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!
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
marmoratus). 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
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
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
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.