Night Dive at the Silver Steps 03-08-2013

So last week Kernow divers organised a night dive, weather dependent of course, and 8 club members said they would go. It came to today (Saturday) and during the day for one reason or another 4 dropped out (and they missed a great dive) and so we were down to 4, Kurt had decided at 7pm that he was going to come and we had a nice little group. We met at the car park above Silver Steps on Pendennis point at 9.30 and chatted as we kitted up waiting for anyone else to join us.

The tide was going out, so we knew we would get a max depth of 6-7m if we were lucky and had to clamber over the rocks in the dark but sometimes with diving it isn’t the depth that is important but what you get to see and the company you are with. The vis was amazing for down this way, about 5m clearly with the decent torches and would probably have been a lot further in daylight, not a bad throw on them; basic outlines were clear at about 2-3m without any light.

I had decided to try my camera without the wide angle wet lens, mainly to see the difference of the casing of the lens casting a shadow over the subject and it not getting enough lighting.  I was quite pleased with the results but did find it harder to frame things and sometimes that meant they moved out of shot before I could snap them.

Plankton on the night dive.

There was a lot of plankton in the water and it was amazing to see all the little zoo-plankton darting about, can only imagine the life and death struggles and territory wars that they were having as we swam through them, I just hope I managed to break a few up and peace lasted for a brief time.

The main thing I noticed was the number of small crabs all over the kelp and seaweed, they were obviously up high to catch their food as it unsuspectingly drifted by but they were amazing little things, leech spider crabs I think I was told, and it didn’t matter where I looked they were there.

Leech Spider Crab out to feed on the night dive.

Leech spider crab just hanging in the breeze on the night dive.

So the plan was to leave the gully and swim to the left, toward some wreckage, look around the gullies and see what we could see, on the way out it was pretty calm but without the weight of the wet lens on my housing it was very buoyant and a couple of times during the dive it got caught around my neck as I was untangling weed from my legs. It was a bit freaky the first time, not because it strangled me, I actually didn’t notice that it was but I thought it had become disconnected and as I span around looking up to try and spot it it became tighter round my neck, then I noticed where it was and stopped, took a couple of deep breaths and unwrapped it, thinking to myself I won’t be doing that again but I did later.

Snakelock anemone and scorpion fish captured beautifully on the night dive.

I couldn’t help myself taking photos of more snakelock anemones, they are so pretty waving in the current, and if you gently touch one of the tentacles the others wrap themselves round your finger so fast, an amazing thing to see. I didn’t notice till I got home that this anemone had a small fish just next to it, a juvenile as I had seen a larger one at Little Fistral on the last night dive. If I had used the wide angle lens I would have probably zoomed further in and it would have been in shadow from the casing of the lens so wouldn’t have spotted it.

We got to the wreckage, not the boiler but something else they had headed for and I gave up trying to get shots of everyone as the light was too poor, definitely need some strobes soon, but we came across the resident John dory and he was so relaxed with us near him that he let me get fairly close to get these shots.

John Dory taken on the night dive.

john Dory full side view on the night dive.

I have a new found respect for these fish, when Kurt and I first saw one at Gyllyngvase a few weeks ago we thought it looked prehistoric but catching it at night shows just how beautiful they really are because the light reflects off their skin slightly iridescent, almost like you could see your reflection in it.

I did get many more photos of things but as always it is hard to choose what to put in, was great being with the guys though, everyone was spotting for each other and if they caught something interesting they would stay in position with their light on it, am pretty sure a few things managed to get into cover before we all got to see it.

On the way back I was paying close attention to my air, I was on 85 bar after my panic over my camera earlier and I was aware I am still using more air than I normally would with taking shots of as much as I can. The tide was on the turn and there was a little surge but then everyone just stopped and right below us was a shark like thing just lying there, probably hoping we hadn’t noticed it.

Bull huss Catshark taken at silver steps night dive.

The first photo was taken from about 2m away and I only had one torch lighting it from the side and the internal flash on the camera, it was so peaceful just lying there in the weed obviously waiting for something big enough to eat, and as I lowered myself slightly so I was hovering just above the seabed I took a few more photos of it, I will only post one more though as I know I have bored my friends on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ already.


I had managed to move in so my camera was about a foot away and I had to zoom out to get this shot but it shows how awesome they are to look at, and I said Thanks and waved as I left it to forage for its dinner. As I was moving away I saw a crab dart under some weed, I was getting way too excited nearing the end of this night dive and as I was getting used to the zoom on the camera thought I would carefully pull the weed back to snap him as well, he had clearly been in a fight and lost his claws.

Poor crab lost its claws fighting.

Thinking we were in the original gully Ben signaled for us to surface but we found we had come up one too early, I looked at my air again and saw I was down to 50 bar so stayed on the surface and swam over the reef keeping the guys in view all the time. Another great experience and an awesome reason that a night dive in Cornwall can bring many surprises, so lucky to live here.

Jul 30, 2013

U-Boat Wreck Dive off Castle Beach 27-07-2013

Today was great at 6.30am, a little cloudy but bright, Kurt picked me up at 7.30am and off we went with one dive location in mind and one goal to obtain, our first U-boat wreck dive; might not be the best in the world to go looking for, but isn’t the worst. UB 128 just off Castle beach at Falmouth it was, and after reading Mark Milburn’s Guide to a few wrecks and dives around Falmouth Kurt was confident we would find it.

Castle Beach, Falmouth

We arrived to find the street almost empty, well worth an early dive time. Kitting up by the car Kurt got chatting about how interesting it was reading about UB-128 on the net and how much info there was, I had a look later and found that it only did 2 tours, sank a 1 7,400 tonne ship in that time and was captained by one Wilhelm Canaris, as well as where it was made, that it was a type III and a few other things on It also showed that there are 5 or 6 U-boat wrecks in the bay and around Pendennis so we now have a mission to find them all.

As I was swimming away from the shore I saw Kurt going off to the side, when I asked him why he wasn’t 90 degrees to the shore he said he was to the marks in the location guide; I took the pic above and then swam over to join him so we were going in the same direction. After a minute or so as I was looking down to see the sea bed I saw the cleared area we had been told to watch out for and then the unmistakeable shape of  part of the hull came into view, I glanced over to Kurt and shouted I was right on top of it as he was about 10m away from me and excited at finding our first wreck we signaled to go down and slowly let the air out of our BC’s.


I had brought my camera along, and Kurt his gopro as you will see shortly with his short edited video. It was so intriguing to look at the different parts of what was left of the pressure hull, kind of like a rib cage lain out on the sea bed. The amount of life that had decided it was going to be home was amazing, there was a huge wrasse inside that was too difficult to photograph and many smaller fish, shrimp, bryazoa, hydroids and many more. Below are a few pictures I took, I will return to get clearer shots of the overall hull at a slightly later date.







It was an amazing dive, we both had 15l tanks and as it had been hot lately I was wearing my 5/4 Excel wetsuit again, yes a wetsuit here in UK waters twice in one summer. We were both examining things around the wreck, Kurt saw the window affect of the structure and the last shot is amazing I think, looks a bit like my fish tank (without the fish in this case).

OK so then we were just pottering about as you do, looking into the holes, taking pics of fish and the like, when all of a sudden I saw a very tiny but familiar shape speed past me to my left, I followed it with my gaze and suddenly stopped dead, it was a tiny cuttlefish, not very old yet it had full control over its chromatophores and one instant it was almost impossible to see as it was the same colour of the sand, then a black line waved from the back to the front and back and suddenly it was gone again. I turned to face curt and raised 2 fingers in horns and wiggled the others like the tentacles of the cuttlefish and Kurt nodded, I pointed to where it was last and we both slowly moved nearer, me with my arms outstretched with the camera to try and get a shot. That was when it just went black and suddenly appeared in front of us, I managed to get 3 shots but it moved so fast that the camera had problems focusing on it, the background looks crisp though and this was the best shot I feel I got of it.


As it was my first cuttlefish in 2 years I was over the moon that our first U-boat wreck dive had been such a success, finding it and seeing so many awesome things, I can’t wait till we find all the others.


Saw this strange anemone, was a few of them around buried in the sand near the wreck as well as snakelocks and an even stranger red one.



We had some fun with the gopro for a bit and took some other photos of interesting things, I managed to catch this rare specimen.


Yet it managed to wrestle the camera out of my hands and when I hunted it down and got home found it had taken this.


Kurt had a lot of footage from the gopro and while we were playing around Kurt suddenly tapped my shoulder pointing at a clump of seaweed, at first I couldn’t see what he was pointing at but then it came into view.


Quietly staying still I managed to get a couple of nice shots close up


He decided we couldn’t see him, or that we weren’t a threat and came out of his hiding place, so Kurt and I followed, carefully trying not to spook him too much and it was a good 5 minutes so can imagine how many photos I have of this beautiful Red Gurnard, a few more are below.




We had been in the water for about 45 minutes now and had hit 8m or so, I was starting to get a little chilly in my arms, obviously from the wetsuit as it kept flushing but I saw these 2 little goby and they were performing a dance around the same piece of seaweed and up the slope so I stopped a moment and they were oblivious to me as I gently rested my camera on the top of the slope to catch them and got this cool photo.


With that shot in hand I signaled to Kurt I was getting too cold so we gently made our way to the surface and on the surface swim back to the beach we couldn’t stop talking about the Gurnard, but we weren’t sure what it was at the time. It was another awesome dive and with our teas poured it was time to de-kit, it was then that Kurt noticed his knife was missing and we spent a bit of time hunting for it but couldn’t so if anyone finds a folding blade dive knife, black and silver between the shore and around UB-128 can they send me a message and one of us will come and collect it.

Here is the video that Kurt made of our latest dive, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

The great guides by Mark Milburn gave us our first successful wreck dive, and after we had our burger at Iguana Grill just round the corner from the beach we headed home.

Jul 22, 2013

Kernow Divers Scuba Diving Club Day 14-07-2013

In the middle of this sweltering hot July, Keith from Kernow Divers came up with the idea of running a scuba diving club day BBQ, as well as clearing a few skills for some members Rescue courses. Swanpool was chosen for ease of parking, great beach, cafe and the bay having an abundance of life.

Swanpool Beach

Jason brought the Trout along and quite a few club members turned up (too many to list), some with their partners and it was an interesting start to the day.

Dive Boat, The Trout

Kernow Divers Diving in Cornwall

Yet I should really start at the beginning, we had arranged to meet at 10am as I was going to be the unconscious diver for the Rescue course skills and it was planned to get it done early and out of the way so we could enjoy the day. As it had been a hot night, about 30C in my bedroom with the windows open and fan on I hadn’t slept very well and woke late, starting a morning at home of calamity on top of calamity. I finally got going at about 10.30 and was praying to Poseidon for clear traffic, which it was apart from one holiday maker with their caravan who insisted driving at 40mph on 60mph roads with no other traffic around but no where to overtake thanks to the bends and junctions in the road. Then all the traffic lights around Truro were against me, last time Poseidon gets any prayers of mine as the god of the sea and my faith is now going to the great spaghetti monster.

Rescue Course Skills

When I got there at about 11.20 there was already a couple in the water and Keith was running through some of the skills with the guys doing the Rescue course and with the number of people there I wasn’t actually needed in the end anyway so I donned my gear to join other divers and ended up following Keith and the others around on the surface taking some pics, was a great sight seeing a female duck and her brood enjoying a paddle around the bay but when they headed for the beach to get out there was too many people moving in to see and she turned them around and took them out on the rocks. I did manage to get reasonably close to get the one sneaky photo.

Happy Duck and her Ducklings

It was really nice floating around on the surface and snapping things, should have just put my mask and snorkel on and had some fun but me being me didn’t think that way, was worth it for the practice with the camera though, as you can see from my duck pic that I haven’t got the arms outstretched and level technique sorted, even in millpond conditions.

Rescueing an unconscoius diver practice

Keith demonstrating recovering an unconscious diver from the bottom, what isn’t seen in this photo are the DM’s and Instructors that were with him helping the Rescue divers go through all this in the water. Everyone that was on the course successfully completed all the skills, only a couple of people had to repeat a skill, with everyone working together and Keith’s clear instruction they understood their mistakes and at mid day Keith called time for lunch, great timing as always because I am sure the quiver across the surface of the bay was everyone’s stomachs. We also now have 8 Rescue divers in the club to go with the 8 DM’s and 8 Instructors.

Scuba Diving Club Day continued…

After lunch some of the club members went off on the Trout to a reef that was a little further to swim than anyone wanted to in the heat, leaving 4 of us to dive around the bay and we decided for a change that we would go straight out to the Eel Grass beds and we were lucky as Clare Marshall, one of our resident Marine Biologists was with us.

Clare, one of our resident Marine Biologists at Kernow Divers

With the bay only getting to about 7 or 8m at high tide, it is a very shallow dive site but there are plenty of things to see if you go left or right along the rocky reefs; yet not knowing about the Eel Grass would make you miss the whole little ecosystem that exists in the middle out across the sand. It was good diving with Paul as he knew where the bed was and it wasn’t long before we found it.

Unidentified Seaweed amongst the Eel Grass Bed

Small clumps of Eel Grass, as can be seen in the pic above top right were in front of us as far as the eye could see and with a good 10-12m vis at least, as we moved forward it was clear this spread over a vast area. We only got to a max depth of around 3.2m as the tide was on its way out and the water temperature was a beautiful 16C, part of the reason I was only wearing my 5/4 Excel wetsuit that I normally wear surfing.

Scuba Diver Paul Freeman Examining the Eel Grass off Swanpool Beach

We spotted a strange crab that Paul hadn’t seen before and as Clare and Mat had gone to the left and we had gone to the middle we couldn’t ask her what it was.

Unknown Crab amongst the Eel Grass

The pieces sticking up were part of its mouth and not something it had added like other crabs for camouflage, I was amazed at how many Bi-Valves were in the sand which I think were Ensis ensis (Razor clam) or something similair, literally everywhere and as we swam over they closed up and buried themselves slightly deeper. The reason I liked them so much was the way they reminded me of the Sarlacc pit in Return of the Jedi and I could just see little things getting caught under the jaws.

Bi Valve

Bi Valve

Paul and I were having a great time and to be honest I was examining the beds and often forgot to take a photo of what I had seen, it was a bit worrying to see so many Echiichthys vipera (Lesser Weever) fish though that would suddenly come shooting out of the sand and swim off a few metres and re-bury themselves, I managed to capture one shot of a rather large one but they were very quick.

Lesser Weaver Fish at Swanpool Beach

The look on Paul’s face was priceless when we spotted a couple of happy crabs.

Scuba Diving with Paul Freeman

Yet trying not to disturb them I moved in for a shot, the male seemed to think I was there to take his place and he danced around the bed trying to hide his prize female from me.

Mating Crabs amongst the Eel Grass Bed at Swanppol Beach

It was such a fun dive that I wasn’t paying much attention to the battery on my camera, Paul came over to me and tapped me on the shoulder pointing at something that looked a little strange to me (no not my reflection in a mirror) and as I moved in closer could see it was some slug like creature, I went to take a shot and my screen was black so i started to panic thinking I had a flood and killed my camera but it was bone dry. Paul wrote on his  board that it was a Sea Hare, I was gutted as I hadn’t seen one before. We carried on looking around for a few more minutes and I just couldn’t get back into it, I looked at my air and still had 120 bar left, this was 45 minutes into the dive so I signaled Paul a T and made the gesture of drinking, his first response was to tell me his air, I shook my head and made it clear we should have a break for a tea as we had plenty of air left for another dive, he still had 140 bar.

After a break and a great cuppa from the cafe it was decided to go look for a lobster or 2, we had a rough idea where one was and it wasn’t any deeper than 2m around the reef. What started out being a 20 min dive turned into another 42 min one and I still had 60 bar left when I came out. It was amazing around the kelp bed to the right of the beach, plenty of life and we did find the lobster but he didn’t want to come out of his cave. I hadn’t taken my camera as I hadn’t changed the battery, with no fresh water till i got home I wasn’t going to open it up.

It must have been around 18.30-19.00 when Paul and I were sorting our kit out in the car park and everyone else had left, it was a great scuba diving club day even though we didn’t break out the BBQ’s and if anyone in Cornwall wants to dive more regularly I can highly recommend Kernow Divers because for £10 membership, free shore dives and only a donation toward fuel for the club boat you couldn’t ask for a better bunch of people from all walks of life to dive with.