Browsing articles from "August, 2014"
Aug 27, 2014

Dive Against Debris – Lansallos – 23-08-2014

Dive Against Debris UK

What a day, being part of a dive against debris was an eye opener and a lot of fun, a big Thanks to Rob and Cat for organising the day as part of Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris and Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Seasearch dives, as well as all the help from Keith at Kernow Divers for a lot of the work helping in the background, and Rob for setting up the Facebook group Dive Against Debris UK Volunteers

When I got the call about a new dive site being opened up for us for the day I couldn’t resist, as some of you know I want to dive all of the coastline around Cornwall, even though some of it is only 4-5m deep, or accessible by boat. So off I set in the morning, heading toward the Devon/Cornwall border and like clockwork as she doesn’t know why we are going that way, bubbles (my car for those that don’t know) started playing up and went into limp mode, I tried persuading her I wasn’t crossing the border but she didn’t believe me, 25 minutes later I pulled into the National Trust car park on the right as you go down into Lansallos to find 3 others waiting, after deciding to go see if there was another car park we left and headed back up the road a couple of hundred yards to find the rest of the guys and gals waiting.



After we had filled out the paperwork and been chatting for  a while our transport arrived to ferry the kit down to the site.


As we left our kit in the hands of our trusty delivery man we started the pleasant stroll down to the beach and it was stunning with the sun shining through the trees, especially after the shower we just had waiting for the delivery man.



As we wound down through the wooded path we emerged at a gate to a beautiful view


Just by the look of the calm sea I knew this was going to be a fun day, getting some debris collected from a beautiful location and getting one of my Seasearch dives signed off and a bonus would be getting a bit more of a tan.


We then started the small walk to the beach with the kit, quite a few trips later and some cautious foot placement by me down the rocky gully (we all know what happened last time I went over rocks in my flip flops) and we were kitting up and getting ready to go in, with about 20 of us it was going to be a good day of litter picking.



The dive brief was simple and direct, we were split into 2 groups, the left and the right, we carried out our buddy checks and off we went. As I had brought along the Orcalight Seawolf 2260 and 1560 that I had been loaned to review (which will have its own post in scuba gear reviews) I was happy that Cat had agreed to buddy with me so I could get some feedback on the light. I thought this photo was a great one of Cat, and the only one were she is breathing, proving she is human and not a diving robot in disguise.


Not that I had much chance to use the light though as there was so much litter in the cove it was crazy. Basically the cove suffered from a trapped circulatory current, meaning anything that came in on the tide got caught and settled there, and there was a lot of rubbish, the first dive was nearly 50kg and so sad to see stuff from over 15 years ago in the pile.



The main rubbish appeared to be cloth, of various types, and mono-filament fishing line, as well as lots of bits of unknown plastic pieces.


What we didn’t know till later was that all the debris we were collecting had destroyed many pink sea fans (Eunicella verrucosa) that Cat thought to be at least 15 years old or more, it was clear to see the fishing line was the culprit as it got entangled as they don’t have a root system and only anchor themselves to the rocky outcrops on the seafloor, so anything that threw their balance off in the current, like entangled debris would dislodge them. Picture courtesy of Tom

pink_sea_fan (1150 x 1536)

There were quite a few of them and very sad to see being critically uncommon, I think Cat called them.

I did manage to get a couple of pics with the Orcalight Seawolf 2260 but had the settings wrong on the camera and had it on manual shutter speed instead of manual aperture, am very pleased with these 2 images though considering I didn’t have time to actually take many photos, Cat made sure I kept collecting rubbish.



Then I saw a starfish, and as no blog post would be complete without them


Back to a couple more rubbish photos, it is hard to picture exactly how much there was unless you were there but I hope it is giving you an idea.



Amongst the rubbish someone had found the remnants of a baseball type cap, the strange thing at the time was we didn’t know what it meant, or where it was from.


I thought Diego Garcia was a place but couldn’t remember where, when I got home I checked it out and found it was a small island in the Indian ocean, owned by the UK and leased to the US as a military base of sorts, what I then found out was that the ‘Marine Corp Security Force Company’ was disbanded in 1998 on the island, meaning this thing could have traveled for thousands of miles over the last 16 years to end up as debris we collected, if its origins are right then it is contender for litter pick of the day, the swimming goggles and a ring Cat found are also contenders.


So back to the seriousness of the day, while aesthetically the larger debris is a pain it is what happens to it as it breaks up over many years, autopsies have been carried out on many dead animals and they have been found to starve to death from the plastics and other trash that gets stuck in their stomachs, smaller particles of plastic also get into the filter feeders, such as clams, mussels and the like that we eat, meaning it is getting into our systems and doing us just as much harm as the animals that are suffering from our idiocy and laziness.

Rachel worked tirelessly sorting out the debris we brought up, first weighing the bags and then carefully going through it to separate it for the Dive Against Debris survey results.


The whole time she was actually enjoying it, strange woman some might say but the real hero of the day and was great to meet her and help her with the sorting.


The second dive went in a little later than planned and the tide was coming in, so with only 4 other people on the beach I decided to stay and help out, in case we had to move things fast away from the tide line, I am so glad I did as well because sorting through the rubbish is a real eye opener, the smaller pieces of plastic had been treated by the sea just like anything, it has no qualms as to what it takes in and breaks up, and to find buoy plastic that had been broken up and rounded perfectly like pebbles on the beach showed just how indiscriminate the sea was.


The divers started exiting the water with their finds from the second dive and Tom was filming away for the piece he was working on for the day, when he has finished and posted the video I will put a link on the blog for you all to watch.

So I bet you are all wondering what the results were for the day, well it is shocking but here they are:
‘Plastic: 257 bottles, 47 buoys/floats, 21 lids, 80 cups/cutlery, 3.9kg of fishing line, 17 fishing lures, 8 food wrappers, 3 bits of plastic pipe, 99 pieces of rope, 1 pair of goggles, 59 bits of tarpaulin, 15 zip ties, 889! Fragments of plastic, 8 metal fishing hooks/lures, 5 rubber gloves, 25 bits of inner tube, 9 parts of tires, 11 rubber fragments, 1 purse, 498! Rags 23 Pieces of cloth.’ (Taken from Dive Against Debris UK Volunteers fb page,Thanks Rob)

That was all just from 2 50ish minute dives in a small cove, when you think about it like that it really starts to open your eyes as to how much is in the seas on this planet, and how much we have to do to protect them with their importance in the survival of all life on the planet.

A few of the group stayed to have an after dive camp with a few beers and a nice camp fire, from what I can gather they had a great time, I drove home with no problems from Bubbles as I was heading West and she knew, she just knew.

I am looking forward to doing another dive against debris day, and hopefully will get a couple of Seasearch dives in to get myself signed off so I can start collecting data about the sites I visit.

A big Thank You to all who came and made it a great day.

Seal Diving Trip at Lundy Island – 01-08-2014

Didn’t think it was going to happen this year but was over the moon with a free place on a seal diving trip to Lundy Island with A&A charters aboard Obsession II. So you are now thinking I am a jammy sod, you would be right but I am so grateful to Sue Barnes, a PADI instructor, who gave me her place as she was unable to make the trip. She messaged me on Thursday evening to ask if I wanted it, I was lost for words (doesn’t happen often) as it was something I wanted to do for a couple of reasons, the first being a friend died recently and I wanted to do a calender in memory of her to raise money for the Marie Curie Hospice that looked after her and her husband in her last couple of months. I can never repay the debt I owe her for her kindness and friendship 12 years ago so this feels like a small token in comparison; the other being that I really wanted to experience seal diving, and what better place than a colony that was used to divers.

If anyone is going to go on one f these trips I recommend finding a camp site, hotel, B and B, or just sleeping in the car at the harbour and arriving the day before, I only live 90 miles away from Ilfracombe where Alec and Andrea run the charter from but I was up at 4.30am to make sure I had everything packed, camera was ready and to load the car, my plan was to leave at 5.30 but I wasn’t rolling out of my courtyard till 6 as I had only had about 30 mins sleep from the excitement of what was ahead.

After an easy first part of the drive up I came across road works, lots of little ones in North Devon and I arrived around 8.15, just in time to load kit onto the boat and meet the other divers. I had of course forgotten to take my wide angle lens out of the bag in the car and had to run (walk quickly in flip flops) round the harbour to the car, which was parked in a reasonably priced car park at £3.20 for the day, the main harbour car park would have worked out at £10 for the day.

I was told to wait on my side of the harbour by the ladder and they picked me up before heading off, after my experiences with flip flops and cliffs a few weeks ago (where I slipped 20ft down a cliff looking at a potential dive spot (to be written up when I get the chance)) I took my flip flops off and gingerly climbed down the ladder.

We left the harbour and were on our way

Ilfracombe Harbour

At a steady 15 knots we headed to Lundy, the boat was noisy and the divers were quiet in anticipation, or was it trying to avoid sea sickness on the hour and a quarter journey to the island.

_8011223As we saw North Devon disappear there was a brief time when it felt like being out in the middle of the Atlantic, then in a haze Lundy started to appear, it was at this time one of the best quotes of the day was mentioned and it went something like this ‘I feel fine, I don’t mind the boat going up and down so much, it is just when the boat shudders that it makes me feel like Jaws is attacking the boat.’ but I guess you would have had to be there as the boat rose, then crashed down over the wave as he said it.

The closer we got to Lundy the more beautiful it became.

Lundy Island


Then as we pulled into Brazen Ward we saw the models we were going to be diving with, and this is the start of the boring bit, I hope you have a cuppa in your hand.




After Alec gave the dive brief everyone kitted up excitedly and entered the water




Then it was a question of ignore the seals, explore the cove and let them come to us.


A kelp forest greeted us as we reached 5m and I noticed a lot of furrows


I bet you are now sitting there wondering what on earth I am wasting my time taking pics like these for, I agree but with the seals circling round us at a distance like Native Americans back in the old West, we had to be patient.



They started getting closer as they knew we weren’t a threat and then this little guy popped up



and he just wanted to play



I thought Nat was very brave sitting with this little fella so close, then I saw my worst fear, a torpedo coming at us


I stayed calm and went back to watching the little fella who was definitely not camera shy








Before I knew it about 30 mins had passed, so after waiting the first 20 mins for them to come play it was nearly time to surface and I saw Paul Scubysnaps Woodburn, an amateur (semi?) professional photographer who I had met through Facebook and had been looking forward to diving with for a long time.


and you can see why, I reckon his camera weighs more than the rest of his kit. We all exited the water by the lift on Obsession II


and were excitedly showing each other our pics and chatting about how awesome the dive was, Lesley was on the case with the tea and coffee for us and it was the 2nd best cuppa ever (can’t tell you the first but it had nothing to do with diving, over 18’s will know) and I was given a memento for breaking my seal diving virginity to stick on my keyring, to be in the special club you will have to go dive with A&A.

Alec was proud of his son who had completed his first dive with seals and he was grinning like a Cheshire cat the rest of the trip


Everyone was enjoying their lunch while we waited patiently for the SI (Surface Interval) to end and the go ahead from Alec to get back in amongst the chaos.



As we were kitting up the smell of baby talc filled the air and it looked like everyone was face painting with white paint, funny how so much more stuff is needed for wimp….I mean drysuit divers, my trusty 7mm 2 piece Beaver semi-dry was more than enough for me.


With lunch and SI over we re-entered the water even more excited than before, this time I was diving with Paul Scubysnaps Woodburn and it was going to be a funny dive, if you are bored of pictures of seals I have to warn you not to continue which is why I thought a picture of a solitary fish would break it up for you.


A few tiny fish had appeared, they would probably regret it later with the seals around, not from this one though who seemed to be asleep, rocking gently to the swell.



I was pumped, Alec and Andrea, and the crew of Obsession II had made the whole trip a great experience, apart from the speed bumps on the way out that the Captain couldn’t avoid we had been given thorough dive briefs with depth and time of the dives, how to interact with the seals and covering all aspects of who was qualified as what, O2 provider, first aiders, rescue divers and higher so everyone knew who was who.


We were being circled as soon as we entered the water, gracefully moving through the water and looking for an opening to nibble on our fins or pull off our hoods.


It was hard to ignore them this time as they came in so fast, one or two as expected with the rest circling at a distance.



Then it happened, my first fin tug of the day, I gently turned around to find this youngster seeing if I tasted good


It was such an amazing dive and I am so glad I had come, after seeing videos on Youtube about seal diving and hearing the stories from others, a bit like the fishermen who swear the big one got away, I was feeling so relaxed and excited at the same time.


As an environmental scientist and naturalist I dare anyone to dive with seals and say animals don’t have feelings, character and soul, each one was so unique and so beautiful to watch.


We cris-crossed the other divers and Nat looked more like a cave diver than an open water diver out to play with seals


Then I felt my second fin tug of the day and turned to find this little fella behind me


He decided my fin was a good substitute for a scratching post and let me scratch his belly before he swam off to find someone else to befriend.


Then I saw a jellyfish and paused a moment, having not had great success taking snaps of jellies in the past, either too small or not enough of them seen by the camera to focus on, I couldn’t resist snapping this little fella




Then I saw Ollie, a Kernow Diver on the trip and I looked at Paul and he made the motion of fin pulling, I chuckled and made the motion back of hugging, just as the seals do to your leg. As Ollie hadn’t seen me I descended down behind him and slowly caught up, gave two gentle tugs on his fin (I thought they were) and then using my wrists hugged his leg, pretending to be a seal. As he turned over he had an annoyed look on his face and I started laughing, even at 3 or 4m it is imperative to keep your regulator in your mouth but mine flew out so fast (so try not to laugh underwater), I was laughing all the way to the surface and swallowed some water, when I was on the surface Paul joined me as I was feeding the fish (being sick) and clearing the water out of my system. After a few minutes I felt better but decided to stop my dive, Paul stayed on the surface and got some amazing shots of the seals on the rocks that can be seen on his Facebook page, and his website when it has been updated.

I de-kitted and packed all my gear away, I had been in the water 36 mins before I surfaced and was still more than happy with the days diving. When everyone else came on board we had another cuppa. Then we started to head back but the Captain had seen a few of the colony in a place we hadn’t, Alec called out jokingly we were going to be nearing the outcrop when suddenly everyone ran to the front of the boat with their cameras.


Seal Colony

They were just basking on the rocks, waiting for the tide to come back in, such beautiful animals and worth every penny for the trip, even though my space was a wonderful gift from Sue, if ever diving in the UK feels boring then it is something worth doing to re-energise the passion all divers have.

A&A divers can be contacted through their Facebook page and Andrea and Alec will make sure you enjoy your experience. Thank You to everyone that made my trip possible, I have a few pictures for the calender so watch this space, if all goes well it will be released in October.

Diving Junkies