All the way to the Farnes to dive in 8m of water!

With conditions up top as benign as I can remember, it has been glass-like for many days, we decided to go out to the Islands to dive and frolick!

The visibility was super, certainly 10m plus although there was a very slight milky tinge to the water but to be honest that’s a very minor niggle, it was great! That said things are getting more ‘seasonal’ and the seas are due to blow up to a couple or three feet swell for next weekend which may impact on shore diving but the diving conditions around the Islands should still be very good, well I hope so as I have a colleague coming up for a splash or two!

Once we had done frolicking with the paddle board in Longstone Lagoon, where there were quite a few pups that were eager to swim under and around Calypso before sticking out their heads within touching range, it was off to Brownsman for a low stress dive on the debris field that was Snowdonia(?), a barque that ran up and onto the North West corner of Brownsman Island, there was no loss of life as the crew simply walked along the bowsprit to safety.

Over the years the wooden wreck has basically disappeared with the only ‘bones’ being some lumps of iron, pieces of tile, odd-keel pins and fragments of her copper sheathing, for sure some nice trinkets have been picked up over the years but with minimal brass ‘things’ like portholes there is very little chance of anything to polish and put on the wall. Way back in ‘the day’ a friend found and recovered two chronometers which had been left in a large cauldron! There was also a personal cigarette rolling box which was found in the same cooking pot, I wonder if the crew put all of their ‘good things’ in the cast iron pot and subsequently lost it when they were trying to get it ashore? It’s certainly an odd place to keep ships chronometers in the normal course of things……

Having said that whilst dropping down from the boat a piece of crockery caught my eye, you do occasionally see shards of plates and my first thought was that it was the, stronger and thicker, centre of a plate but no it isn’t! I have added a couple of photographs so that you can make up your own mind, one guess was the top of a pottery jar, another was that it’s a coaster for a cup, which incidentally is what it will now be! But what it was, well no idea, there are no marks and it looks mass produced, I have found older pottery pieces on the site as it sits right next to an area used by monks in the time of St Cuthbert but this bit isn’t that old. So, any ideas please shout!

I do rather like this site as somewhere to dive when I don’t want to worry about tides and want to be able to return to the boat as it is a really east site with minimal currents, you simply anchor up about twenty yards from the ‘corner’ of the Island just onto the sandy bottom, feed out a bit of extra rope and get in. Orientation is simple as you have a wall on one side and a flat, sandy bottom on the other, so you mooch around from the base of the wall to the sand and see what you can see.

And in the breeding season what you can see are large amounts of diving birds but not today, on the avian front the highlight was a gannet dive bombing a shoal of saithe about five yards away from the boat when we were leaving Longstone Lagoon, it would have made a pretty spectacular video but no such luck, maybe next time?

Today for me the surprise was the amount of quite large lobsters that were ‘walking’, that’s to say no-where near their hidey holes out and actively looking for food in the weedy area at the bottom of the wall/rock slope, and boy did some of them have an attitude! As I had a boat full I decided to pick one up, a cock lobster that was comfortably takeable and by goodness was he upset! To start with he got a proper hold of the finger tip of a glove, not my finger just the glove and he was not going to let go, so having finished my dive I was showing him and he managed to leave the glove with the cutting claw and somehow grab the dry-suit cuff with his crusher, what a bloody performance, even when I put him back he didn’t zoom to the bottom, rather he splayed out and aggressively waved his nippers at me, cheeky sod I did think about consigning him to the pot, maybe next time?

On the fish front there were some quite large shoals of cod fry close to the weeds, oh weeds, bloody weeds. The kelp beds in the area seem to be transitioning from the old, traditional kelp, where the plants have round stems leading to fronds at the top to this bloody stuff called Furbellows Phacophyta-aka kelp, rather than a round stem which will easily bend in any direction this stuff has a flat stem which is quite rigid and while you can bend it over the wide sides of the stem it is quite rigid if you are trying to fight through against the thin section of the stem. Now I can't remember seeing this stuff in earlier years, apart from maybe in The Kettle but it’s now quite common around the Islands and there are patches inshore too. I wonder if this species was this brought in on a visiting yacht? Looking at data it appears that this weed should be absent from Northumbria to the Solent, I can assure readers it isn’t and it quite enjoys the growing conditions on our coastline

As we are coming towards the end of the season large swathes of the bottom were covered with loose seaweed, which meant that apart from the piece of white pottery pretty much everything else was covered, well at least the small stuff was, there has been a bit of sand shifted since my last dive so there are more iron lumps exposed and despite looking hard there was no sign of non-ferrous metals around these pieces, sure lobsters were in residence but no pins or sheathing. You will notice I said iron lumps, these range from half a yard long to maybe five yards long, one or two bits are identifiable but being frank most are just lumps and defy anyone to identify what they are or should I say were. One of the identifiable pieces is a cast iron piece that acted as a keel step to secure the base of the mast to the keel of the vessel, there will be another couple of these parts but no idea where they are, probably sunk into the sand and they will be exposed when a suitable amount of sand is shifted.

So another nice dip and with the plan being to double up both days next weekend a nice precursor to what might well be a busy couple of days.

If you are planning on getting wet, then please........

Dive safe!


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