Diving for debris
PORT HARDY—After a final check of their regulators and a quick adjustment of their dive masks, Charlotte and Isak Rydlund gave a cheery wave and slid below the surface of the waters off North Vancouver Island.
And they didn’t come back empty-handed.
Beginning with a dive off the coast of Cape Breton on June 8, the couple has spent the summer traveling across Canada on the Coast-2-Coast Canadive. Along the way, they have dived the country’s many waterways to collect and catalogue marine debris as part of the Project Aware’s global Dive Against Debris project.
By the time they wrap up their four-month diving expedition next week on Vancouver Island, they’ll have made clean-up dives in 99 locations across Canada.
“We’ve been in rivers, lakes, even quarries,” said Charlotte. “We were so happy when we got to B.C. and could get back into the ocean.”
Diving groups from around the world contribute to the Dive Against Debris database, but Charlotte Rydlund said the couple’s four-month tour is the first to accomplish 99 site dives consecutively.
As they’ve travelled east-to-west across Canada, the Rydlunds partnered with local dive clubs to determine areas where underwater debris is likely to accumulate. They dive, in full dry suits, bearing large mesh bags to collect trash. The material is then hauled ashore and catalogued for weight, type of material and location. That information is forwarded to the Dive Against Debris project, a global database which Project Aware uses to try to influence policymakers in solid waste management and ecological issues.
“Once we’ve sorted everything, we recycle anything that can be recycled,” said Isak. “The rest goes into the garbage.”
The couple said their first dive, off Cape Breton, resulted in a lot of fishing gear and metal, including machinery parts. As they moved across country, the bulk of the trash they found was plastics. That changed again, though, when they dove last weekend off Coal Harbour, a North Island community whose history includes stretches as a whaling port, a military installation and, of course, a coal-shipping port.
The Rydlunds’ dive there was akin to an underwater archeological dig revealing layers of the community’s history.
“We found lots of metal, saw a lot of whale bones, and even found coal down there,” said Isak, a 38-year-old Swedish national who was granted permanent residency in Canada just before the couple began its dive tour this summer.
Charlotte, 32, is a dual Canadian-Austrian citizen who works as a business and charity consultant. Isak, a former Swedish Army officer, also works as a business consultant. The couple, who recently returned from seven years of living and working in Switzerland, travels in an SUV packed with diving and camping gear. They are accompanied by their three-year-old black Labrador retriever, Fenwick.
“He loves the beach,” Charlotte said as she and Izak pulled on their dry suits and prepared for their second North Island dive, in Beaver Harbour Monday. “His reward for waiting for us is to go swimming afterward.”
As they finished gearing up for Monday’s dive, just off Storey’s Beach outside Port Hardy, they were engaged in conversation by Regina Dotson of Houston, Texas, who had just completed a summer driving tour of Alaska.
“I was curious about what was happening here,” said Dotson, who said she has dived in a wet suit in the gulf of Mexico and asked about the couple’s dry suits. “Good for you. I think you’re doing a wonderful thing.”
The couple maintains a website tracking their progress on the Coast-2-Coast Canadive, with surface and underwater photos, a blog and a link to contribute donations to their cause. The site can be found at www.canadive.org.