Sunday, 11 August 2013

A good week to dive hard!

A good week to dive hard! Underwater in the Isles of Scilly MPA
As Marine Vice Chair of WCPA I still take the opportunity where I can to ‘get wet’. This last week was spent diving in and around the Isles of Scilly European Marine Site and Marine Conservation Zone – a jewel in the crown of UK MPAs.

Below are a few words and photos from the week. With thanks to Tim Allsop and St Martins Diving Services, and Phil, Jan, Chris, Andy, Jason, Julie and my ever present dive buddy Hugo who I was with on the trip.

All pictures copyright Dan Laffoley unless otherwise stated.

Dan Laffoley


Sunday, 4 August 2013
The first picture of the day for the trip: day 1 - taken this morning on a reef just north of St Martins - plumose anemones.

Monday, 5 August 2013
So it is day 2, more heavy rain and two more to enjoy from the calm below the surface:

1. wreck photo shows Chris, one of our divers, photographing marine life inside the remains of the Cita which ran into St Marys about 10 years ago

2. three Devonshire cup corals growing on the undersea electricity cable between St Marys and Agnes!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013
The seas calmed from yesterday so it was off the Seven Stones reef today between the Isles of Scilly and Lands End - famed for the Torrey Canyon disaster in the late 60s. Todays pic is kelp topped walls full of marine life - after the dive we watched groups of sun fish shoaling in the calm waters.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013
The weather proved ideal today and unusually calm (and sunny) - so we left early and headed west as far as we could go to Bishop Rock lighthouse and dived a reef just nearby - once the slack became obvious as the boiling surface water currents ceased as the tide running off the Scillies plateau slowed. Not an easy place to dive!

Todays pic is of a crayfish or common spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas) with one of the rugged gullies in the background, surrounded by many small fish.

Thursday, 8 August 2013
Another calm day so we headed west again to dive the Plympton (sank 1909) and Hathor - two ships wrecks on top of each other! Pics from here are of seafans on the hull of the Hathor that sank in 1920ontop of the Plympton - showing the white colour variant together with the usually pink seafan, and a scenic one with my dive buddy Hugo in the background!!

Later on we dived on the Moul reef, on the eastern side of the Scillies plateau, which is cloaked in plumose anemones - amazing walls of marine life!

And a final fourth photo is a close up - spot the nursery for baby starfish!! Look hard and count how many you can see as some are v v small!

Friday 9th August 2013
So the wind freshened overnight and so today we dived more sheltered sites - the Firebrand historic wreck site and the Gilstone - lots of marine life - enjoy the show!!

HMS Firebrand was lost during the Scilly naval disaster of 1707 when a navigational error sent Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell's fleet through dangerous reefs west of Cornwall while on their way from Gibraltar to Portsmouth. On the night of 22 October 1707, Firebrand, commanded by Captain Francis Percy, smashed into the Outer Gilstone Rock off the Isles of Scilly. She was lifted off by a huge wave first, and Percy managed to steer his badly damaged ship along the southern side of the Western Rocks between St Agnes and Annet, but she foundered in Smith Sound, sinking close to Menglow Rock and losing 28 of her crew of 40. Percy and a group of his men managed to get ashore by boat, another five of the crew got ashore on pieces of wreckage. Three more ships (Eagle, Romney and Shovell's flagship Association) also sank that night, bringing the total of sailors lost to nearly 2,000. This naval disaster was one of the greatest maritime disasters in British history. It was largely as a result of this disaster that the Board of the Admiralty instituted a competition for a more precise method to determine longitude.

So how did the photos happen - each day we left early from the small harbour on St Martins and headed out to our dive sites.

The pics are taken on a Fujifilm digital underwater camera set up - a major part of it is the underwater lighting I use - each LED light system throws out more light than a car headlight, weighs just a few hundred grams and runs on full beam for two dives in a row.

By sharing these photos I hope I have helped show why the Isles of Scilly is such a special place. With thanks to Andy Wrightson for the two photos below!

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