SS Loch Leven and Northern Hares

My favourite dives this year have revolved around a bit of scrap and the chance of food, this site fits the bill perfectly!

With a full boat I tend to dive in the gap when the customers have been in for one diving and are having a bit of a rest before dive two, in these circumstances with only one person to watch for there are 'options' where you wouldn't tend to put in paying guests of mixed abilities.

But first some nuts and bolts.....

The measured vis at Megstone was 8.5m, very exact and the Ancient Diver reckons it was sitting on-top of the kelp!

The estimated vis at Northern Hares was 10m and a plus, it was, as the Ancient Diver said, 'gin'.

I always prefer to dive this site dropped in against the Island, maybe thirty meters from the corner and whilst that is never a problem in a RIB anything else than top of the tide in a hardboat and you stand a chance of hitting the top of a 'reeflet' which runs parallel to the island and maybe ten yards from the wall.

The first part of the dive is in this gully, its maybe seven meters deep with a bedrock bottom and doleritic wall to your right side which has a smattering of kelp and also cracks and fissures! There is one particular hole which is always home to a good size fiend and today the inhabitant, a cock lobster with huge claws was evicted and bagged, but in the ever-changing undersea world this 'des-res' will be quickly inhabited by another lobster of similar size............

Rounding the corner you start to pick up bits of wreckage from SS Loch Leven, it's a bit of a trail with small bits leading onto the main debris field with large lumps and plates lying hard against the rockface which is pretty vertical from around the thirteen meter mark to the surface, as you would expect with a tidal site it is smothered with Dead Mans Fingers plus other hydroids and the cracks, splits and crevices in this doleritic limestone wall are filled with crustacea, although today the blue fiends were all berried hens, the edible crabs were a tad small and you can never get enough squat lobsters for a good boil! Although that said maybe one or two added to the paella will give it a little extra?

As the main area is quite shallow and the vis tends to be good you have kelp from the bedrock at thirteen meters which is quite strange as you normally start loosing this seaweed at the eight meter mark, it is quite 'straggly' at depth and not by any means a thick forest, so easy to see the bottom which turns to a mix of flat bedrock, boulders and coarse sand.

Heading away from the site towards Knifestone the bottom gets more 'bouldery' and under most stones was a lobster, ranging from nice size to little wiggies, so ideal if you want to set up a saltwater aquarium, yup I do fancy one but currently it's not an option although one day I will set one up!

The body of the reef continues out towards the Knifestone which means that the tide does 'kick up' the water, mixing everything up and making it a very good hunting spot for Pollack and Saithe which patrol the waters looking for any morsels that have been dislodged or any unfortunate baitfish which is just a little too far from the shoal to be safe. Today we were diving just off slack water during mid-tides but when you look at the stretch betyween Knifestone and Longstone on Springs you can really see a roiling mass of water and combined with the maelstrom at Whirl Rocks you can see why it is justified with warnings on Admiralty maps.......so if the skipper ever says 'no' you should respect their decision and if they say 'yes' and you understand tides then on your own head be it as some operators have had to call in boats to search for lost divers here!

The last time I was on this site was with Natural England and I picked up the 'O' from the ships nameplate and whilst today it was fingers crossed there was no such luck! I guess that the other letters are there but have fallen down vertically and are lost in the small stones, it can be difficult to see a sliver of greened brass even when you are looking for it!

After half an hour I was happy to be out and following my enthusings the divers dropped in and had their second dive on this site and all were suitably impressed......it really is a very pleasant dip!

Dive safe


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