Sunday shore dive : 12th October 2014

Another club rhib trip was scheduled for Sunday and by the preceding Wednesday was fully subscribed showing the enthusiasm that has pervaded the club.
As it turned out we did not actually take the boat out due to a few call offs and a technical problem discovered at the last minute. However, three members did decide to make the most of it and go shore diving anyway.

The trip started, after a false start, with Steve and Chris descending on Tara for breakfast as Paul assembled his camera , and , having had a rather tasty sausage sandwich, spicy and succulent, in the luxurious surrounding of their new home, we headed off toward Crianlariach and on to Tyndrum where the venue for the day was settled. After a quick detour via the Isles of Skye hotel to check out the launch for a new a new dive site, we arrived at the Slates in damp but calm weather and unpacked the car.

What a variety of kit came out of the car, singles, twins, and a rebreather and as expected Steve was fully kitted up and waiting for the rest of us as we completed our faff checks. Buddy checks at the water and we were off down to 20m where Paul demonstrated an almost perfect rescue from depth as a drill to complete his Advanced Lifesaver award and become a rescue specialist in doing so! Continuing the dive, we traversed around the reef reaching the point before turning and retracing our steps back to the entry site after over an hour underwater. Quite remarkable was Steve’s ability to come up with a reserve in his 12l on this dive! There was some very nice fish life out today, blennies, rock cod, wrasse and pollack with all the hard surfaces covered is squidgy life.

sealoch anemone

The light was quite good today and while the water had a distinctly greenish hue to it the Sea Urchins were positively shining.

Feeding urchin
Feeding urchin

After a good two hour lunch break we went back in but this time went exploring in the East bay out from the slate sheds. Once out onto the slope beyond the confines of the bay, the dive is rather good. Occasional boulders provide reef habitat from nursery shoals and holes for larger fish such as the large ling that we saw , to hide in. Flat fish, scorpion fist and even if somewhat rarely, skate are seen here. The topography was at it’s best below the 20m mark (low water) at the furthest point in the dive, where small shelves and walls stepped down into the deep. It was here we turned and made our way up-slope finding a glacial slab, polished smooth by ice. A couple of Facelina Botoniensis slowed us down for a while, presenting a wonderful photo-opportunity as they raced across the slab. Above the slab, gravel gave way to sand and kelp and the surface. A rather splendid second dive.

That was it for the day, save to rush back to tea and cakes at Tara’s!

A few extra photos – Paul

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The Lesser Yellowshell : 21st September 2014

Diving with an objective adds a little extra to a days entertainment and so it was that we engaged in a survey for one of the least understood of Scotland’s marine invertebrates. There are many organisations and groups that document sighting of our native marine life and when a rare species is seen many people will go out of their way to visit sites with a view to finding and photographing the organism.

Over the last few years an invasive species, the hard-shelled, yellow back sea slug , also known as the Yellowshell, has gradually increased in abundance around our coastline. While most sighting have been associated with extreme depth or sites requiring a hardboat to access them, more and more often, reports have filtered through that they have been spotted near the shore. This then was our objective, to find and photograph this elusive beastie.

Perth-BSAC is not without some academic expertise when it comes to marine life identification, BSc’s, MSc’s and even a PhD or two abound not withstanding the enormous experience of the lay person with decades of actual diving experience and yet with all our combined knowledge there was perhaps only a handful of people who had reported seeing these animals in the wild and fewer still who actually admitted knowing a few rudimentary facts about their habits. What was known was that these shelled invertebrates were slow moving, usually dragging themselves along the bottom trailing vast amounts a silt, presumably a defensive mechanism to stop themselves becoming prey of the more aggressive scallop baggers. It had also been reported that they had been sighted recently in Loch Leven and so the venue for the search was set.

A crack team of five divers met a local expert at Craft’n’things in Ballachulish for 09:30 opening and after a bacon roll and a coffee, a detailed briefing was delivered on how best , given the combined, or rather lack of knowledge, to approach, photograph and possibly collect a specimen. My copy of the Safe Diving practices booklet on close inspection seemed to be missing any guidelines on this subject but it was possibly included in the appendix marked fictional creatures and dragons.

A short transfer to the site and the first wave, equipped with torches, probes and specimen collection jars was duly dispatched on the initial search, the objective was to confirm the site details, identify any potential dangers involved in specimen collection, identify suitable survey areas and report back to the surface support team, where upon the survey teams would enter the water to photograph and collect a specimen. Soon it became clear, by the surface bubble patterns, that a battle royale was in progress and the second team was dispatched to provide assistance. In went the second team and immediately swan perpendicular to the direction the first team had taken avoiding all contact and enjoying excellent vis and fish life. The first team surfaced on time reporting no sightings but an enjoyable dive around the main reef. Meanwhile the second team, while feeling that they were always very close to a Yellowshell, never actually identified either a silt trail or the animal itself and surfacing an hour later reported drawing a blank. The final team, surveying the reef at a slightly shallower depth, reported finding a silt trail left by a yellow hardback but again did not actually spot the animal. They reported another excellent dive with some very large saithe, pollack and ling as well as the varied squidgy life this reef is well known for.

With all teams on the surface and time for lunch a review of the survey techniques was called for and changes implemented. A slightly different search area was called for and the first wave, wanting to complete the survey data for the primary search area, retraced their steps in reverse to ensure the beastie was not hiding beneath some small overhang. The remaining teams decided the second reef was more likely to be a potential habitat and set off to survey it. Out and back went the first team shortly followed by the last group who at the turn reported a sighting ironically as they passed the other group on the way back. Clearly group two had by this time become despondent and had given up surveying, looking instead for other marine life and fishing weights attached to mono filament which was collected where possible. The sighting was of interest but without corroborative evidence other than some Lochness monster style images taken from a camera, shaken in the excitement of the encounter and we are still not able to confirm the existence of the elusive Yellowshell. Anecdotal evidence provided by the third team seemed to suggest that the animal was a poor free swimmer, tending instead to bump along the bottom creating it’s silt trail. They did report that they would need a larger catch bag to land a specimen.

Well there you have it. Perth-BSAC first attempt at surveying for the Yellowshell, some success and a steep learning curve for all involved. With this experience it is hoped that we will be able to get much more conclusive evidence on future dives and unequivocally demonstrate the existence of this creature on some if not all of our dive sites. Thanks all for coming and supporting this event and I look forward to working with you in future.

(Ed- what a load of rubbish. Of course they exist, I’ll dig out an image from the Sunday Sport that shows one!)

Sunday shore diving. Loch Leven. 23rd Februry 2014

A couple of hardy souls drove across to the west coast for a shore dive on Sunday through some very wet landscapes. Loch Earn was full and the Glen Falloch was flooded and in spate. Loch Tulla was lapping at the A82 and sheep stranded by the rising water where clustering on small islands waiting to be rescued.

We arrived slightly early and had a look at the Slates dive site and were very pleased to see that it was sheltered from the Southerlies that were sweeping across the loch raising water sprites which flung themselves along the far shore. Retiring to Craft and Things to meet ours guests and friends we were soon enjoying egg rolls and fresh coffee and watching squalls stravage through the glen wreaking havoc while we sheltered in the friendly warmth that the cafe had to offer. With one new member in the team and admin completed it was back to the site to give a short brief and get the first wave in. Edward and Alan and then Hamish and Alistair were in first which gave Chris a chance to work with Claire doing some prep for her upcoming PIE while providing shore cover. The first pair circumvented the main spit while the second pair did a there and back coming back to their entry point, both pair kept good time and stuck to their dive plans ! (Kudos — Ed). Chris and Claire went into the bay to practice AS drills and then extended the dive along the wall, coming back on time and again to plan. Both waves reported exceptionally good visibility with numerous dogfish and a superb Nudibranch (possibly Cadlina laevis)
Cadlina laevis

After a brief surface interval, the afternoon dive saw the same teams back in the water squeezing out a second dive from the mornings tanks taking advantage of a shallower profile. Hamish and buddy went off to explore the reef again getting some impressive perspective of the angle in the excellent visibility while the other teams bumbled around to the right of the bay exploring the large anchors and chains and finding some big glacial slabs. On the way back and in the shallows, the rocks supported colonies of sponges. Of note was a blue rayed limpet reflecting iridescent in a torch beam and of course a couple of nudibranchs, much smaller than the mornings specimen.

That was it, a final warm up in the cafe to chew the cudd before driving back to Perth although we couldn’t resist the opportunity to pay our respects to the badger! Another superb day in the water with great company and a good lesson that you can always get in somewhere if you really want too.

Afternoon Tea and Salmon pools, 2nd June 2013

Summer has arrived ! How do I know ? The sun burn on my nose is throbbing like a Belisha beacon as I slowily cooked inside a black drysuit. There we were shore diving “The Slates” after a drive over Rannoch moor in beautiful weather with blue skies and a warm zephyr wafting in from the coast.

The first wave of the pathfinders and guests were in the water before you could mark a slate, one party choosing the clockwise circuit of the main key while the guest party chose a clockwise bumble of the bay area. Being remarkably precise with their dive planning, both teams surfaced on plan reporting good dives but without the abundance of life that this site often gives. The ‘Charlies’ took to the water and went in search of the barge on the West side of reef two and while they didn’t find it reported a good dive with the usual suspects incumbent on the reef. Fish life was present but was all very small.

scorpion fish

The ‘Charlies’ having surfaced found the first wave was again chomping at the bit and with an adequate surface interval they went in to explore the bay and reef to the East while the ‘Guest party’ set off for reef two. Once again reporting good vis and some larger fish at depth. They surfaced en cue to allow the final wave to potter around in the bay area.

Quickly changing and making for the Tea rooms we had a blether before our Guests decamped and made their way home having left us green with tales of Indonesia. The rest of us made our way back to the Bridge of Orchy and down the glen to Eas Urchaidh where having checked the water level we all jumped in (or rather walked in off the gravel at the tail of the pool). Slowly making our way upstream in dark tea we encountered some good sized ‘fash’ in the deepest pools we sat and watched them circling inches in front of our faces. Moving up again as far as we could we encountered a constriction which presented an interesting obstacle before we reached the falls themselves, here the current stopped us. surfacing to check we had indeed reached the waterfall we slowly drifted back through the gorge, a most surreal experience. A very different and entertaining dive, and the kit got washed too!

The Slates, Loch Leven. November 18th 2012

A small team of keen divers ventured out on Sunday for a leisurely dip at ‘The Slates’ at Ballachulish in Loch Leven. A reasonably early start saw three cars carefully making their way on icy roads towards Crieff where I for one had a very exciting moment when the car decided to firstly to go in a straight line when I wanted it to turn and then perform a slow waltz before coming under control. A salient reminder to pack the cars carefully, keeping as much weight forwards as possible and of course to treat the winter roads with the utmost respect !

With the roads starting to improve once we got to Loch Earn we reached Tyndrum and had a short break, a coffee and a chance to stretch our legs after a very exciting couple of hours. Next stop Ballachulish over Glen Coe where the first of the blue sky edged through the clouds and the tops held more that a dusting of fresh snow .

On site we had a briefing and then wave one comprising Kim, Briagha and Chris, went in to do a Ocean Diver, dive leader review exercise and I’m happy to report that Chris passed. Staying in the bay area we swam between the large anchors, over chains and poked our torches under boulders before surfacing at the perscribed time. An enjoyable dive which apart from a few buoyancy problems at the start went very smoothly. Notable were the numbers of Queen scallops swimming around.

The second wave had a few buoyancy issues and apart from a few choice expletives of a frustrated dive didn’t have much to report. Next time guys.

Keeping an eye on the time and momentum going in the group, wave one went in again to do the second part of the exercise which I am happy to report was successfully completed by Briagha who had now completed all her Ocean Diver course training. The dive itself was quite interesting with lots to see including a brilliant Cuckoo Wrasse and his mate, a good sized Corking Wrasse, a very large Common Sunstar, loads of brittlestars, sealoch anemones and sea squirts and hermit crabs and gobbies by the bagful. Briagha also found her first scallop. As we surfaced a heavy rain shower was soaking the surface crew so we didn’t hang around for long, decamping into the local, highly recommended cafe (Craft and Things) for a hot drink and something to eat. I can positively recommend the hot chocolate and marsh mallows which looked absolutely scrumptious.

That was it, a quiet drive home on much improved roads getting back at a very reasonable time.

Thanks all for coming and well done to Briagha on the successful completion of her Ocean Diver training.

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Manse Point and Etive pools 20th May 2012

This weekend we had nearly all the regular divers out on various trips along the West coast. The Sunday shore diving trip was this week blessed with delightful weather as we basked in 20 degrees on the cobble beach with a stunning backdrop of the Mamores and Glen Coe hills above upper Loch Leven .

Forgoing the temptations of a pre-dive coffee at the local cafe, we were unpacking the cars and had the first wave in the water at a very reasonable time.

The dive plan was for a relaxing shore dive at Manse Point, an excellent little site that offers convenient access and escape from the crowds, as well as a little wall that is usually covered in some interesting life. Today saw Colin and Hamish diving on Nitrox and it was intriguing to see EAN% and MODs appearing on the dive slate.

The first wave in, saw Simon doing a re-familiarization dive and check-out as he hadn’t been in the sea for a while and was just getting back into the swing of diving. All went very well with no problems and true to Colin’s observations ‘a bit like riding a bike!’. Gently ambling around in good vis and ambient light there was some excellent life on display in between the brittlestars and several good sized flounders skimmed the bottom as we swam past. On the ascent we came across a remarkable glass jar and a magnificent specimen of a nudibranch (Flabellina lineata) but having left the camera in the bag they escaped having their photos taken. Ascending on 30 minutes according to the plan the second wave of Hamish and Colin and then Frank and Alistair (Fyne Divers) were soon away with Simon and Chris provided shore cover.

Hamish and Colin swam straight out to the 20 m contour, turned left and found the wall which enticed them down to explore the depths, though they reported that there was still wall below them. They came back up the side of the wall, past queen scallops to exit where they had gone in. Frank and Alistair took a similar circuit and reported some excellent fish life including ling and even a small octopus before exiting again in the bay.

For the second dive we opted to stay at the Manse Point site and with a 2hr interval behind us, the waves went in again in formation. Chris and Simon, having checked out fine in the morning dive, bumbled down the slope and headed off to find the wall before returning across the slope looking for nudibranchs and finding burrowing anenomes, sea pens and yet more flatfish.

Colin and Hamish, Frank and Alistair repeated their morning dives but extended the range further around the point before retracing their steps and exiting in the bay reporting another interesting set of dives.

So with everyone out of the water we were soon packed up and heading to Glen Etive to check out the Eas Alltcarunn pools recently featured in SCUBA. The glen was packed with campers and canoeists, some of who were enjoying the scenery from their canoes as they were transported down the glen on car roof racks !

With all the canoeists on the river we had to consider them as a ‘site danger’ and set our shore cover to watch out for them !

The pools here are more of a narrow channel which reaches about 3m in depth and shallows towards the falls. With suitable determination you can drag yourself right up to these before letting go and flying off in a sea of bubbles. Exhilarating!
In the good visibility, the smooth walls provided interesting topography and a couple of small trout more fish life than we had seen previously in the river Orchy, all to quickly it was over and with tanks depleted time to pack up and head for home (having already washed all the equipment in freshwater!!).

I have put a link here to some of Colin’s photo’s . There are some excellent shots of the River Etive dive that catch the pool party atmosphere, canoeists and all!

Sunday 4th March, Loch Leven and The Slates

As Sunday approached various club member ruled themselves in and out of the weekend’s diving and it was very encouraging to see seven divers assembled at Burnbrae ready to depart at the appointed time.

The late season covering of snow made the Munro tops looked brilliantly clean in the crystal clear spring air as we drove across to Ballachulish to meet our guests at the Craft and Things Coffee shop as it opened at 09:30am. Today we were to be joined by Frank, Alistair, Robert and Paul, friends from the BSAC Southern Scotland regional training days. However with a total of seven cars, finding a site that had adequate parking was the first order on the agenda and it wasn’t a particularly difficult decision to select “The Slates” even though the Club had dived it the previous week.

With Fred, Maureen and Chris providing shore cover, the diving pairs quietly slipped into the loch to complete their plans. Some starting at the point, others in the bay depending on their requirements. Good life was reported on the point including dogfish and ling and a few scallops were spotted by Frank and Alistair as they explored the bay area. Gary and Izzy were first up quickly followed by Colin and John and once safely back at the cars took over shore cover.

The last team in started in the bay by the slate sheds and performed a simple profile that gave the opportunity for a good shake down and weight check. Maureen picked up a bit of mono-filament at one point which Chris wound around a stone before burying in a crack to stop it catching anything again. Returning the way we came, we surfaced in the bay with 45 minutes on the dial, not a bad shakedown dive by anyone standard.

Back at the entrance point the rest of the team waded in to rescue us and for once assistance was gratefully accepted as I wallowed in the shallows with a twinset. Back at the cars, the barbecue was going well with reports that a squall that had come through had caused the charring of the sausages as the charcoal burnt somewhat hot ! A likely story if ever I heard one, they will be telling us it was snowing as well! A very pleasant hour or so was spent nattering, enjoying the banter and getting to know our guests better but all to soon it was time to get back in the water for the second dive.

This second dip followed a similar schedule, with the first wave opting for a swim around the second smaller spit and Paul joining Frank and Alistair in the bay area as Robert had departed on official duties. Maureen decided to sit this one out so Fred and Chris went in last, this time off rightwards from the bay, finding more dogfish, scorpion fish and a small plaice as well as a couple of scallops. This was another enjoyable dive, once down past the sand, small reefs and large boulders supported a good deal of squiggy life. However brittlestars were in abundance, all in all very similar to Manse point.

Once everyone was safely out we headed back to the cafe for a final coffee and chat before heading off to various home locations after a very good and social days diving.

some more photos have been posted here by Colin