200 Metre walls, Lost in a storm and Sun Sets over Islay

After picking Steve up from Larne Harbour at 10:30pm we headed west chasing the sunset via the Antrim Coast watching it casting its golden, reddish rays diffraction through thicker atmosphere that surrounds the earth and provides us with the precious air we need to survive.

Upon reaching the cliff tops near the Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge we stopped briefly to watch the light sky in the North and the Shadows of the Islands of Islay and Jura 20+ miles away with the Light houses on Rathlin periodically flashing to warn ships navigating to and from the Atlantic into the Irish Sea.

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After a good nights sleep and cooked breakfast Steve and I headed across to Ballycastle to meet the dive boat run by Richard Lafferty Owner of Aquaholics, an experienced Skipper familiar with the unusual currents and eddies that run around Rathlin Island. Our first dive was the Arches on the back wall of Rathlin Island. When diving this site you drop down onto kelp which due to the good visibility varies between 17-20 meters deep then descend a slab covered in dead mans fingers to about 26 meters and head west looking for the arches. There are three arches but I have only found one at ~ 25 meters. After this you can move across onto the Wall which drops to about 45 meters and then work your way across heading up to the Kelp when you are finished.

Our Second dive was the Pinnacle the top of which starts at 2-3 meters below the surface, covered with kelp which extended down 17-20 meters, with the wall dropping vertically to 200 meters a dive not for the faint hearted!

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After finishing diving at 2pm we headed across to the walk across the Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge built originally by Salmon Fishermen who would entrap migrating Salmon into net traps.

The Second days diving was back at Rathlin and the Sea mist had descended but we had a clear run to the Lochgarry wreck and then were planning to dive the back wall of Rathlin again, unfortunately the Fog had come in and you couldn’t see the Cliffs which were only 100 Metres away, So we headed back to Ballycastle Marina and dived the Templemore Wreck a shallow wreck with lots of life on it including Congers, Ballan Wrasse and juvenile Crawfish. I’ve included a brief video of the Back Wall of Rathlin and Templemore Wreck.

After finishing up Diving we headed down to Belfast and visited the Titanic Experience a chance to do a 3800 metre wreck dive but without getting wet!

On the last days diving we stayed local to Portrush and Portstewart diving the Large Skerries a Reef / Set of small islands that stretches a mile or so near Portrush and then a second dive on the foul ground near the headland at Portstewart which is covered in lots of small life, dog fish and a good hunting ground for Octopus I have been told.

 

 

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Rathlin Island and HMS Drake, Northern Ireland May 2012

Well with the good weather beckoning, we packed the car and headed across the Irish Sea to visit family in Northern Ireland.  I hadn’t dived the back wall of Rathlin Island (200 Metre Drop off in places) for several years the Water rushes round from the Atlantic into the Irish Sea bringing lots of nutrients round coupled with excellent visibility. I had missed the arches on the wall before and was keen to find them this time. Diving with Richard from Aquaholics he had East Cheshire BSAC over for a weeks diving on his boats and I buddied up with another Paul for my dives.

Sheep Island, Rathlin Island and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

The Weather was perfect with a stable high across the UK, blue skies and almost millpond conditions, we headed off at 9:30am from Ballycastle Marina towards the back wall of Rathlin, and as we headed round the Island you could see multitudes of Sea Birds – Puffins, Gannets nesting on the towering cliffs (Up to 132 metres high) and Pinnacles.  After Richard had worked out what the currents were doing and providing a safety briefing on the use of SMBs as the currents just a few metres off the wall can be very strong.  We kitted off and jumped into the water the visibility was 12 metres plus, we dropped onto a Large slab covered in Dead mans fingers and headed West along the wall, at 28 metres depth looking down to the bottom of the wall some 15- 20 metres below. The Wall was covered in a dense lawn of different species of animals (surveys have counted over 100 species per square metre) these included Elephants ears, Cup Corals, Dead mans Fingers, Anemones and Hydroids.

We were in luck looking up I spotted the Arch and we headed up to explore it covered inside with Deadmans fingers, before moving onto the overhang, I have to say this is one dive I wish I had brought my twin set with me, we started to ascend up the wall and at about 22 metres depth came across the Red Seaweeds with the Kelp Forest just above, typically on most sites in the UK Kelp stops at about 10-12 metres due to lack of light, but this dense kelp forest rising to heights of approximately 1.5 metres something you would expect to find on the West Coast of Canada.

After moving through the kelp forest disturbing large Edible Crabs scavenging on the rocks I decided to deploy my Delayed SMB, something interesting happened to my SMB is seemed to be stuck in one place on the surface like a vice had got hold of it, reminded me of the eddies that swept around the artificial reefs on the East side of Lismore Island.

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We headed back round to the Harbour at Rathlin Island noting the interesting geological features of the cliffs, there were several enthusiasts had built old style coracle sailing boats and were planning to sail to Islay (Better them than me!). After a packed lunch and an hours rest we headed off to dive the broken up wreck of HMS Drake an old Battlecruiser and the Salvage Barge which sunk on top of her, this is a 18 – 14 metre dive lots of plates and which attracts shoals of Pollock and has become a huge artificial reef in the middle of the sandy Bay.  Interesting enough the water temperature between this wreck and the back wall of Rathlin was 3 degrees cooler at 9 Celcius not helped by a leaky drysuit which is now being repaired as I type this up.

Sunset over the Skerries and Malin Head