The UK’s marine environments are under more pressure than ever before. From the plastic pollution littering our beaches to the damage done by discarded fishing gear and intensive or sometimes illegal fishing practices. It is imperative to gain a better understanding and awareness of these issues and the action required to protect the seas we all love and depend on.
The team Andy has assembled includes divers, marine biologists and underwater videographers with the aim of assessing the marine environments along the West coast of the UK and to support the vital work of specific projects with the goal of protecting these habitats for future generations.
Biofluorescence is essentially the ability of an organism, to absorb electromagnetic wavelengths from the visible light spectrum by fluorescent compounds, and the subsequent emission of this at a lower energy level.
After a temporary stay at Macduff Marine Aquarium, this octopus was carefully transported back to the sea so that she would have time to find a mate and complete her lifecycle.
In the video below you can find out how we came to have this fascinating animal at the aquarium. Watch her glide gently out of her high tech tupperware transport, before jetting off and immediately adapting to her natural habitat, going straight into camouflage mode amongst the kelp.
At the start of 2016 I began writing online blogs for The Guardian. My thanks goes out to the science editor for allowing me access to this platform which has enabled me to reach a wide audience and to report on various aspects of shark science.
I will post the links to the blogs on here once they are live. Here is a link to my first blog about white shark diving in Guadalupe:
“BANG… BANG… BANG…” I checked my watch, 3am. I lay there quietly cursing the person who was allowing a door in their cabin to bang rhythmically with each pitch and roll of the boat. This was my first time on a liveaboard as well as my first time in the Maldives, and I began to wonder what I would experience diving here over the next week, musing in particular as to what sharks I may see. My thoughts were interrupted with a feeling of idiocy accompanied with an athletic catapult from the bed (by my partner following an instructive nudge from myself) to shut our bathroom door, sleep then returned swiftly with the gentle rocking of the boat.
Technically speaking I was going to be diving the Maldives ‘out of season’, it was the middle of the South West monsoon which runs from May to November and can be accompanied by heavy rain and rougher seas. During this season the wind transports clearer water from the South West, meaning that on the Western side of the atolls you should be rewarded with better visibility during a dive. Of course this ‘off season’ diving also meant a reduced number of liveaboard’s operating. However I managed to book onto a boat that would be running provided there was a minimum of 8 people on board. Thankfully just (an almost heart-stopping) two weeks before the trip a total of 10 of us had confirmed and the trip would go ahead! Phew!!
Getting busy with my new Canon 550D and housing.
The first dive following the standard ‘orientation/test dive’ (which dive operators often use to validate your skills and make sure you are happy underwater) did not disappoint. Masses of reef fish, hawksbill turtle, black stingray and a manta ray. The latter being particularly memorable – we were nearing the end of the dive when I glanced up and spotted a manta coming in with a bit of pace and reasonably close to the surface, just as I thought “I wonder if she’s going to breach?” She charged upwards and turned a full back flip in the air before returning to the water! Spectacular and I must congratulate the Manta ray on her perfectly timed acrobatics as this dive took place on my Birthday, most considerate!
Manta Ray post breach.
Over the course of the week we logged a total of eighteen dives with four dives around the N. Male Atoll, two dives around S. Male Atoll and six each around the N. and S. Ari Atolls. All but one of these dives were pinnacle (reef) dives which typically involved a max depth of around 25m. During these dives a wonderful diversity and abundance of reef fish were seen, together with; giant moray, honeycomb, and yellow margin eels, napoleon wrasse, cleaner shrimps, leaf fish, stone fish, lionfish, turtles (hawksbill and green), big schools of jacks and snapper as well as plenty of white-tip reef sharks and grey reef sharks and even a free swimming zebra shark (a new species I could now tick off my list)!
Hawksbill Turtle feeding on the Reef.
We did 1 wreck dive a fishing vessel called the Kuda Giri, which supports a good resident fish population and allowed for a deeper dive of 37m when investigating the propeller and lower decks. The nearby pinnacle is a few short fin strokes away (the cause of the wreck!) with some smaller caves and swim-throughs to explore on the way up.
Despite not seeing a whale shark when diving, we were fortunate enough to see one and snorkel with it whilst around the S. Ari Atoll. We were on route to our second dive location of the day when we spotted an individual in about 5m of water cruising along the shoreline. We donned our snorkel gear, grabbed our camera’s and abandoned the boat (in my case still wearing half my normal clothes instead of swimwear!). The shark was about 17ft in length, and at this size probably still a juvenile! What an amazing experience as you carefully but quickly swim over to where you think the shark should be, eyes darting back and forth, ready to catch your first glimpse and then BOOM, there it is, emerging out of the plankton rich water! Fantastic!
Young Whale Shark over Reef.
Overall my first time on a liveaboard had been a huge success. I loved having the complete diving experience without having to go to and from a resort every day, and I am sure I got to see a lot more of the Maldives in general as well as more dive sites, the boat allowing us to travel further distances to different atolls than if I would have done a week’s land based diving.
Without a doubt, the huge benefit of diving in this season (if you don’t mind the 5-15m visibility range), is the absence of other divers, every time we dove we had the sites to ourselves, which I am told in the Maldives at peak season (especially December and January) is nigh impossible.
However this brings me to an unapologetic rant about the buoyancy control (or should I say the lack of…) by some divers. I know it can be very difficult to be perfect, I will openly admit an accidental ‘clip of the coral’ with a fin has happened to me in the past, which has been accompanied by an overbearing sense of guilt, a one sided telepathic conversation ensues ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean too…!’. But honestly what about the serial offenders who ignore the dive guide’s request’s and the overpowering looks of scorn mustered up by the other divers, to repeatedly stand on and lie all over the coral, kicking over table corals, snapping off goodness knows how many years of growth, in a matter of seconds with absolutely no show of remorse!
I am all for people enjoying the underwater world, but it is beyond me to understand how such divers fail to realise the consequences of their actions, there needs to be a system put in place as no amount of frowning, grunting, growling and finger wagging as well as topside conversations made any difference. It alarms me to think that it wasn’t bad weather or poor visibility associated with off season diving that had the potential to taint this trip; instead it was the irresponsible attitude or perhaps poor training (?) of other divers…..
LOL – Lauren on Location – another fantastic week for Lauren as she logs up her 100th dive and along with some of the members of the TSRCP team she goes freediving around Malapascua Island.
Most sites are quite shallow with the deepest freedive logged at 10m; however the most fascinating site was “coral gardens” located out of bounty beach. As the name suggests there’s lots of coral coverage with relatively few non-colonized sandy patches, there are many species of small reef dwelling fish (although we didn’t see any larger fish indicating the health of the reef is not as good as it could be) and you could literally spend hours here looking at and photographing the reef.
The Coral Gardens
The start of this week was a bit of a milestone for me as I logged my 100th dive. I was lucky, on my 100th I got a Thresher Shark circling and on dive 101 I had another fantastic Manta Ray visit with it passing so close and going over my head! I never thought I would be writing about manta ray sightings as often as I have been – the week previous to this I saw 2 manta rays and 1 thresher shark all circling together at the same time, I thought I was going to explode I was so excited! I couldn’t decide where to look; this practically resulted in whiplash from snapping my head back and forth between animals!!! I am told that such sightings are by no means typical and so feel extremely fortunate to be experiencing this number/quality of sightings.
Yesterday I was struck with an entirely new challenge, I had cut open my heel on my booties when Freediving at the weekend this had become infected (I will spare the readers the gory details –let’s just say it wasn’t looking good!) and my ankle was swollen, having already made the decision to get up at 4:20am and go out on the boat I was determined to find a way to dive.
Whatever it takes ….. the 1 fin wonder!
I tried pulling on my wetsuit, but there was no way my ankle could bend in that direction so instead I was kitted out in Helen’s rash vest and Gordon’s board shorts, to keep the shorts up, I tucked the rash vest in the boardie’s, which came half way up my chest and the pull cord was doubled up and tied around my back, to top it all off I wore one bootie and one fin for all the dives !!! After providing everyone with a good laugh at my expense I was pleasantly surprised with my 1 fining ability, however there are some amusing videos in existence with my foot kicking out at about 100 times of the finned one!! Turns out my effort was worth it as I got the best Thresher Shark sighting I have ever had and was able to get some pretty good shots!
Today I remain on land willing the infection not to get out of control and to let me get back in the water with both fins as soon as possible!
Best Thresher sighting yet.
Manta Ray eclipsing the sun as it passed overhead (the next few shots I couldn’t get the whole animal in view as it dropped even lower!)