Chili dip and salsa, 18th December 2011

Cold and clear, a day for skiing, Glühwein or staring at a roaring fire. As thoughts go, this one seemed constant as icy roads led west to a rendezvous at ‘The Green Welly‘. Todays plan had been somewhat last minute as Christmas had taken it’s toll. Usually stalwart scubapros had slipped away to do their christmas shopping and things were getting so desperate that I had thought of golf!

The roads were partly snow covered and while additional care was required the drive was spectacular today. Snowy mountains, frosted pink in the early morning sun, Lochan na h-Aclaise frozen and Rannoch, a sea of white. Not surprisingly Glen Coe was busy with skiers and mountaineers. We arrived at Ballachulish with blue skies and turned into the car parking to find the place to ourselves.

Dive site today was ‘The Slates’, chosen for easy of access and while nothing in diving should be assumed, the site is usually a sure bet for conditions. The site provides a straightforward dive that can be extended to satisfy any recreational diving requirement. As far a shore diving goes, it certainly has a lot to offer.

Kitting up in the cold and then carrying the equipment across to the entry point had it’s own dangers today as sheet ice covered the car park and shore line, but with our buddy checks done we were off, to amongst other things test Gary’s new suit. Dropping into crystal clear fresh water we hit the halocline at 2m and descended into 3m vis and warm water and moved West to find the steepest part of the boulder slope.

The rocks today were covered in sea squirts, peacock worms and sea loch anenomies and all that was needed was a little light to make a very colorful dive, today however the low sun did little for us and at 10m we were in darkness.
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There is so much to see at this site, a particularly large fish hiding in the rocks proved additional interest today, it looked like a large poor cod or a haddock with spots. This encrusting sponge took my eye, takes a little time to work out what is going on but the sponge has grown around a Sepulid worm tube.

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After a relatively short surface interval the second dive went around the smaller spit. Surface water temperature of 3 degrees warmed up with depth and with Izzy picking up a couple of scallops as we descended into the blackness. Some very interesting life on this dive, a dragonette and a large scorpion fish that lay motionless as we passed. This Arctic Cowrie proved a challenge.

To avoid a walk back along the icy track we turned around after 30 mins having used up our bottom time and retraced our steps somewhat shallower and taking advantage of a good long safety stop. Within the bay the life is much poorer, due no doubt to the more brackish nature of the water, horse muscles appear here. As we were about to surface we found a small flatfish and watched it propel itself forwards using its skirt. We surfaced as it started snowing!

That was it, another day off the rocks and all that was left was to pack up and head for home. A quick stop in the Crianlariach Hotel to warm up in front of the fire before rushing off back to Perth before it got dark and the snows really started and the roads got blocked.

and that’s all folks!
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