text and photos
- by Nicolle Pratt
The first time I dove Octopus Hole, I had to agree with the "Northwest Shore Dives" book by Stephen Fischnaller (available at most dive shops) that this is a dive site for all certification levels. The great and unique thing about this site is that there is a large platform float bolted into the sea floor a short surface swim diagonally out from the entry point. Once there, divers can easily descend using a line. On the day Eric, my dive buddy that day, and I went, the dive site was being enjoyed by a wide variety of divers including some parents with their teenagers.
The Dive Site: According to Fischnaller's book, the wall is located at a heading of 145 degrees, and by using the descent line of the platform float a diver should be able to easily locate the wall. Being the adventurers that Eric and I are and at the suggestion of a local experienced diver at the site, we decided to use a noticeably large tree that had fallen and hung over the water as a guide to do a free descent to the wall and dropped onto it immediately. Diving along the wall at a SW heading, I found the wall itself to be quite long and our maximum depth on the dive was only 57 feet. We could have gone a little deeper, but with 15-20 foot visibility we noticed the sea floor was within eyesight beneath us for most of the dive and why drag the bottom? As there was much to see above 60 feet, an Open Water certified diver shouldn't be tempted to exceed any training limitations. The life on the wall is abundant and interesting so there would be no reason to bounce up and down creating a see-saw dive profile. You can easily dive the wall deeper one way and turn around to see an entirely new section of it at a shallower depth as the height of the wall affords divers that opportunity. We did see Giant Pacific Octopus and there was a lot of fish life around us. Thanks to my recent Fish ID class, I was able to recognize numerous large Copper Rockfish and what seemed like a gazillion little black-eyed gobies!
Important Dive Site Notes: There is limited parking (approximately 10-12 cars). Basically parking is right off the side of the road. The road has been recently resurfaced so there is an abrupt drop-off with at least a 6-inch lip. We bottomed out Eric's scuba-gear-loaded car, ouch! Upon further searching, we discovered a turnout a little North of the site with less of an edge, so we parked and walked. With the heavy traffic on this roadway, divers should be very cautious especially when fully suited! Hopefully the road work will be completed soon to remove the cliff, er...I mean edge. Once you have parked and walked to the edge of the site entry point, you will need to clear the highway railing. Eric, being oh a tad bit taller than me, had no problem with the railing and after nixing the idea of a running leap, I cleared it carefully. After that, the dive site entrance has a dirt and rock steps down to a small beach-like area.
Site Facilities: There are no facilities as this site is right off the side of the road. This means, there is no designated area in which to place extra tanks or gear. Unless you have a non-diver along who can hang out on the rocks with your gear, I would suggest leaving anything you don't need for the dive in your locked car.
Navigiation Tip: Surface swim out to the platform
and descend along the platform's anchor chain on
the most Southern side
as you'll be closer
to the site. You should find yourself in about 18-23' of water (depending
on the tide it can vary even more, but that's about the average I have
noticed). From there, take a simple direct South compass heading. Just
going South and staying low to the ground, you should run right into the
top of the wall lying perpendicular to you. Drop off the edge of the wall
and turn right (Westerly) to start your dive. If you conduct
the beginning of your dive on the lower portion of the wall and return
along the top of the wall, there is a VERY VERY easy way to know when
to turn in to shore (air permitting). You will come across a HUGE outcropping
of White Plumose Anemones (the diver's underwater marker bouys!). That's
your turning-in point. Take a general NNW heading at the top of the wall.
Following that general heading, you should end up at or near the entry
point. If you are deeper than 25' when you are coming in, you are off
Current: This was Eric's and my second dive site of the day and toward the end of the dive we did notice a mild current had started to pick up. It wasn't an alarming current, however for those who tire easily after a dive or a day of multiple diving, a current will affect the return surface swim. Please remember to check the tide tables before visiting Octopus Hole and keep in mind that checking tide tables before setting out on any diving adventure (where tides are applicable) should always be a part of your dive planning. If you would like help checking tide tables, please contact the dive shop.
Caution/hazards: There were a few different types of jellyfish, including a couple of Lion's Mane, that we enjoyed at a safe distance on this dive (7/29/01). Other than stinging jellyfish tentacles, you may want to watch out for other divers b/c it is a popular site and not everyone is looking out for you! Trust me on this as I had another diver careen right into me and as Eric and I maneuvered around them, the other divers never even realized we were there! And why is it again that my BCD isn't equipped with an under water blow horn? Again, please use caution when parking and walking.
Directions: Take I-5 North to Exit 104 merging onto US-101 towards Aberdeen/Port Angeles. About 5-6 miles down the road, there is a split where US-101 veers to the right. Stay on US-101 to Hoodsport, then begin looking for mile marker 328. The Octopus Hole area is approximately 0.6 miles further North and marked by a small sign.
personal note: The dive was well worth the obstacles
and effort. The wall was easy to find and easy to navigate. Additionally,
the wall afforded a complete block of any kind of current, surge, or radical
water movement, which allowed us to take in the abundant sea life around
us. The 15-20 foot visibility was just fine to see things on the wall
and afforded enough distance from Eric to comfortably avoid bumping into
each other. I even enjoyed the return surface swim as the sea floor is
covered with grass and little creatures!