Saanich Inlet

Saanich Inlet is one of the best-studied marine basins in the world. The combination of easy access and unusual features has attracted researchers since the 1930s. The most interesting feature of Saanich Inlet is the combination of dense plankton populations and deep water that is naturally depleted in oxygen. Once a year, in the late summer and early fall, oxygen is restored. The result is a fascinating study area for biologists, chemists, and sedimentologists.

A glacially carved fjord, Saanich Inlet runs as deep a 234 m in its deepest place. The inlet is separated from the main waters of the Salish Sea by a shallow (75 m) sill that restricts water inflow. Currents in Saanch Inlet are usually low, although wind squalls are common in winter. Tidally-driven mixing occurs across the fjord mouth during times of spring tides. There is little freshwater input directly into Saanich Inlet; most comes from the Cowichan River to the northwest of the Inlet, driving a reverse estuarine circulation.

Studies in Saanich Inlet include microbial biogeochemical investigations, water column planktonic variations, benthic ecology, and water column renewal processes. The observatory infrastructure in Saanich Inlet includes a shore station, a subsea node (100 m depth), platforms with intstruments and sensors, cabled buoy profiling system south near Coles Bay, and the ocean technology test-bed (OTTB) buoy platform in Patricia Bay.

Visit the Data Plot Galleries section of the web site to browse the latest plots of data from Saanich Inlet.

More Information

Introduction to Saanich Inlet (backgrounder)

Depth: 100 m
Setting: Fjord
Studies: low oxygen, forensics, plankton, sediments

State of the Ocean Plot