- Published on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 18:08
- Written by Andy Lamb
It was my second dive of the day and I planned it conservatively. Due to my distraction with fish and lack of attention to detail, the first, at Pulali Wall, had concluded with a ten minute decompression stop (please see Something Fishy in Hood Canal, on page 32, for the rest of the story). I alerted my agreeable dive buddy, videographer Tom Heineke, that caution would be my by word this time.
Having visited the south corner of the Pinnacle the day before, Tom and I decided to explore its north end. We descended the mooring line and made our way across to a level spot strewn with boulders at 66 ft. I stopped to check depth and noticed two vermilion rockfish Sebastes miniatus hovering nearby. Tom slowly moved off looking for other video targets but I stayed put as the pretty red shapes approached. Captain Don Coleman of the Down Time had mentioned this curiosity behaviour as part of his detailed dive briefing.
Almost magically, a steady stream of additional vermilions, all between 12 and 16 inches (30 and 50 cm) long, drifted towards me. Determined to avoid a repeat of the first dive’s finish, I was closely monitoring my no deco time. But I was equally determined to enjoy as much time with these marvelous rockfish. More and more arrived. Closer and closer they huddled. Eventually time had run out. By then, at least 15 surrounded me – well within arm’s length. They seemed to slowly circle me. One at a time, many even peered into my mask.
I had spent twenty minutes virtually stationary, save for stretching my neck and survey 360 degrees to see the panorama of vermilions. On the way back to the mooring line, I suddenly developed a theory about why this special event had occurred. My old looking 1997 Brooks neoprene suit – often the target of good natured teasing – was primarily a faded gray and red. Installed a couple of years ago, a new zipper panel was still a bright red. These colours correspond to those of vermilion rockfish, particularly younger ones. Was I perceived by these curious specimens as the “mother of all vermilions”? Perhaps.
Regardless, this magical experience will be a very special memory for years to come. ■
Do you know Andy Lamb?
B Sc., UBC - Zoology, 1969; Vancouver Aquarium 1966- 1974 - Aquarist/Collector
Department of Fisheries and Oceans 1974 - 1996 - Fish Culturist; Vancouver Aquarium 1996 - 2005, School Program Co-ordinator; Co-Author - “Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest” and “Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest”; 40 years of SCUBA diving with over 2,500 Pacific Northwest Dives