A New Season for Bull Kelp

Divers, Mark Bright and Chrissy Schellenberg, prepping for their dive at the Dodd Narrows site.
Author: Chrissy Schellenberg

On Sunday, January 13th, 2019 the MABRRI team set out to drop new bull kelp lines on our established bull kelp plots located in the Northumberland Channel, as well as off the Winchelsea Islands. The day started bright and early, when Haley Tomlin (project coordinator), Chrissy Schellenberg (volunteer diver), and Mark Bright (volunteer diver from Sundown Diving) met with Captains Ryan and Tom Fredrickson at the marina. We loaded the boat with hundreds of pounds of concrete, along with our bull kelp lines and other gear needed for the day. The skies were clear and it was a beautiful day out on the boat. We were all very eager and excited to drop our new lines and start a new season of growing bull kelp in the Strait of Georgia. First, we went to our site in the Northumberland Channel to drop our first two lines. We carefully lowered two seeded bull kelp lines parallel to each other, and to the line already down below. We drove back to the marina to pick up the rest of the concrete and lines to be lowered at our plot off Winchelsea Islands. Once we got our gear loaded up, we went to our second site and dropped our last two lines in a similar fashion. We struggled with wind and currents to drop the lines parallel to each other. We would have to wait for when we did our dive to see the positioning of our lines at both sites. Dropping our lines was a full day of work, as a result we were fighting daylight and had to save our dives for another day. 

On Sunday, January 20th, we returned to the marina to do our dives at each site in order to reposition the kelp lines. We had no idea what to expect underwater. We went to our site located in the Northumberland Channel, suited up in our dive gear, and dropped down to our plot. The process went relatively smoothly and I was so pleased with the placement of our lines and where the concrete was dropped. Mark and I brought lift bags with an extra cylinder of air to fill the bags to make the concrete lighter underwater so that we could carry them and align them parallel to each other. Once we moved our lines, we came back up to the boat and shared the success with our team. We then went to our second site off Winchelsea Islands. Again, we suited up and dropped down to our plot. The concrete was positioned a bit further at this site. And man, did we ever have to fight a gnarly current! I was following behind Mark, carrying the lift bags and the cylinder of air trying to keep up. I looked down at the seabed and realized that I wasn’t moving at all. I was swimming hard but the current was pushing me just as hard. It took a lot out of me but I kept telling myself “this is in the name of science!” I swam harder and caught up with Mark. After huffing and puffing the entire time, we successfully moved the concrete and repositioned our lines. We came back up to the boat and shared the success with our team. Round two was complete! 

This two-day mission was both rewarding and exhausting. I felt so proud to be a part of such an incredible endeavor that will hopefully contribute to rehabilitating the Strait of Georgia with bull kelp. I am excited to return to our plots so that we can continue to monitor their growth.