Low tide exploration

Low tide exploration
by John Edwards
30 July 2023

A fantastic low tide exploration day was enjoyed by members of the Malaspina Naturalists (Bengul, Dale, Dan, Madelon, Sharron, Fran, Colleen, Lynn, John and Kelly) on Sunday, July 30.  We powered out of Lund Harbor aboard the Misty Isles with captain Jonas steering us past Keefer Rock to the intertidal zone of Hernando Island.  The enthusiastic and knowledgeable naturalist George Sirk provided us with captivating information about the local bio-diversity, geology, ecology of our beloved Salish Sea.  He described how the ancient glaciers brought the gulf islands here all the way from the Fiji, depositing glacial moraine, large erratics and the makings of coral reefs. George and Jonas explained how the gravitational pull of the moon ebbs and flows the tidal waters from both sides of Vancouver Island, meeting up at Mitlenatch.  Bringing with it the warm waters and sandy beaches that we know as the Riviera of the North.
Before arriving at the southern tip of Hernando Island, the secretive harbor porpoises were putting on a show, as were sea lions and even a pair of sea otters.  Captain Jonas dropped anchor off the southern tip of Hernando and onto the skiff to deliver us to the warm beach, reef and subtidal shore line.
We counted twenty plus species of bird life; from eagle, turkey vulture, heron and barn swallows to harlequin ducks, common and red breasted mergansers, oystercatchers, nesting cormorants, numerous gull species, a Caspian Tern, sand piper….and from its artic nesting grounds a short-billed dowitcher!
As we explored the crystal -clear waters at this 1.3ft. low tide, George was teaching us all the various sea life of such abundance if the Pacific Northwest waters.  Finding such treasures like eelgrass limpet, and other limpets, top snails, turbans, Horse clams, cockles, mussels, oysters and moon snails and many more shellfish.  Several species of sea stars were found as well as a rare orange sun star.  We were unable to find the elusive sea anemones, sea cucumber, octopus, squid or sea urchins closer to shore, however Sharron may have spotted some while she snorkeled in deeper waters.  We saw a healthy crab population, various kelp species, like the turkish towel, sea grasses, sponge’s and hooded nudibranch.
With the tide changing, Jonas ‘skiffed’ us back aboard the Misty Isles, where he set the sails and we enjoyed our lunch and delicious homemade cookies listening to the peaceful sounds of luffing sails.  On our journey towards the Copeland Islands, we watched three foraging Humpback Whales for half an hour.  This was definitely the icing on an already delicious cake! A fabulous Low Tide Expedition had by all!



Mitlenatch day-trip

Mitlenatch day-trip
by Winnie Ferrier
, 24 August 2021

Eleven of us arrived at 10:00 am in Lund to meet Misty Isles for a day on Mitlenatch.  The day was sunny and the ocean calm. After a safety talk by Jonas, our skipper, we were underway.  As we journeyed we were given archeological and historical facts of Mitlenatch by George, our guide for the day.  George was an employed Naturalist on Mitlenatch from 1969 to 1971 and told us many interesting and entertaining stories.  Jonas offered everyone a hot drink and homemade cookies baked by his wife, Amy.  As we passed Major Island we viewed harbour seals lounging on the rocks, and a pod of   porpoises appeared off our port side.

We were greeted on arrival at Mitlenatch around noon by the waving on shore of three volunteer wardens; Shirley Cole, Janet Southcott and Janet May. They are all members of the Malaspina Naturalist Club and gave us a grand tour of the island, including their quaint and tidy cabin.  George informed us that he had built the extra room on the cabin in 1969, calling it his honeymoon suite, as the original cabin had only room for a single bed, and he was living there with his new bride.

We were walked to the bird blind to watch glaucous-winged gulls with their new broods that would have hatched around July 1st.

Many of the flowers on the island had gone to seed but we did see yellow flowering gumweed, and plants of prickly pear cactus and Oregon sunshine.

Jonas shuttled us back to our anchored Misty Isles in the dingy and a few of us took a refreshing swim off of the boat.  Next we circumnavigated Mitlenatch, scanning for birds and sea life. These included numerous Double-crested and Pelagic cormorants around the cliffs where they nest, Black Oystercatchers, and a colony of Stellar’s sea lions. We were fortunate to see a migrating peregrine falcon hidden in the shadows of a rock face. George enthusiastically pointed out two surfbirds just as our boat pulled away from the island.  We made our way back to Lund, arriving around 5:30 pm. After hardy thanks to Jonas and George we set off to our vehicles while the Misty Isles made her return to Cortez Island.


Misty Isles low tide trip

Misty Isles low tide trip
by Tom Koleszar
, 24 July 2021

On a nice sunny day, 9 naturalists set sail with Captain Jonas and Naturalist George Sirk on the Misty Isles for a tour of the Hernando Reefs on a very low tide.

On the way they passed by Major Rock with all its bird and marine life.  Many different species were spotted there and throughout the day – George even got quite excited about some of them!

Arriving at the reef, Misty Isles anchored offshore and everyone was taken to shore by zodiac.  There they spent several hours exploring the reef and all its life – copious marine plants and crabs, sea stars, and even a sea cucumber and baby seal!

You had to get your feet wet on this trip and some wonderful underwater photos were taken.  After returning to the boat, everyone had time for a swim before beginning the return journey.  On the way home, they sailed past the Copeland Islands, witnessing yet more birds and seals.

Everyone was very happy to have had a wonderful day on the water.  Many thanks to Jonah and George for making the day possible!


Hernando Reef trip

Hernando Reef trip
by Cindy Dalcourt, 18 May 2018

Arriving early in Lund, most of us treated ourselves at Nancy’s Bakery before boarding the Misty Isles.

Enjoying the bright sunshine and calm water we were off to a good start, made even better when an Orca passed us by shortly after leaving the harbour.  On the way to the reef captain Mike and Rick Harbo (the previous night’s speaker) gave us information and answered our questions.

It was a short crossing and we anchored just offshore while we waited for the tide to get to it’s lowest point so we could go ashore.  Waiting on the boat we were surrounded by Harbour Porpoises, a few coming so close we could see and hear them breathe.  It was also the perfect place to watch the many Eagles in the sky and on the rocks.

In time we took the zodiac to shore where we spend the next few hours turning over rocks and bringing what we found to Rick who was a wealth of knowledge.  He had a plastic viewing box that we could drop in whatever we found and then we could see it close up from different angles.  We saw many different kinds of starfish, sea snails, jellyfish, crabs, midshipmen and so much more.

Across the reef from us on the Vancouver Island side we were just able to make out a pod of Orcas that the whale watching boats were surrounding.  They were there for at least an hour, but unfortunately just a little to far away to see clearly.  There was a little excitement when suddenly rows of seals started to swim towards us from further down the beach. Rick mentioned that the Orca’s were transient and therefore meat eaters so maybe the seals were being cautious.

When it was time to leave we passed a sleeping sea lion floating in the water.  His bark let us know he was not too happy to have been woken up.  As we still had some time left Mike took us on a tour of the Copeland Islands, heading back into Lund just as the long weekend boat traffic starting to pick up.

Hernando Reef with Rick Harbo

Hernando Reef with Rick Harbo 
by Julia Young, 5
 June 2016.

On a calm sunny morning the Misty Isles, captained by Mike, left Lund with 12 passengers.   En route to the reef, Mike used his navigational maps to illustrate the uplifting of peaks around us, the carving of deep channels by ice, and the effects of tides, currents and water temperature on the diversity of ecological zones and marine life in the region.

As we closed on to Hernando Reef, the vivid green, waving sea grass, darting fish and scurrying red rock crabs in the shallows under the Zodiac was the start of a fascinating few hours exploring the myriad life on the flat rocky reef, guided by renowned marine biologist Rick Harbo, on a day and time of the year’s lowest tide.   Much of the life at the reef’s shoreline was hidden under numerous species of green, red and brown seaweeds, from the prolific invasive Sargassum from Japan to the most delicate and coral-like structures.

As a shell and shellfish specialist, Rick found and identified for us a huge variety of clam, oyster, cockle, snail, limpet and chiton species, ranging from tiny 1 or 2-year old limpets and oysters clinging to shells and rocks to the big horse clams with their huge gaping siphons.

At this lowest of low tides all forms of exposed life are forced to find shelter under seaweed and rocks.  Most carefully upturning and then replacing rock after rock, Rick pointed out and described the interdependent life of dozens of shell, crab, sponge, shrimp, slug, fish species akin to complete ecosystems.   Of special note for us, were the 4 to 6-inch male “midshipmen” fish guarding the large orange eggs laid by the females on the undersides of small boulders.   Some of these same watery nooks were home to literally dozens of animal species of all shapes and sizes, some hardly identifiable by beginners as animals at all.  This was an amazingly rich experience for us and we all felt most grateful to Rick for giving his time to us.  But we know he enjoyed it too.

As the zodiac returned us back to the boat, we counted fifteen eagles soaring above and sitting on the rocks:  their once-a-year feast opportunity.  Back on board Christine served iced tea and cookies and Mike, having a little extra time, took the Misty Isles on a detour to point out rock structures where black basalt intruded into the granite cliffs as well as pointing out a petroglyph that long ago was left by First Nations Peoples.

 The “Hernando reef trip” is highly recommended and an absolute must for those wanting to know about intertidal life.  Thank you to the organizers of this trip and to Misty Isles Captain, Mike Moore and a “very big thank you indeed” to Rick Harbo for sharing his vast knowledge with us.  The ocean  floor became a new world for us and we realized that this ocean floor nursery of so many creatures is one of the most diverse on our planet.

P.S: Laurette Hamoline also provided a link to a nice six-minute video about the life-history of Midshipman fish, which can be seen here.