Nereocystis luetkeana, Bull kelp. Rock Bay, Vancouver Island, Canada, 31-7-2012.
As I already wrote in my post of November 24, 2012: I always wanted to swim in underwater forests.
Laminaria digitata, that appeared at (very) low tide. One minute all I saw was murky water, a few minutes later - like magic - I looked at hundreds of these Laminaria. An underwater forest! I wanted to swim in that forest. What kind of rare animals were waiting there to be found? It really triggered my imagination.
And however those dreams already did come true in Ireland (2011) and Brittany (2012), both still to be published, Vancouver Island was the epitome of my dream. I think it has something to do with size and dynamics. I love this strange, less known, underwater world. All these underwater photo's were taken at Rock Bay or it is otherwise mentioned.
This dominant seaweed in the waters around Vancouver Island is Nereocystis luetkeana, bull kelp or bullwhip kelp (all the photo's in this post). I still don't know where the name bull kelp derives from. See my earlier post about Nereocystis.
The kelp forest was not very dense, so it was easy to swim through and around. Far from being as agile as a seal or otter swimming in these forests, it was exhilarating to wander through them, to observe this strange world.
When there is no current, the blades hang down like a flag on a windless day. It is only for a short while: there is a very strong current in the Johnstone Strait (the small stretch between Vancouver Island and East Thurlow Island). So most of the time, the blades hang horizontal. As I did sometimes as diver. Holding tight; sometimes I had myself anchored at the pontoon. Fortunately: if you stay near the bottom the current seems less powerful.
So I stayed in the bay, keen not to swim too far. Because not only the current can be dangerous, it gets more than 100 m deep and I saw a few big whirlpools... The deepest dive I made at Rock Bay was 13,4 meter.
I think these kind of brown seaweeds, like Nereocystis and Laminaria, need heavy current, otherwise the mucus they secrete will build up and they will rot and die. I noticed quite a lot of tiny slimy threads, that made the water hazy: the mucus of bull kelp.
Kelp forests are also an excellent hiding place for crabs and fish. And source of food for sea urchins for example. So it is a vital component of this coastal ecosystem.
At low tide the pneumatocysts, the flask shaped objects, appear from nowhere. The first ones I saw gave me the impression of seals.
Do you recognize bald men that grow their hair too long at the sides?
I hope that you understand by now why I am intrigued by these cold water forests.