Diving the Salish Sea
Author: Shari Shephard | Photo: Jake Campbell
A year-round diving destination, the Puget Sound, natively known as the Salish Sea, is less of a novice’s playground and more of an expedition field for history buffs. Its unpredictable character and frigid temperature conceal hundreds of years worth of artifacts, attracting advanced enthusiasts and professional divers seeking to bone up their skill.
Puget Sound divers have been encountering regionally iconic wildlife, like orca whales and giant Pacific octopus, for decades. The vessels of explorers, traders, fishermen, travelers, corporations, Navy brass, and even WWII era aircraft can be found on the bottom of the Sound and nearby glacial lakes. Just 15 miles north of Seattle, certified divers and divers-in-training can see some of these historical remnants at Edmonds Underwater Park. It features 27 acres of underwater trails scattered with parts of a bridge, navigation buoys, and sunken boats.
Interspersed among these artifacts starfish, rare anemones, ratfish, Dungeness crab, and long cod have repurposed our human debris into a habitat of their very own. The murky water that camouflages the bottom adds an air of mystery that’s characteristically different from any other diving destination in the world.
To explore Edmonds Underwater Park, divers need a dive plan, a buddy, and a healthy dose of confidence to navigate the park’s trails. Visibility in the water ranges from two to 40 feet on any given day with conditions that can change quickly depending on tides, currents, wind, and boat traffic. Park staff warn those new to the park that it’s easy to lose track of the shore without a compass. The shore’s gradual slope and change-prone visibility can turn around even the most competent of divers.
It’s essential to protect the wildlife of the Salish Sea if we want to continue to observe our unique relationship with it over time. Underwater explorers witness up-close how marine life reclaims and adds new life to what was lost beneath the surface. As the third-largest estuary in North America, Salish Sea holds all the ingredients for a memorable diving adventure: mystery, history, and the unexpected.