Canadian Consulting Engineer

Swimming with Sharks

June 1, 2005
By Nordahl Flakstad

Two six-gilled sharks shared Martyn Bayne's curiosity as he followed their effortless movements in the waters near Barkley Sound off Vancouver Island....

Two six-gilled sharks shared Martyn Bayne’s curiosity as he followed their effortless movements in the waters near Barkley Sound off Vancouver Island.

“It was exhilarating to be under water with something that’s so graceful but also very powerful. It was just awesome that they stayed around for ages.” says Bayne, who is director of environmental services for EBA Engineering Consultants in Vancouver. “One never touches these things but I could have stretched my arm out and whacked a tail.”

Similar marine encounters near British Columbia’s Hornsby Island have seen the geotechnical engineer sharing space with six-gills up to 12 feet long.

They’re part of a world that’s opened to Bayne since he moved from Britain to Vancouver in 1998 to become area manager for the Jacques Whitford company.

Trained in the U.K. in soil mechanics, engineering geology and with an MBA, Bayne had worked on North Shore offshore site investigations and foundations. However, apart from a quick, 15-minute dip while on assignment in Dubai, it never dawned upon him to don diving gear.

It wasn’t until he arrived in Canada that Bayne, a self-described “competent” but not exceptional swimmer, plunged into serious scuba diving at the suggestion of Joe Lackie, an experienced diver and business associate.

Bayne was hooked and in six years has swum quickly up the diving hierarchy. Early on, he would dive several times a week, on weekends, in the evening after work, and through the Vancouver winters. He also discovered more exotic venues, such as Cozumel, Mexico.

Within two years of taking up diving, Bayne had completed an advanced course and a rescue course, which involved mastering the recovery of unconscious divers and navigating underwater with a compass. Then he decided to take the dive master course.

Dive masters are certified assistants to instructors. To qualify Bayne had to log 60 dives, complete challenging swims with equipment, and demonstrate scuba skills such as removing, clearing and replacing a mask in the water. Besides being certified as a staff instructor by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, Bayne has unrestricted certification from the Workers’ Compensation Board allowing him to dive commercially.

For a year, Bayne even set aside engineering to run a diving school and shop. “I thoroughly enjoyed it,” he says, but explains that in the aftermath of 9/11 and SARS, the recreational diving business, with its reliance on tourism, took a dive.

Bayne returned to consulting with EBA but still teaches diving at Simon Fraser University, University of B.C. and the B.C. Institute of Technology. And at EBA he combines diving and engineering. He ran a course at the company and it now has an in-house commercial dive team.

Besides Bayne, the team consists of marine biologists Tim Abercrombie and Chris Zamora. Their assignments have included an underwater video survey for the Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project, and a proposed breakwater site on Passage Island in Howe Sound. The dive team has even been called upon to transplant endangered eelgrass along an underwater BC Hydro right-of-way.

Commercial diving hasn’t turned Bayne off diving for fun. Besides the fascination of occasionally encountering sharks and other creatures, Bayne is drawn into the water by what he calls “a sport that at once is very stimulating and very relaxing. Once you’re in the water no-one can talk to you, no-one can bother you. There are no cell-phone calls. Only you, the fish and your buddy.”

As far as Bayne is concerned, ” Life is just a surface interval between dives!”

Nordahl Flakstad is a freelance writer based in Edmonton.


Stories continue below

Print this page

Related Stories