May 10, 2013

St Agnes Diving with Seasearch

Seasearch diving St Agnes VMCA

As always I was running a little late and managed to park in the free car park at St Agnes without running over anyone’s kit, it was great to finally meet some more of the Seasearch divers and they all seemed like a fun bunch. The dive briefing held by Angie at the shoreline was brief but well explained and we were guided to where our surface swim would take us to drop on the old harbour wall. The other groups had already gone when Andy (my buddy) and I got our briefing and into the water, we had already discussed that at 100 bar we would be turning around to come back to the wall to surface, and so started our surface swim and I was really excited with the number of things I was about to see.

It was a beautiful evening slowly swimming out to the point, the sky was clear and the sea was as flat as a pancake, building the anticipation as we neared the end of our 6-8 min swim. I had to laugh because I was keeping an eye on Andy yet when I looked over my shoulder to see the point, I kept drifting toward him and had to adjust my direction but we reached the drop in, looked at each other, signaled and slowly started to descend.

I wish I had taken my camera, but had been advised on my first 2 Seasearch dives not to as there was a lot of information to write down and sketching the map would get hectic, I was glad I had taken the advice on-board as it was hectic; as soon as we dropped onto the top of the old wall I could see I was in for an interesting dive where I was going to learn a lot.

The Kelp Forest ontop of the wall was a little misleading, it looked barren underneath, but looking toward the bottom of the wall where the Kelp was sprawled as far as the eye could see there were so many things all over the rocks, it was like my fist time into an underwater paradise. All this was hidden beneath the waves at St Agnes where most people that visited the beach would never even know it was there.

Andy was pointing things out to me as we swam along the wall; from the 5 species of Sponge, the Double Spiral Worm colonies crammed into the nooks in the wall, an Edible crab the width of my shoulders, which waved at me to warn me to stay away with a claw the size of my hand, and I was taking the time to look at the inhabitants of this small area of the dive and it was fascinating. We carried on further along the wall, Andy was snapping away with his camera  and it opened up past the Kelp bed to an area of gravelly sand with many species of Seaweed, empty Shells and plenty of Common Spiny Starfish which all looked like they had a weight issue from the plentiful food around them. I also spotted something bright green from a distance attached to a piece of seaweed on a lone rock in the sand, Andy took a photo of it for me and we later found it is was the eggs to a Green Leaf Worm which are found more abundantly on the South Coast.

We generally swam in a North-Westerly direction from our descent and after a good 25 minutes we changed to a South-Westerly direction heading back toward the bottom of the cliffs over the Kelp Forest. I was gently moving the Kelp to the side so I could see what was beneath and the number of Spider Crabs was amazing, I later found out they breed in a cave near by and would have most probably been making their way to it as the tide was coming in, I was seeing the different sponges, Bryozoan and more and was glad of the in-depth day spent learning about species identification and classification at the Headquarters of Seasearch Cornwall a few weeks before.

The closer we got to the cliffs, the shallower it got and we found ourselves coming up from 9m to 5m and as the tide was on the way in the surge was starting to build. We made our way back along the South-Easterly heading toward the old harbour wall and while Andy kept snapping away I was trying to draw the cross section of the dive we had done so far. It was too tempting to put the slate away and keep looking for things under the Kelp, especially as I was starting to see the mixed species that were growing off it.

It was one of the best 50 minute dives I have done to date, there were a few Pollock and Wrasse along the way but it was the smaller stuff, that to most would look more like many species of plant that fascinated me. We got back to the wall and started to surface from about 4m and as we made our way with the surface swim back to the beach I couldn’t stop smiling. Andy had been an awesome buddy to dive with, yes he had his head stuck in all the nooks and crannies to photograph things but he always kept looking around to check I was OK.

At the beach we were asked our air out, and our greatest depth, which we were then told we won as we had the deepest dive but it appeared there wasn’t a prize, not even a doughnut. Cat was really interested in hearing how the dive went as we walked back to the carpark and was starting to fill my head of names of things I was trying to describe but it was all a bit of a blur. After we had a tea, and sorted our kit out we headed to the Driftwood Spars, a really nice little pub with a large back room that we were able to huddle around the tables to check the books for the species we had seen and to fill out the Seasearch forms.

I will return to St Agnes with a couple of friends to dive the area again and will take my camera along, and my friend will bring his GoPro so it will be a more exciting read with some photos to show off what makes St Agnes VMCA (Voluntary Marine Conservation Area) such an important site for the North Coast of Cornwall.

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