Hakai Magazine

Coastal science and societies

diver swimming in a swarm of moon jellies

One Great Shot: Swimming in a Smack

Drone master Keith Holmes documents an enormous jellyfish bloom in British Columbia.

Authored by

by Keith Holmes

Article body copy

diver swimming in a moon jelly swarm in British Columbia

I was at the Hakai Institute’s Calvert Island Ecological Observatory on the central coast of British Columbia documenting kelp and eelgrass beds with a drone when a crew of ocean researchers asked if I would assist them with mapping blooms of moon jellyfish. My job was to locate a bloom—also known as a smack—and then take a bunch of photos while the oceanography team was sampling to estimate the biomass. The first two days were stormy; my drone images couldn’t detect jellyfish more than two meters below the water. But the third day was perfectly clear and the visibility in the water was stunning, so I took a scouting drone flight around the bay. I was overjoyed to find a huge smack of jellyfish stretched over 500 meters and quickly alerted the videographer and dive crew. Within minutes we had boated out to the middle of the smack and stayed out until the divers’ lips were numb from getting stung by the moon jellies. The smack extended right down to the seafloor—roughly 15 meters. I could only take images from above and wonder what surreal world the divers were witnessing.