Below the Surface
It is natural that people who live around and near Hotel Lake might occasionally wonder about the nature of the lake below the surface. We can look at contour maps to get some idea where deep and shallow areas exist. If we swim in the lake, we may appreciate the temperature variations of the water and also its turbidity (reduced visibility in water caused by suspended material, nutrient and algae). With goggles, we might venture down a few meters and be able to see some plant life, fish and even tiny jellyfish (see our page on Jellyfish).
However, only scuba divers can dive down and stay at the bottom and explore, photograph, take video and clean up some of the garbage that has accumulated on the bottom.
In recent years a group of dedicated divers have started doing just that. We first reported on these divers in our "Garbage & Pollution" page and the following is an introduction to this fine group of volunteers.
Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans was formed almost by chance in November 2013
When divers Jonathan Martin and Henry Wang went for a dive at Buntzen Lake in Port Moody, B.C., they discovered a tremendous amount of garbage resting at the bottom of the lake.
The amount of garbage at the bottom of the lake was so overwhelming for the duo, that they returned with twice as many divers. The second clean effort while satisfying, still only made a dent in the garbage pile at the bottom of the lake. Through social media, Henry and Jonathan’s mission caught the attention of their dive friends who eagerly pitched in to see if they could remove all of the garbage. Many dive trips later, the team of dive volunteers not only removed a significant amount of garbage from Buntzen Lake - over 1,700 lbs of garbage; they also became motivated them to start cleaning some other local lakes. Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans was formed and the group was on a mission.
Between Nov 2013 and July 2014, they have removed 7,700 lbs of garbage by executing dives all over the Lower Mainland, in lakes such as Rice Lake, Buntzen Lake, Browning Lake, Cat Lake, Alice Lake, and even as far as Whistler at Lost Lake and Alta Lake.
Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans has attracted the attention of many like-minded individuals as well as local companies with environmental stewardship programs. EEC Industries and Arc’teryx have generously provided sponsorship support.
In the coming years, the volunteer divers of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans, will work hard to continue making a positive impact on both our freshwater resources as well as our local oceans by continuing to perform cleanup dives on regular basis. Visit: https://cleanerlakes.com
In the Fall of 2021, Hotel Lake was being considered for a clean up dive. Preparatory work was done to study the local wildlife habitats that might be affected. As an example, the painted turtle hibernates at depths around 8-10 feet on or in the lake's silt and mud bottom. Other wildlife such as toads, waterfowl, nesting birds in the spring as well as otters and beavers were factored in. The divers, who's primary focus is the cleaning up of the deeper parts of the lake, resolved to avoid the shoreline shallows and vegetation and to conduct their clean up dives in waters deeper than 10 feet.
As winter approached, both weather and ice became obstacles and cold water temperatures, characteristically 4°C, made diving more difficult. A brief weather-window appeared in February and a team of three divers took full advantage and headed up to Hotel Lake. The dive team leader, Henry Wang, was accompanied by diver Otto and diver Karen. Dive operations occurred on two successive days; the first dive focused on the depths between 20-27' immediately below the eastern rope swing and also encompassed the surrounding bay. Each diver operated independently.
On the second day, the three divers covered the lake bottom off-shore from the beachfront located east of the pump house and then covered a 20 foot deep shelf beside Irvines Landing Road.
The video below, narrated by Henry, allows you to accompany him on parts of these dives.
The garbage was carried onto the shore, weighed and carefully sorted. Notes were kept of the types of items found and their weight for entry into a database from other similar dives in the past.
The three divers brought back more than just garbage. They also brought back information about the bottom of the lake and we would like to share that with you.
Henry comments in his video that the lake bottom is very heavily sedimented. Removing a can or bottle can kick up a cloud of silt which quickly obscures a diver's vision making it easy to lose track of other nearby objects and recover them.
It is primarily for this reason that the three divers operate separately; if they dived in close proximity to each other, the cloud of silt would be larger and almost immediately envelope and obscure the operation.
Henry's video shows the rocky chaos on one of the steep sides of the lake. Most of these rocks are"unsorted material" of various sizes, and rounded similarly to rocks that can be seen in exposed glacial till deposits in the area. In other locations in the lake, smooth granite bedrock is present with little or no silt on top.
On the first day, diver Otto saw a strange contraption which he speculated might be metallic. After the dive he drew a sketch of it with dimensions. It was too awkward to recover that day.
Diver Karen reported a "granite dome" 13 feet in diameter at a depth of 14 feet. The downsloped sides of the granite dome extend into the lower silted bottom and at this point, the local conditions appear to be perfect for freshwater-mussels because an extensive bed of mussels surrounded the dome. The mussels were elongated in form and about 3 inches long with a medium-brown colouration. Karen also noted that they were orientated vertically in the mud-silt bottom.
Additionally, diver Karen discovered a small rowboat at the bottom roughly 15 feet down. The dive team was inclined to try and bring the boat up but this considerable effort would have deplete their oxygen tanks and truncated the second dive on the following day, so that effort had to be abandoned.
Elsewhere on the lake bottom, depending primarily on depth, silt and vegetation predominate. The silt is extensive and has built up over many many years. Investigating the silt bottom, diver Otto remarked that he pushed his hand into the bottom silt, with no resistance, until his shoulder prevented further penetration which means the silt was over 2 feet deep at that point.
On the second day, diving as deep as 27 feet, another load of garbage was recovered. While working along Irvines Landing Road, diver Henry discovered a number of tires. He retrieved one but was unable to raise the others as a cloud of silt intervened, causing him to lose direct eye contact with them.
The water temperature on both dives was 4° C. While the diver's drysuits kept them dry and thermally protected, they were very susceptible to the deep penetration of cold into their hands which affected hand dexterity. It would take some time to warm-up around a fire after each dive.
While this visit to Hotel Lake by the Divers For Cleaner Lakes and Oceans was planned to retrieve garbage from the lake, the divers accomplished much more than just that. By patiently offering to help us record their observations, they have contributed a great deal to our understanding about what's going on "Below the Surface".
Details of the lake's bottom ranged from silt and mud to gravel and sand and granite outcroppings. The lake's underwater geology, wildlife and vegetation now all seem a little clearer. We know there is more garbage down there and where some of it is. We can all be grateful that we know more today about Hotel Lake than we did prior to their visit.
The discovery of a large bed of freshwater mussels was a very welcome development and has led to the simultaneous opening of a new webpage titled "Freshwater Mussels" on this website. We encourage you to go there and learn about the amazing water-cleaning capabilities of these mussels and also how much they rely on "host fish" such as cutthroat trout and stickleback for their reproductive process and lifecycle. This makes us grateful that the lake is stocked with cutthroat each year.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the lake bottom is the deep silt/mud layers. While listening to the divers and watching them work, it became evident from their narrative, that they could only recover the garbage that they could see. Most garbage, such as cans and bottles, were found only because a small portion was visible above the silt, which allowed the diver to see it and retrieve it. It is a certainty that a great deal of garbage that has been thrown into the lake, over many years, is no longer visible and still lies there, buried in the silt, and thus invisible to any effort by divers to remove it. When the lake turns over, as it is likely to do in the late Fall, large clouds of this silt are agitated upwards and over the following weeks the silt re-settles to the bottom and thus, the great cover-up continues.
On the two dives made in February, 2022, about 15% of the lake bottom was reconnoitred. While the focus was on removing garbage, we were able to gather much information as well.
Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans is an organization of volunteer divers who work hard to make a positive impact on both our freshwater resources as well as our local oceans by performing clean up dives on a regular basis.
They hope that by removing the often unseen and ignored garbage that is underwater in our waterways, they can pass on a cleaner and healthier environment to our next generation. If you would like to help these divers continue this important work you might consider a small donation. Just go to their website and you will find a “DONATE” button.