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Diving in Victoria: The Mackenzie March 26, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

March 30th, 2008 was supposed to be a celebration of my mother’s 90th birthday. She’d died a month earlier so the planned get together with all four of her children in Victoria BC didn’t work out. However my two brothers and my sister still found our way to Victoria to scatter her ashes and have all of us together again for the first time in 18 years.

We’d planned to have a big dinner beginning in the early evening, so I had the chance to dive some more in the morning. This time, we met in Sidney, which is 20 minutes or so from Victoria (and is the site of Victoria airport) at the marina where the owner of the Ogden Point Dive Centre had another boat moored. The weather that day was foul – moderate rain and 4 degrees Celsius (39 Fahrenheit), as this wonky photograph taken accidentally from the boat during the surface interval will attest…


Being without a car in downtown Victoria, I was fortunate to cop a ride from a diver I’d met the day before, Darren from Red Deer Alberta, who would be my dive buddy, as we were the only two divers on that outing. We both waiting for the owner to show up, and once again he was a bit late, but by 9:30 we were on our way to our first dive, the HMCS Mackenzie.

The Mackenzie was sunk intentionally as an artificial reef in 1995 by the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia, who have been quite active in providing great dive sites in various parts of the province, including the recent sinking of a Boeing 737 off Chemainus, BC.

We descended down the shot line to the wreck. Even the line was covered in anemones and other life, so it was hard to find a spot to hold on. Fortunately there was no current to speak of so it wasn’t necessary to grip the line. With the size of the wreck and the rate of air consumption at our depth, which was a maximum of 89’ went we went over the side, we couldn’t explore very much of the wreck. The lack of light also made photography difficult. We spent most of our time near the rails, but went over the deck as well.


With a little over 10 years on the bottom, the wreck had accumulated an amazing collection of sea life, including Anemones, Sea Stars, Rock Fish, Ling Cod, Crabs (including Hermit Crabs), Sea Slugs, and the odd Urchin.It’s amazing to see the anemones attached directly to the deck of the ship, and emphasizes that they’re animals and not plants which would have a root system. I’ve never seen so many white plumose anemones – they were everywhere.

Quillback Rockfish

Quillback Rockfish

After 25 minutes of bottom time, Darren signaled that he was low on air and we made our way back to the line and returned to the dive boat after a 3 minute safety stop. I still had 1000 PSI left in the tank when I got back on the boat. Even with my dry suit, the cold (7C) water, rain and cool weather made the dive a lot less comfortable than the cold water diving I’ve done in Ontario.

Despite this, I’m glad I went. It is a unique underwater environment, and I’m always glad to have dived wherever I happen to travel. I’m hoping my next visit there will be in the summer though.



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