Introduction to Foreshore and Underwater Archaeology – The Crannog Centre Loch Tay

Steve, John and I attended the introductory Course on Foreshore and Underwater Archaeology on Saturday. As divers, we have a great opportunity to see both wildlife, buildings, artifacts and ships frozen in time, rarely seen by others; as the cold waters and sediments of our sea, lochs and rivers preserve a rich archive of natural and human history. We were lucky to have as our tutors Dr Nick Dixon and Barrie Andrian from the Scottish Crannog Centre, two Archeologists with a wealth of experience of both Maritime and Fresh Water Sites.

The Crannog Centre Loch Tay
The Crannog Centre Loch Tay

The first part of the course, provided an introduction to Underwater Archeology, different types of Sites ( Interesting to see that underwater sites compared to dry land sites tend to be richer in recovery and preservation of artifacts) and then after a break for Tea, we looked at Several of the Dating Methods used which split into Relative and Absolute such as Radio Carbon 14 Dating and Dendrochronology ( Tree Rings) and then a brief talk about the Legal aspects of Visiting Wreck Sites and recovery of Artifacts.

After Lunch we broke into groups for a talk then practical demonstration of 2D survey methods then a dry run inside before venturing outside into the water to try out the methods in Loch Tay.

After not doing too badly in the warmth of the centre, we tried doing the practical in Loch Tay next to the Crannog, Nick suggested that for shallow diving of 1-2 metres he
Doesn’t use fins in the water to reduce the risk of kicking up silt and artefacts, so I thought I would give it a go, the key is to be slightly over weighted, then be head up at a 10-20 degree angle using your toes and hands to move slowly around the site.

Definitely enjoyed the experience, and as a one day introductory course it had a good mix of theory and practical.

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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!

Loch Alsh and Isle of Skye

HMS Port Napier and Loch Alsh 4th-6th May 2012

Loch Alsh and Isle of Skye

We were lucky to have blue skies (Mostly) with a gentle NW Breeze.

After getting the boat in the water at 10am mid tide we decided to run three waves with cox’s which gave everybody more space on the boat and total wave times were dropped to 1.5 hours from the usual 2.5 – 3 hours.

The HMS Port Napier is a huge wreck Maximum depth 21 metres (mostly 14 metres)  with which can easily accommodate 3-4 dives. Diving at the bottom and at 6 metres gives you very different perspectives and there is lots of life on the wreck including, Conger Eels, Scorpion Fish, Pollock, Pipe Fish, large Edible Crabs and Pipe Fish.

On the Sunday the other divers (I took the day off to explore Sleat Point)  headed off to the Balmacara area for the first dive then headed back across to the Port Napier for a dive on the hull side of the wreck, with a successful excursion to a scallop bed 50 metres from the wreck on the shore side.

All in all a successful weekend and less than £17 per head for a day’s boat diving.

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The Divernet wreck tour guide can be found here

and in pdf format here

Stallion Rock and Eilean Aoghainn (Minard Islands), Loch Fyne, 15th May

The trip across to the west coast is always a pleasure, especially when the hills are lit by glorious early morning sunshine. Sunday however saw the weather gradually deteriorated until we arrived at the Argyll Caravan Parkto be greeted by Izzy and Gary in their high vis ‘yellas‘ and drizzle. Such are the joys of diving in Scotland. After an easy launch, we headed down Loch Fyne past Kenmore point to Stallion Rock which lies off Pennymore Point with Mo at the helm. Here, we spent a few minutes searching until Gary spotted it, a great grey whale back just below the surface and an impressive drop showing on the echo sounder on the loch side. Izzy and Bethan were first in followed by Mo and Chris while Paul and Gary manned the boat. The site itself was superb, a few small sandy shelves leading in 10m or so to … the drop. With the overcast skies and light starting to fade at the 25m mark there was still a good void beneath your fins as you were carried gently southwards along the wall. We learnt quickly to take great care not to swim too close to the wall and disturb the sediment that rested upon it as it then followed you in the current impairing the viz.

Yarrell's bleney

Izzy and Bethan disappeared into the depths to explore dark places and find the undercut while Mo and I enjoyed a very pleasant drift in the light. We found some interesting life such as this Yarrell’s Bleney that was moving snake-like across the wall. After passing some enormous sponges and clusters of sea loch anenomies we made our ascent as we had started getting cold, finding a couple of nudibranchs (Flabellina lineate) as we did so.

With the first wave of divers recovered, Gary and Paul rolled in and reported a red carpet affair with flash guns and spot lights illuminating the stars as they drifted by under the undercut.

Lunch ! Yes but where? In the drizzle we decided that the Furnace tea-room was a great option being en route to the Minard Islands so with Gary at the helm we cruised down to anchor in the bay taking care not to damage any training divers. As it turned out there were none at all on the reef today? Having dutifully enquired if they minded, we all sat next to the door enjoying tea and chocolate cake, though I did think that Izzy had an unfairly large slice ! After lunch, back in the boat, the tanks swapped over and the first wave was kitted up, Paul helmed us down to Eilean Aoghainn, the largest of the Minard Islands. Mo and I went in first in Coalas nan Each-uisage, the bay on the East side, enticed by kelpies and the promise of giant scallops. Good vis but not a great deal to see save some sea cucumbers, though the light and life was much better in the shallows over gravel and shell beds where there was an abundance of small colourful life. Izzy and Bethan followed on a similar dive while Paul and Gary did the steps at the SE tip reporting another good drift along walls encrusted with sponges and Dead Man’s fingers.

Sea cucumber

With all divers recovered, Bethan took the helm and drove the boat back, passing an exposed Stallion rock and apart from the challenge of a low water recovery of the boat which required an extra long length of rope all went very smoothly. Yet another successful and highly enjoyable day of club diving albeit in some rather ‘damp’ weather.



Paul has published his photos here

Site 1: Stallion rock, Pennymore Point, Furnace Loch Fyne.
Site 2: Coalas nan Each-uisge, Eilean Aoghainn, Minard Islands, Loch Fyne.
Site 3: SW tip, The Steps, Eilean Aoghainn, Minard Islands, Loch Fyne.