energy we were all showing prior to getting on the boat was significantly dampened (haha) by the heavy rain and the rocky seas. Despite this, we were all very excited, knowing that we would soon be arriving at Boulder Island to hopefully get a glimpse of the California Sea Lion colony. What we saw once we arrived was far better than we had expected.
Despite the heavy rain and the battering sounds of the waves, there were so many sea lions present in the area that we could not only see them clambering on the rocks, we could also clearly hear their honks! At some points it seemed that the sea lions were swimming closer and closer towards our boat, popping their heads out of the sea every so often to quizzically stare at us. I quizzically stared back.
On our way back to the dock, the Captain stopped around the mouth of the Bamfield Inlet for a small dredge of the bottom. Upon inspection of the dredge, we found masses of sea urchins, sea cucumbers, sea stars and small crabs! Despite the cold, we eagerly stuck our hands in to inspect and learn about these fascinating invertebrates. Rolling around the basket were the sea cucumbers, quickly absorbing water as a response to stress. Some of us were afraid that one of the prickly sea urchins would accidentally pierce these! The sea stars captured in the dredge varied in size, from the tiny thumb-sized blood stars, to the hand-sized leather star. One fun tidbit on the leather star is the fact that it strangely smells like garlic! Who knew? Additionally, around the basket were tiny hermit crabs that did their very best to hide themselves among the masses of sea urchins, sand and rocks. However, all good things must come to an end, and soon we had to head back to the shore.
In order to reduce our impact on the wildlife here, the dredged animals were carefully returned to the ocean afterwards. However, it is important to note that large-scale dredging does seem to be harmful to the environment. There are many articles and papers written on the subject. If you wish to read more on this issue, here is an article highlighting negative effects of dredging:
Dredging and Disease in Corals