Apr 13, 2014

Secret Dive Spot 12/04/2014

Kurt and I were planning on doing an early morning dive tomorrow because the weather this weekend, along with the calm sea made for almost ideal conditions, I say almost because we are still plagued in the UK by a lot of particulate matter in the water column making vis extremely poor at less than 1m.

scuba_diver_9

Kurt had finished with family things earlier today than he thought he would and suggested we go for a dive today instead so after a mad panic getting all my gear together and setting up my camera we headed off to one of our secret dive spots that at most is 7-8m at high tide, but as I hadn’t been in since last August we decided it was best.

When we arrived just after high tide we kitted up faster than superman could fly, so excited about getting wet for the first time in ages and glad my semi-dry still fitted, the 7mm though not the 5mm I used in 2C at Vobster February last year.

Buddy check and we were off, almost running down the beach to get in. We already knew where we were going (and the way back) so as we indicated to each other we were ready to go down I couldn’t help but smile and must have looked like a Cheshire cat from behind my regs.

I was aware I was going to have a few issues with my buoyancy after such a long break and hitting the sand before I could clear my ears made me realise how out of practice I was. This wasn’t going to stop us though, and we had agreed to be in the water no longer than 30 mins so it gave me a good dive time but not too long even though we would only reach a max depth of 5-6m with the tide going out, meaning our air would last well over an hour.

Critters on the dive.

With the tide on the way out we knew there wouldn’t be as many critters as we usually see there and we were right, with a couple of nice surprises near the end of the dive. There were plenty of starfish, and some beautiful anemones like all the dive sites round Cornwall, so as to not let you down I took a few pics.

tiny_starfish

Anenome1

Anenome3 Open

Anenome2

After weaving in and out of the reef Kurt found a well hidden but beautiful anemone.

Anenome4 Open

Then there were lots of small green eggs, I believe they are from a worm that mainly lives on the South coast of the UK but I saw last year on a Seasearch dive on the North coast.

Worm Egg

The torch holder from Alex was worth its weight in gold, it made it so much easier to see under rocks with the camera ready to snap anything hidden there, as well as aiding the auto-focus as I hoped it would. It was just a shame we were on the wrong side of the tide with a slightly improved vis at around 2m and that I had forgotten the piece of plastic I was going to use to diffuse the light as can be seen with the large white spot in the photos. I do need a tray with handles next as my wrist was cramping up after about 10 minutes so will be calling on my friendly Nauticam dealer when I have finished sorting my new car out.

We found a branch that was about 9ft long and Kurt posed for the shot I am going to call ‘You shall not pass!’

You Shall Not Pass

After about 20 minutes weaving in and out of the reef in a South-Westerly direction we headed in an Easterly direction out across the sand to where we knew a rowing boat was anchored, on the way I saw the flash of 2 very small eyes staring at me, about a foot from my face and a small black cloud appeared and it sped off away from me; I suddenly became like a discover scuba diver and glanced over my shoulder to see Kurt and slowly started chasing what I knew to be a baby cuttlefish. I saw it burying itself into the sand and spread my fins to slow down as I was trying to find it on my small 3″ screen, wished I had a viewer on my camera at that point as I couldn’t find it and when I looked up could see it speeding off into the distance. As I was kicking myself in the backside (in my mind) for missing my favourite little critter I saw the unmistakeable lips and eyes of a Flounder staring at me.

Flounder_3

I waited patiently with my light shining on him for Kurt to see what I was pointing at when it lifted (as they do) and sped off so we couldn’t eat it, not that we would have, I did manage to just catch this though, one of my best photos taken so far I think.

Flounder_4

I’m not sure if it was, but back on the reef I saw what looked like Maerl, it isn’t a great shot but found it very strange being this far from known Maerl beds, there was quite a bit of it spread around the area that I hadn’t seen here last year.

Mearl_2

So back to the boat, Kurt was guiding us and keeping an eye on out on our heading after I had chased the cuttlefish like a child in a sweet shop and I could see he wanted us to head slightly North-East and just like a pro he hit us right on the anchor, I still think it was more luck as it was dragging with the tide.

Dragging Anchor

After a few minutes of some attempts at some arty shots with the boat and a model that couldn’t stop grinning ear to ear.

Rowing Boat

scuba_diver_010

We headed in North-Westerly direction and started to surface to find ourselves right back in the beach on the right hand side. Divers will know how I feel right now after not being in the water since August, and I hope the smile on my face and glint in my eyes will show my non-diver friends what they are missing. If all goes well I will be in the water in the next 3 or 4 days and I will need to start widening doorways to get my smile through 😉

Mar 23, 2014

Water quality around the South-West

As everyone is aware the vis has been really bad around the UK over the last few weeks since the storms, especially so in the South-West and some divers have reported 2-5m in some areas but the normal level has been 0.5m-1m and it can clearly be seen from the surface that it is extremely milky.

The amount of runoff from the river catchments has been high due to the excessive rainfall we have had since the start of December but this would be expected to clear within a week or 2 from the time the rainfall ended as the waterlogged ground drained. This hasn’t happened and the water has remained milky without falling out in an expected time frame, so this brings into question what the issue is and what is (are) the contaminant(s) that is creating the problem.

I have trawled through the various agency sites looking for answers but have found none, one possibility that occurred to me was the palm oil that is dumped as the high volume of cargo ships clean out their ballast tanks, I do not think this is the most likely cause though as the amount of palm oil would be in the many millions of  tons to cause it to last this long. Another possible cause is something in the sediment that has been released as the many billions of tons of sand around the South-West was disturbed back into the water column, the heavier sand and pollutants falling out quickly leaving this milky substance that is ruining our pleasure of the sea at present.

I am going to be getting onto the Environment agency and Devon and Cornwall councils in the next few days to see if they would be willing to run some water quality tests over the next month or so, outside of their normal testing dates, to find the cause and to find if it is harmful in any way. As of yet none of the DivingJunkies in the South-West have grown 2 heads or complained of anything when they have come out of very short and uneventful dives but without knowing what it is, and if there is any longer term exposure issues it is best to say that everyone needs to be careful when they are diving, to try not to consume large amounts of sea water and to make sure they shower as soon as possible after their dive.

Will keep you updated when I find out more.

Focus Light Mount on a Budget

I started thinking about my underwater photography at night and how much of a pain it had been focusing on things without help from others shining their torches or fumbling with the camera in one hand and a torch in the other, so I started looking for a focus light mount to go on the cold shoe adapter on my housing, you know the one that looks like it holds a flash.

Edible Crab hiding

At first I was shocked by the price, £50 for the adapter and another £50 for the clamp to hold the light (plus delivery) and I was looking in all the usual haunts, Cameras Underwater, Bristol Cameras and then Ebay but they all came back the same, an extremely high price for something that I had a feeling would cost less than £2 if manufactured overseas and delivered to the UK if made in plastic. So I then started looking at other solutions and found a clamp for 50p delivered from China (it was too small in the end), and I was in a large market near where I live and one of the stalls had some screwdriver extensions with a thinner version of the loc-line for £1 and I was about to order a cold shoe mount with large thread to resin into the base of the loc-line when I started discussing it on a Facebook group I am a member of.

I explained what I was looking for and that I was happy to build it if anyone knew how, and how much I was willing to spend on a new one not expecting what came next, a guy called Alex joined in the conversation from a company called Underwater Visions, they mainly deal with Nauticam gear in the UK which I didn’t know at the time, and he said he would look into it and see what he could come up with. The next day I had a message and he said he had found something but it didn’t look pretty, my reaction was a little withdrawn as I was expecting it to be uglier than I looked the morning after back in my student days. I kindly asked him to be patient for my next payday and he had no problem with that.

So about a week or so later I contacted Alex to let him know I had the money and how did he want paying, we sorted that by online bank transfer and I sat back waiting thinking it would be 3 or 4 days. I had actually forgotten I was waiting for a parcel and was annoyed at the Postman for knocking so loud the next day. Bleary eyed I went to the door and scribbled something on the screen of that little digital box they carry around, said Thanks and shut the door holding a package that I had no idea could be. I stumbled into the kitchen and filled the kettle, oblivious to the solution to my focus light mount issue being right under my nose.

Alex’s attitude when chatting to him on Facebook had been one of an old school shop keeper, an extremely friendly chap who just wanted to help, and with dealing with higher end gear wasn’t offended by someone looking for a cheaper option, I think he understands some divers don’t have thousands to spend on strobe arms and trays, but just because it is cheaper it doesn’t mean it isn’t something that will do the job well, or well enough for those of us with extremely limited budgets.

I made my morning tea and sat down still looking blankly at this package that had 24hr delivery stamped on it, so I pulled open the envelope and tipped out a box and sheet of paper, it still didn’t sink in. When I looked at the paper it was clear what it was and suddenly it felt like Christmas, I opened the box and with a thud a little bundle of goodies fell to the table. I ran out to the car to get my (cheap Chinese) dive torch which is going to be my focusing light and checked it fitted in the clamp, it is made of molded plastic for all its parts with an aluminium 3 inch cold shoe mount (YS or Sea and Sea style join).

Focus Light Mount

By the time I had placed it on my housing, set the camera up and tried it out my tea had gone cold but that was the least of my worries, the weather here in the South West UK has been atrocious with 20m+ swells and 60mph+ winds meaning it is going to be a while before I get to try it.

Focus Light Mount on HousingMany Thanks to Alex for saving me a lot of time making something I have a feeling would break (which is why I was using my cheap Chinese torch) you can contact him at info@uwvisions.com and you won’t regret it.