text and photos
Pole Point East
- by Nicolle Pratt (Dive date: August 2003)
This dive site is one of those sites you can can continually dive and never get tired of. It is by far my favorite dive site in the Northwest. I get excited with anticipation gearing up for a dive at this site because I never know what new experience is in store for me here. Bryan encountered his first Six Gill Shark here. Of course I wasn't with him and would have never believed him if John Rawlings, staff writer/photographer for Advanced Diver Magazine hadn't been with him at the time.
I likened my first dive at this particular site to what I would imagine it to be if you could dive on the moon because of its unique and bizarre underwater formation. I also encountered my first ghostly white female octopus completely in the open at this site. Gunter (the newest addition to our dive buddy group) and I had seen her with eggs in a den on a dive three weeks earlier. Her eggs had now hatched and she was slowly dying. It was a beautiful moment to know the octopus life cycle was continuing and at the same time, it was overwhelming saddening. I couldn't tear myself away from her and spent the whole dive hovering with her not 15' from our anchor. It is these kinds of dive experiences, the underwater formation, and the healthy sea life this site supports that keeps me coming back.
The Dive Site: There are at least two dives sites at Flag Pole Point. The first one is just off the point and shallow. The second dive sight, this one, I call Flag Pole Point East is further out from shore and much deeper. The site formation starts at about 60', runs parallel to shore in a North-South direction. The Eastern side of the site turns into a steep and sheer wall dropping off into the canal with depths exceeding recreational dive limits. The main area of the site is like a little mountain range rising up from the canal floor with peaks and valleys. The irregular formation offers many ledges and crevices which make excellent homes to a wide variety of sea life, including one of the largest concentrations of cloud sponge I have seen.
Sea Life: There is something about this site that draws large sized Copper Rockfish to school that I have not found elsewhere in either Hood Canal or Puget Sound. During certain months I have seen a great number of male Lingcods on eggs (note: this site is protected from fishing of any kind, actively regulated by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department, and monitored by the residents of Flag Pole Point). The numerous crevices offer wonderful dens to Wolfeels and Giant Pacific Octopus (which Gunter always seems to find easily). I have yet to dive this site without seeing both of these critters in a single dive. As mentioned above, Bryan and John saw a Six Gill Shark on one dive at about 100'. Six Gill Shark sightings are rare in Hood Canal and especially as far South into the canal as Flag Pole Point is, so it was a special encounter. The shark was about 6-7 feet in length and although typically they have been documented as unagressive to divers, all sharks should be treated with caution and respect. They are apex predators.
As also mentioned above, this site supports the biggest concentration of cloud sponge I have ever seen. In fact, when I first started taking photos, I photographed some very bizarre brown formation covering this site that I couldn't identify at the time. There was so much of it, it became part of the formation and what gave me the feeling that I was diving on the moon. I have since found that this formation is dead cloud sponge, which makes sense. Cloud sponge is beautiful and intriguing. Shining a light into its many cavities will typically reveal small critters like crabs, shrimp, and juvenile rockfish. Tucked among the bases of the cloud sponge are different varieties of sea stars including the ever predatorial giant sunflower stars which do grow big here just like everythign else on this healthy site.
Important Dive Site Notes: The site can be a little tricky to locate as the formation rises and drops sharply from the canal floor making it easy to miss the site and instead find deep water. This dive site is a boat dive and a depth finder is recommended to anchor appropriately. This site is also protected from fishing and well regulated. So for those of you with spear guns and goodies bags, please leave them at home when diving this site.
Although the dive site lies parallel to shore, make note of what depth
the anchor is set at and pay attention to navigation. The dive site is
large and its formation is irregular; coupling that with its deeper depth,
a diver could easily lose track of where the anchor line is located resulting
in a free ascent in the middle of the canal at the end of the dive. As
this dive starts at 60', it is an advanced level dive.