Farne Islands 12th July 2020

Woohoo we are off, our first boat dive of the year and here’s to many more.

Up the Great North road we went to Seahouses, Mark took me and Chris, Liam and Geoff went together and Paul took Thomas. We arrived on the harbourside to an empty car park and as we got chatting with some other divers it became apparent that we were to off load kit at the jetty and park in the upper car park, all due to Covid-19 restrictions.

We were informed that we would be going out with William Sheil, Skipper, on Glad Tidings VIII, the biggest boat in the fleet and only 12 on board in total, leaving us lots of room to spread out and keep away from others safely.

Bamburgh Castle

We waived bye to Paul and the shore with the image of Bamburgh Castle fading in the distance and headed out to the Farnes. The wind was gentle and from behind us leaving the sea relatively flat and the water looked very inviting as we finished kitting up and final preparations made. Our first dive was on the wreck St. Andre, a French steamer that was carrying a cargo of pig iron. It struck the Crumstone rocks and floated off towards Staple Island in October 1908 while going down.

Pre-dive prep chat with Chris and Thomas.

There are still 2 boilers to be seen and a lot of flattened plates and ribs to be explored. As we drop down the shot line one of the boilers appears out of the gloom where a shoal of Coalies were milling around, flashing silver in the beam of the torch. We had a good 8 to 10 metre viz but a cool 12 degrees to cope with. The wreck is peppered with Sea Urchin’s at this time of year and the Ballan Wrasse almost pre select which Urchin they would like a diver to open.

Ballan Wrasse devouring a Sea Urchin

Chris and I stayed on the wreck, we had a quick look around the boiler but it was surrounded by divers so we swum off a way to explore under the plates, on the lookout for crab’s and lobster or anything else that may be lingering about. Quite a lot of Dead Man Fingers all in bloom and plenty of fern and fans’ to admire too.

Fern’s.

Mark and Thomas went towards the wall of the Pinnacles to explore more scenery and Geoff and Liam came past us on route to the second boiler, possibly? Chris and I went back to the first boiler and had a really good look this time, as all the other divers had moved off somewhere.

Exploring one of the boilers.

We examined all of the boiler pipes in the hope of a Blenny or two but all we found were the small urchins and lot’s more inquisitive wrasse.

Small sea Urchin in one of the steam pipes.

Just as Chris and I were on our final minutes of the dive, Chris spotted an empty Guillemot’s egg hidden under one of the plates, lovely speckled shell.

Guillemot’s egg shell.

Time was quickly up and we were heading to the surface where we sat/ floated and waited for our turn to be collected by William.

We holed up near the Pinnacle rocks, where Mark and Thomas had been diving and Thomas told us he had seen an Octopus….where’s the photo Mark?

Pinnacle’s

After a decent break we prepared for our second dive on the Hopper. This is also a formation of rocks on Staple Island that is colonised by seal families’.  Underwater there is a series of 3 gullies where the young seal usually dart in and around the divers’, not for us that day. However as we descended into one of the gullies we were greeted by some lovely scenery, the rock walls looking like vertical gardens of dead men fingers, yellow and white, orange and purple Bloody Henry star fish and lots of velvet swimmer crabs and squat lobsters.

Yellow and white Dead Men Fingers

Orange Bloody Henry.

The bottom of the gully opened up to a boulder littered area where there were lot’s of edible crab and lobster in hiding waiting for their next meal to come along.

Edible crab on the hunt.

A very cautious lobster.

A little further through the gully we spotted lots of Sun Stars and a couple of Butter Fish swimming freely and gliding up the rock face.

Sun Star

Butter Fish

Nearing the end of our dive the area opened up to a basin type feature with a sandy bottom surrounded by boulders and walls. We spotted Mark, Thomas and Geoff here watching juvenile pouting feeding on sand eels…ask Mark to see the video. But now it was time for Chris and I to make our exit, to return another day soon we hope with more of you Aquanauts.

Liam, Mark, Janine, Geoff, Thomas and Chris

Thanks to all for a superb day.

Janine

 

 

 

 

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