[ home ]

[ photo gallery ]

[ locations ]

[ books ]

[ links ]

[ equipment ]

[ copyright info ]

[ comments ]

The most common question I'm asked by fellow divers when on warm-water trips is, "Are you out of your mind?!?" Usually, this comes in response to having informed them that the majority of my dives are in water whose temperature is usually in the 40s, whose visibility rarely exceeds 20 ft., and whose currents generally surpass three knots. What they are unaware of is the fact in spite of (actually in many ways, because of) these conditions, the Puget Sound offers some of the best diving to be found anywhere!
Anarrhichthys ocellatus

Diving in the Puget Sound is certainly not for the faint of heart. Because of the temperature of the water, a 6mm wetsuit (and for those who dive here regularly -- a drysuit), as well as equally thick gloves and a hood, are virtually mandatory. These, in turn, require divers to don significantly more weight (usually in the neighborhood of 30 lbs.) than those whose idea of cold-water diving is that which requires a full 3mm wetsuit, as oppsed to just a shorty. Also, because of the huge tidal exchanges we experience in the Sound, diving most sites is essentially limited to the four times of the day that the tides go slack.

However, it is in many ways because of these conditions that diving in the Puget Sound is so impressive. The large tidal exchanges bring a wealth of nutrients, and so begins the underwater food chain. On any given dive here, one can expect to see large bottom-dwelling fish such as Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) and Cabezon (Scorpaenicthys
Decorated Warbonnet
Chirolophis decoratus
). Also commonly encountered are equally impressive small fish such as Scalyhead Sculpin (Artedius harringtoni), who, unlike most sculpin, constantly dart from one perch to another as well as Sailfin Sculpin (Nautichthys oculofasciatus). Another frequent find is the irresistibly adorable Grunt Sculpin (Rhamphocottus richardsoni), who rarely swims at all, instead crawling around on the tips of its pectoral fins.

Divers here also commonly encounter Ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei) and Big Skates (Raja binoculata) and occasionally, Sixgill Sharks (Hexanchus griseus). All three species are quite prehistoric-looking and at first glance, appear to have more in common with dinousars than with anything of this age.

Undoubtedly, one of the most beloved creatures found in the Puget Sound is the Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini), the largest species of octopus in the world. Encountering one of these creatures out of it's den is definitely an
C-O Sole
Pleuronichthys coenosus
experience not soon forgotten. The octopus' ability to camouflage itself by instantly changing its color and skin texture to almost identically match that of its background is unparalleled in nature. Additionally, scientists have shown that the octopus is probably the smartest invertebrate ever studied.

One of the best features of the diving in the Puget Sound is its accessibility. Within an hour of Seattle are at least 75 different shore-diving sites. (Check out Diving the Northwest for excellent Puget Sound dive reviews.) Sites like Sunrise Park virtually guarantee encounters with Wolf-Eels (Anarrhichthys ocellatus) and Octopus, while Edmonds Underwater Park promises 3+ ft. Lingcod and Cabezon, as well as dozens of species of nudibranchs. Access to a boat opens up hundreds of additional sights, including probably the best diving in the region, that in the San Juan Islands.

Although certainly not for everyone (i.e. those who define cold water as "any below 80 degrees", who consider visiblity under 60 ft. cause to seek a refund, and who believe that gloves are to be to be used only when skiing...), the diving in the Puget Sound is in many ways among the best in the world. Those willing to climb into a drysuit, add a few extra pounds to their weight belt, and think warm thoughts will find countless rewards in the waters of the Puget Sound.