Sep 16, 2015

Fraggle Rock 29-08-2015

Finally got to dive the home of the elusive Fraggles at Fraggle Rock, just outside of Falmouth Harbour. Departure time was 4pm with Mark Milburn from Atlantic Scuba on the RHIB Stingray (starting to sound like a string of 80’s TV shows) from Mylor Harbour. We arrived at about 2 and found a sneaky place to park outside the car park for free, we would have had to pay £5 due to the time of arrival and the time the boat would have returned so Elli and I were both glad of that, we hung our wetsuits over the car (inside out) and settled down for lunch and a cuppa while we waited.

When everyone was ready we headed down to put our kit on the RHIB and then headed back to the car to get back into our slightly damp wetsuits. When we were all onboard and ready to go there was a shout from the harbour masters office about something in the water, Steve (one of the other divers on the boat) jumped in and swam over to where he was pointing, pics aren’t great as wet lens was still on with water drops trapped inside.

Bird Rescue

It turned out to be a young swift that had fallen into the water and become water logged, Steve took him up to the harbour masters office and left him on the enclosed balcony to dry off.

Swift

As far as we know it was fine and must have flown off after drying out in the sun, was a great bit of quick thinking by Steve and hopefully the little fella is now doing well back in the skies.

Then off we went, and after a few minutes I had my first sighting of Fraggle Rock lighthouse and when we pulled up to it was lucky to have caught the infamous Red Fraggle right there in the boat, she said she was visiting old memories from happier times.

fraggle_rock_01

On the way out it was discussed the route to take, and who was leading the dive, who had been there before, and of course we had the introduction to the safety gear onboard Stingray, a well kitted out RHIB. As everyone was dropping in I had time to adjust the settings on my camera, nothing worse than taking pics underwater on the wrong white balance (yes I know I should be doing custom WB by now) but then it was our turn to drop in, have to say I was nervous as this was my third boat dive and it was at a site I didn’t know but when I popped back up, gathered myself and signaled OK to the boat had to grab the boat so my camera could be passed to me, making sure to clip it on and holding it tight.

As I swam round the boat to find Elli and everyone else I was surprised to see the rock was covered in Shags or Cormorants, can never tell which through my mask, As Ellie was ready we signaled to go down and slowly we passed through the boundary that the air breathers rarely break. As we dropped it was clear the area was a massive kelp forest to the North and South and a sandy bottom off the the West into the Estuary mouth, I glanced at Elli and turned around to see a rock face in front of me, still not reaching the bottom and it looked an interesting site with all the gullies.

Fraggle Rock Elli

With being gullies there wasn’t as much natural light as I have found at other sites in the 8-14m range and my photos suffered from only having the internal flash on my Oly PEN, yes strobes are on my list of things I need, along with a new battery in my dive computer, power bands for my Aqualung Slingshots, new boots and so much more.

Fraggle_rock_wrasse_02

Elli and I followed the other divers and to be fair everyone was moving so fast it was hard to stop and take pics, but that wasn’t an issue as I would rather enjoy the dive this time, then next time I come back will be more snap happy.

We went down this gully to the left and I suddenly realised someone was tapping me on the shoulder, I had gone the wrong way (glad I could see the surface light here), so I turned around and we continued following the group, we went into a small swim through and down the entrance (which was more of a short cave opening up to a large overhang) but there was no sign of any Fraggles, they had moved out and allowed the cave to become flooded, everything was gone, no dozer constructions, no evidence of anything ever being there, and then I swam round a corner and saw a shiney white thing staring at me, I was in shock as I had found a Fraggle egg, I took it home and gave it to a good friend, she has it in an incubator in the hope it will hatch.

fraggle_egg

fraggle_rock_swim_through

There was so much life around the gullies, many species of fish, crab and even a squat lobster that was hidden in a very thin crack in the rock face, Elli was doing her usual thing of sticking her head everywhere to have found it.

fraggle_rock_squat_lobster

I didn’t get a great shot as it was too far in, the Blennie next to it was even harder to get a pic of.

fraggle_rock_blenny

It was a fun, but hard 40 minute dive, one gully had a strong current that went the wrong way, physicists can get their head round that one as I’m just glad we got in and out of it without any major issues.

spider_crab_08

fraggle_rock_wrasse

Then I saw my first sponge, beautiful and so colourful, obviously my pic doesn’t do it justice.

fraggle_rock_sponge

When we surfaced we were about 10m or so from the RHIB and had the fun of getting back onboard, Mark had been a lot of fun on the trip and was attentive when we were getting back onboard, it was a shame the dive was over and we were on our way back but after growing up with the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock it was an experience to have visited their home.

We found out that at Mylor there are warm showers outside and Elli and I used the opportunity to rinse out kit off, Elli had other thoughts on her mind and wanted to see if she could re-create Mr Softy from the mint advert by filling her suit with water, couldn’t stop laughing, and did join in and fill mine a little as it was fun, and warm.

elli_inflating_wetsuit

By the time we finished messing around, and rinsing the kit off, we headed back toward home, only to realise the sunset was amazing, so we headed to the North coast to a place called Pentire, at Newquay and we watched the final moments of the sun setting with a load of tourists and their cameras.

Cornwall_sunset_01

There are many good schools in Cornwall, and only a few charters for diving, I can’t recommend Mark at Atlantic Scuba enough though as his knowledge and genuine passion for Cornwall is second to none. If my fraggle egg hatches at my friends house, she knows it is going to be taken home to try and revive Fraggle Rock back to the glory it once was thanks to Jim Henson who managed to hide cameras in the cave and bring us their adventures.

 

Sep 12, 2015

Castle Beach Falmouth 29-08-2015

First dive back in Cornwall for Elli was at Castle beach, Falmouth, this was after her long and tedious journey from London by train to St Austell where I met her on Friday night. We both crashed early on Friday and got up at silly o’clock for breakfast and to head down to Falmouth to sort out kit hire from Seaways at an amazing price for complete kit for the weekend, the kit was in excellent condition as well and Elli was so excited with the weekend diving ahead that the passion was burning in her eyes.

Elli at Castle Beach, Falmouth

It was unfortunate that the tides were out of sync with the day, highs at about 6am and pm so as you can see it was shallow at about 11.30am when we were kitting up, but sometimes the depth of the dive isn’t important, in fact in my opinion it never is, I was happy as long as Elli was happy back in the water, the last diving she had done a few months ago was in the Maldives and I was stuck here in Cornwall, no I’m not jealous Elli honest :p

It would have been good to find the U-boat again but it wasn’t important, it was a shakedown dive for Elli in her hire kit before the dive later that day which will be in the next blog post. We made our way down to the waters edge, having to avoid the tourists who pointed and told their kids we were mad scuba divers, a sad way to introduce something new to a child, but hey ho. Was a nice elderly gent who was a diver with his wife and he couldn’t believe UK waters had so much life (at high tide), oh the warm water divers have so much to learn.

Saying that though, it was low tide and I wasn’t expecting to see that much, as most divers and brainy marine biologist types know the critters follow the food, and the food follows the tides (in a simplistic way).

Castle Beach, Falmouth

After we had kitted up and done our buddy check we made our way down the easy access to the beach and down over the rocks of the first reef from the beach, then I had a play with above and below shots while waiting for Elli as we swam out over the second reef, vis didn’t look great and we had already agreed if it was too bad that we would spend a few minutes on the bottom so she could check her buoyancy and write off the dive, but what is above is not always the same down below and I’m gutted I didn’t take more shots, but making sure Elli was OK was more important on this dive.

Castle Beach Falmouth

I knew we were going to be lucky to get 5-6m at this time of day and as Elli and I looked at each other and signaled to go down I knew it was still going to be fun.

Scuba Diver

The vis wasn’t too bad considering the un-settled weather we have had again this year, about 3m or so and we carried on the dive, Falmouth is a great place to dive with so many sites near to the shops to get air-fills, it is just shallow unless you go out on the boats. As I was concentrating on Elli and making sure she was OK I didn’t get many pics, but we did have fun chasing a Hermit Crab around for a while, and we saw plenty of smaller fish, such as a young flounder about 3 inches long, a lot of smaller shoals of fish I don’t know as well as a shoal of sand eels.

hermit_crab_03

Hermit Crab

Our bottom time was about 45 minutes and I had started with about 240 bar, finished with just over 170, the whole yoga/meditation breathing of 2 seconds in and 5 seconds out from the diaphragm while diving makes so much more sense than diving with more air just to keep the bottom time up, but I am definitely not the one to talk to about how to do it, I may have meditated for years on and off but have only started putting the principle into practice this year while diving and have no where near enough dives to be confident with it myself yet; there are plenty of yoga tutorials online and many experienced divers who have the technique down to a fine art that have also put something on the internet about it.

Elli was beaming when we came out, it was a great dive to get back in the water for her, and she had kit she wasn’t used to but controlled her buoyancy and breathing like a pro.

We had a cuppa while sorting our kit out by the car and headed back to Seaways for air as our next dive left the dock at 4pm and we didn’t want to be late, even though it was about 1 when we left Castle beach.

Jul 15, 2015

Trenow Cove

Trenow Cove

Trenow Cove (a National Trust owned cove in Mount’s Bay) is a beautiful spot to explore near the tip of the SW UK near Marazion, Penzance; looking west from the beach you see St Michael’s Mount in the middle of the bay, I left home at 8.30am to avoid the traffic and arrive at the car park of the Dynasty restaurant for 10am to meet up with everyone else so we could make our way down to the cove in convoy. It was going to be an exciting adventure as it was one of those spots that aren’t talked about often in the diving world, and later in the day with our maximum depth at 6.4m can understand why.

When I arrived at the meeting place at the Dynasty restaurant I was surprised to be as early as I was, I thought being that early that the main roads would be busier even though I missed the 9-5er’s, I was glad to see Mat waiting before I got there which meant I wasn’t the eager beaver, and Mat knows all about them. I was wondering if the restaurant knew they were about to have about 10 or more vehicles turn up that early but it wasn’t the end of the world, and they got a mention here (not a link as I didn’t try their food though, next time), as 10am approached a few more people turned up.

We were all introducing ourselves with the people who were new to a Dive Against Debris dive and catching up with everyone that was when Rob decided it was time to make a move, and off we went through the narrowest of lanes and a quaint Cornish village with a few slightly older people tending the garden and hedges at the small church looking perplexed with a convoy of vehicles passing by; it might be worth getting magnetic Project Aware/Dive Against Debris signs made up for cars that turn up at events and sticking them on the bonnets, or something to put in the windows at the least to advertise what we are doing to the poor people who get inundated by our presence.

When we arrived at the top of the path to the cove we were lucky with so many of us to be able to park in the field above it, Rachel (Rob’s wife) was the little woodland elf holding the tree back as we drove in and we all quickly unloaded and waited at the top of the path to the beach for the dive briefing by Rob.

Dive Against Debris Briefing

Our youngest diver, Charlie, was enjoying a doughnut in the sun but this time she wasn’t diving with us, she would be surface swimming and helping with the beach clean, and enjoying the sunshine; did miss her home made cake this time, hopefully next time she will remember so we can all stuff our faces after the dive on the yumminess that she normally brings along.

dive_against_debris_charlie

Off we went to kit up, I did make a rookie mistake and left my gloves ontop of my bag (so much for a thorough buddy check Rob 😉 ), luckily I hadn’t put my fins on but running back up the pebble covered beach with my kit on reminded me why I would shortly be glad to get in the water and become weightless. As we walked in through the small waves the vis issue was clear, well not clear vis, but clear it was going to be a struggle to see much, the amount of organic particulate matter made it look a bit like a sewer was flowing freely nearby, but there wasn’t and it was just broken up kelp/seaweed making the water really brown.

We knew we would have to swim out about 20m or so from the shore as there was a clear line the particulate matter cleared, we were still in for a shock though as we dropped down.

Wrasse

The vis was no more than about 5m, but most of the time it was 2-3m and during the dive it was easy with a couple of gentle fin kicks to lose Rob, who I was lucky enough to buddy with again, if it hadn’t been for the smb line and bubbles I might have had to surface more than twice during the 70 minute dive so it was lucky we were only at 6-7m, any deeper and it would have ruined the dive and the day.

I have been meditating a lot recently and my breathing has become a lot more controlled, ontop of that I started doing press ups and squats again, as well as a 1km jog in between 2 sets which hasn’t been easy but it has made me feel better and I look forward to the next few months as I build the number of reps I can do, as well as bring in other exercises to the routine. The confidence this gave me in controlling my breathing has been awesome, and while only a shallow dive I was over the moon as I watched my air go down a lot slower than the last dive.

Am not sure why there wasn’t much life around, the kelp beds should have been brimming but I did see a few wrasse, not sure which sub and they were too fast for me this time to capture with the camera, but no other species of fish, was it just unlucky or timing, I don’t know, however the beach was littered with cuttle bones and with the way the reef dropped away to a sandy bed about 35-40m from the shore it will definitely be a place to come back to when there are cuttles in the cove. There were a few spider crab and common spiny starfish, as well as plenty of snakelock anemones.

Spider Crab

Common Spiny Starfish

This clearly shows the amount of particulate matter in the water and how hard it was to spot things like this starfish within the 20-30m from the shoreline.

Snakelock Anemone

There were some areas the vis was clearer though, and on one part of the reef there was a whole colony of snakelocks covering it (just a small bit here) which made for some stunning shots as they gently swayed in the tidal stream.

Snakelock Anemone

So down to the rubbish, it was surprising that there wasn’t actually very much, and what there was seemed more like stuff from local residential waste than commercial, or from other places around the globe. I didn’t find any fishing lines or hooks, commercial fishing gear or anything like but only plastic bags partly buried in the sand or parts of floating in the water column, I am waiting to hear back from Rachel and Rob about what was collected overall, it wasn’t a lot even though there were 6 teams of divers in the water. Rob and I did manage to find a major brand baby wipes packet and a Frozen Turkey bag from a well known supermarket, the rest was just pieces of plastic bags as I said, it would seem Trenow cove was in just the right spot for the majority of debris to either get washed up straight onshore, or swept by the currents somewhere else in Penzance Bay.

Plastic Bag

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dive_against_debris_tc_rob

As you can see the vis wasn’t great but we did our best to find what we could.

The beach clean team managed to find a lot more stuff, ranging from the small pieces of buoy plastic to commercial fishing nets and lobster pots as you would expect so close to a major fishing port.

Toasting the Cove

As we were getting out we were informed that the National Trust wanted us to ‘Toast the Cove’, we obliged and it was refreshing after the dive.

dive_against_debris_toasting_the_cove_national_trust

It was a fun day and dive, I enjoyed being Rob’s dive buddy again, even though that is Dave in the picture with him in front of St Michael’s Mount, it seems the others on the shore are scared to try using my camera.

We left Trenow Cove and headed to Cape Cornwall for a second dive, another beautiful spot and I made it there but some personal stuff came up and I had to leave before getting wet, am gutted as it was a stunning place that I don’t get the chance to visit often, next time folks, next time.

Cape Cornwall

Cape Cornwall

With the importance of our oceans, not only as habitats but also as a space we share on this small planet, the more people that can come to the events is important, even though we only cover a small area during the dive and on the shore, working together as divers and shore cover (beach cleaners) to remove as much as we can while we wait for global policy to change on the dumping of waste, working together we can make a difference, and after doing my Environmental Science degree over 10 years ago with the same warnings being given as now, with policy moving so slowly it is down to us to make the changes needed, not only in educating people as to the importance of the oceans, but also to the importance of not dropping our trash where we like. Sure the systems in place need changing, companies need to change what they use to package goods, councils need to recycle more of what we throw away instead of what the companies can make money off, but each small step we make will move things in the right direction.

project_aware_plastics

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