Off to see the Wizard: a tale of dredging the deep

Along the west coast of Vancouver Island in the Pacific Northwest lies Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. Home to a wonderful array of scientists hell-bent on solving the mysteries of our oceans. This is where our journey began…

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Map showing the location of our treasure hunt 

We left the dock at the marine centre aboard Bamfield’s research vessel the “Alta” with an important destination: Wizard islet. Aboard our boat was a rag tag group of rain gear clad biology students looking to investigate the world below the ocean’s surface.

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The Alta: our vessel to adventure

We were on a mission: to see just how much diversity we could pull up from the ocean floor.

Once we reached our destination alongside the tiny islet, Captain John set our dredge (a small net box) down to the depths. We dragged the box from 17-35m of depth next to Wizard islet. This location is repeatedly used by Bamfield’s researchers to prevent damaging any larger area during research. Despite the area being regularly dredged what we brought up to the surface was still stunningly diverse!

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Captain John releases his marine treasure from the dredge

That small net box was alive with marine creatures and when we released them into our basin it became a treasure hunt through an incredible collection.

Upon first glance what could have been just a pile of marine debris was crawling with mysteries for us to uncover.

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Sorting our dredge contents in the tub aboard the Alta (pc: Maria Donaghey)

Our team set to work digging through dredge. The longer we dug the more amazing our findings became. Three small flatfish were the first to see as they wriggled through the collection, these mysterious creatures are fascinating with their sideset eyes that shift to the surface of the body in development.

 

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One of the teeny sea-star-stowaways pulled up near Wizard islet

We also saw an incredible number of invertebrates of many species: sea stars, cup corals, and some large sea cucumbers (to name just a small subset of our haul). We also found sea urchins covered in tapered hollow spines and moon snails with the fancy sand collars they make to hold and disperse their eggs. A number of small crabs skittered along the bottom crawling across a number of sea star species.

Before we knew it it was time to return our treasures to the deep, every last critter was returned: the ocean individuals to the bottom of the ocean, and the biology students to the Bamfield cafeteria for a terrific lunch. We left with a new appreciation for the wonder that is hidden just below the ocean’s surface.

A single photo cannot capture the amazing life we found, but you can watch reef floor nearby to our research site live at:

 www.oceannetworks.ca/sights-sounds/video/live-video/folger-pinnacle-reefcam

The wonderful Wizard islet had given us a show of marine life like none other, and yet worldwide the sea floor crawls with just as many fascinating creatures! One just needs to glance below the surface and they too can experience the magical world of the deep.

 

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