Hey there, fellow divers!
Picture this: it's a chill Friday evening, and a crew of eight of us decided to kick off the weekend with a little adventure. We set our course for Plongée Ecodive in Valleyfield, Quebec, ready to dive into the unknown.
We got our gear game on point as we prepped our scuba essentials right there on the shore just a few steps from the shop. You know the drill – wetsuits on, gear loaded onto the boat, and a solid dose of excitement in the air. With everything squared away, we hopped onto the boat, all pumped for a sweet ride towards the setting sun, cruising from the old canal into the beauty of Lac St Francois.
Around 20 minutes into the ride, our captain gathered us for the grand briefing. Trust me, it was like prepping for a covert mission, except our mission was to explore the underwater wonders. Ready to roll, we suited up, and on cue, we all splashed into the water, forming a tight-knit crew at the surface. When everyone was ready, we began our descent – all together.
Okay, let's be real here – at first, it was like diving into a cup of coffee with way too much cream. Super murky, you could barely see a thing. But guess what? Just around the 30-foot mark, the magic happened. Suddenly, the underwater world unveiled itself in front of us, like a curtain being drawn back on a stage. Visibility went from 'meh' to 'whoa' in a heartbeat.
A few of us – myself included – attached and dragged along our inflated surface marker buoys to our reels. It was like leaving breadcrumbs for the boat to follow. In the dark abyss, our flashlights became our trusty sidekicks, casting an eerie glow that revealed the clay bottom below, about 10 to 15 feet in any direction our lights pointed.
Initially, the critter count was pretty much zero, but as we floated along, life started to reveal itself. Imagine this: large walleye, bass, and enormous drum fish coming out to play, like the aquatic version of a party getting started. But then, – the thing we were all hoping for. Emerging from the darkness, the sturgeons made their grand entrance. These living dinosaurs are one the largest freshwater fish in the world and definitely the largest in this part of the St Lawrence river– they were like 4 to 5 feet of pure "whoa." And that wasn't the end of the show – we started spotting more and more of them, some as long as a six-footer. I must admit, although they peaceful animals and not the least bit dangerous, they are rather intimidating the first time you see them as they simply appear out of the darkness.
Now, get this – some of these sturgeons were so chill that we could basically give them a high-five (or a high-fin?) as we cruised by. They glided alongside us, giving zero cares about our bright lights. It was like a scene out of a sci-fi movie, these living legends from another time casually swimming by. In all, we probably encountered a dozen during our dive. They seemed in in very good health although some did have parasitic lampreys attached to them.
Just as our dive was winding down, we spotted an eel, just chilling around. After a solid 42 minutes underwater, we made our way up to 15 feet for a safety stop, hanging on to my DSMB to maintain a constant depth in the strong surface current. Three minutes later, we slowly made our way back up, greeted by cheers and laughter from the group.
Barely three minutes after hitting the surface, the pontoon pulled up next to us, ready to scoop us back aboard. The ride back to the dock? A mix of adrenaline, stories, and pure happiness. You could see it in everyone's eyes – that shared feeling of having stumbled upon something magical.
Now, I've been on my fair share of dives around the world, and let me tell you, this one? It's up there with the best. There's something about unexpectedly encountering these incredible creatures in your own backyard that hits you differently. And mark my words, I'll be heading back for that dive because, well, it was one heck of an adventure.
In the end, this dive wasn't just about exploring the deep. It was a reminder that the most extraordinary things can be right under your nose, or in this case, right beneath your fins.
A very hear felt thank you for Jean Michel Lalonde and Ecodive for the incredible experience!
(image courtesy of Ecodive)