May 3rd, 2012
Lochaline has become firm favourite and a regular Easter venue for members of the group over the last few years. This year six members and a friend spent four very pleasant days in this wonderful location. Beautiful coastal scenery, excellent walking, places to visit, and the diving is also very good as well. A walk along the Western shore of the loch passes a large silica sand mine, the white sand spilling out onto the shore creating what could easily be mistaken for tropical coral sand beaches. Sand from the mine was used to produce high quality optical lenses for gun sights etc. during WW2. Continuing along the loch there are a number of quite interesting geological features and on the loch itself many different species of water bird can be seen, Grey herons around every corner. One member of our party out kayaking on the loch was fortunate enough to have a very close encounter with otters, the rest of us were green with envy. Follow the track around the head of the loch and along the eastern shore to where a small stream tumbles down a small steep valley. Search amongst the boulders and stones in the stream bed and you will be sure to find fossil oysters called Gryphaea that lived on the muddy shoreline of a tropical sea 200 million years ago. Most of the diving was from the easy access Hotel beach which leads gently down over the white sand with lots of tube anemones, Cerianthus lloydii to the top of the Lochaline wall, an almost vertical rock face plunging down to great depths, well beyond the reach of most sport divers. Spectacular diving with a tremendous diversity of life, we have recorded more than 120 different species on the wall to date with a new sighting this visit of a cuttle fish, Sepia officinalis to be added. There is still much more to be be recorded on future visits. There was also a dive on the shallow sea grass beds at Rubha-nan-Sornagon, Loch Linnhe, plenty of interesting marine life, notably lots of sea potatoes, Echinocardium pennatifidum. Overall an excellent few days, with thanks to organisers, Barry & Jo, and the good weather was an added bonus.
April 2nd, 2012
Weather conditions for the site had been perfect for more than a week, so we travelled to Roa Island on Sunday 1st. April with high expectations of having a good interesting dive. Looking down on the water from the lifeboat gantry the conditions looked OK, so we kitted up and took the plunge. Much to our surprise after we had covered only a few metres from the shore the underwater visibility was no more than half a metre. It was quite light but there was very fine silt suspended in the water. As we progressed deeper it became more and more gloomy. At the deepest point (10.7m) in the middle of the channel it was completely dark and impossible to see anything. We swam slowly back up the slope to into shallower water, about (5m deep). here the bright sun penetrated the silty water a little more and the diverse marine life that we are used to seeing in the channel came into view. In the very small field of vision there were numerous species of crab, tiny anemones, sponges, common whelks, mussels and a small number of the beautiful hydroid, Tubularia indivisa with tentacles extended. On returning to shore we discovered that dredging operations were being carried out in the Channel and had been for a number of days. This was the reason for the poor visibility and our far less than perfect dive. It was though the first of April !
March 19th, 2012
Work by the Lancashire MCS group recording the Piel Channel is now available online. The work dates from the late 1980′s to the present day.
Thanks to Ron for bringing the data together for this; the full report is available through the link below:
Piel Channel survey
September 12th, 2011
A couple of articles over the last few weeks do make interesting and/or disturbing reading: I think it is pretty much a given that for wild fisheries to have much chance of survival they must be managed. In this light recent gene marker studies on fish sales raise both hopes that we can now clearly identify the provenance of a fish on the fishmonger’s counter, and a warning that some existing certification schemes are not working as well as they need to. Farmed fish may be managed, but that also makes them subject to pretty unpleasant management practices, such as the practice of eye-stalk ablation, which apparently speeds maturity of black tiger shrimp…
We start, however, with one of the big stories in the popular press over the last few weeks, the latest estimate of the total number of species on the planet. To be pedantic we should perhaps say eukaryotic species, though the term ‘species’ is not very easy to apply to prokaryotes…
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August 26th, 2011
This will be an informal event looking for and recording some of the creatures that can be found on the shore at Roa Island. Low tide is at 7:30pm and will be particularly low – at 0.5 metres it should expose more of the shore than most tides which means that many creatures that are often only seen by divers may be found. There are also some creatures that divers don’t normally see that are easier to find when the tide has gone out.
Suitable for all ages; children must be supervised by a responsible adult. Meet at the top of the Jetty next to the Lifeboat Station @6:15pm – map reference SD 232648.
What to bring?
Must haves -
- Wellies, sandals or other shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and probably a little muddy;
- The same applies to your clothes; also bring some warmer clothes – the shore is exposed so can feel chillier than places on shore.
Optional extras -
- A towel and a change of clothes just in case may be a good idea;
- Shallow trays or a bucket to put creatures in to study (but be sure to put them back carefully exactly where you find them!);
- A net;
- A camera – but be aware that sea water and cameras do not mix well, if you bring a camera and have a waterproof housing then please use it and in any case take extreme care on the shore not to drop (or even put) your camera into water;
- A torch – preferrably a waterproof one, or another good option would be a head torch (sunset is @8:10pm, dusk 8:45pm).
Anything that you bring or wear will be at your own risk.
If anyone wants to car share please let me know and I will try to arrange to meet at the westbound layby on the A65 about half a mile east of junction 36 of the M6 – map ref SD 541821. But note that timing will be a little tight for some of us to get away from work and get to the meeting point in time and that I will NOT do this unless it is requested and I can arrange to leave in time to get to Roa Island.
Contact: Lewis Bambury
Tel: 01524 414318
Mob: 07798 707318
August 21st, 2011
The hardest coral on the reef may well be a softie, as much of the rocky structure of these reefs is found to derive from the sclerites from soft corals! This debate over how much support environmental agencies will grow as our economic worries deepen, how high up the scale do you put the environment? Essential for our continued existence on the planet, or jobs/hospitals now (environment later – maybe)? This week DSN reports on the debate in the US in our conservation leader. Our pollution section, however, points out that one of the most damaging aquatic pollutants – nitrogen from fertilisers – can be reduced while saving money and increasing yields…
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August 5th, 2011
A cracker of crazy stuff from the ocean this issue: Our contribution to shark week this year might be a shark with a hump – or the camel with very sharp teeth… Plus buzzing lobsters, binary snails and when to fix your beach defenses. Perhaps the best news this issue is the partial recovery of the Grand Banks fishing area. White fish stocks had been reduced close to extinction, and this set up feedback loops that resulted in smaller fish and squid taking over, as they ate what few young fish that were born. After over 20 years of ban, however, there are signs that the cod are coming back… Lessons? – Stop fishing before you hit stock bottom (unless you can survive 30 years without work that is)!
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August 4th, 2011
Over the last few years we have built up a species list for the Hotel beach and wall at Lochaline. Most of the work has been done by Ron Crosby, with occasional contributions from other embers of the group. This year, however, we are glad to welcome contributions from Ron Ates and Godfried van Moorsel, both based in the Netherlands. Their additions (and corrections) take our list up to 122 named species – not bad at all for 100m stretch of coastline! Mind you the coastline is very conducive to diving, with easy access over a gently sloping beach, leading to a near vertical drop down to 80+m. This makes a wide range of habitats readily accessible to the diver – and reminds us about how much there is in the seas around our coasts.
Below is a quick breakdown table of the life recorded, for a full species list see our survey page:
July 12th, 2011
The coolest story in this issue is the all seeing-eye that sea-urchins apparently have, using light sensitive detectors on the tips of each of their tube feet, which are distributed all around their body! Less good is the prediction of a global marine mass extinction event. Otherwise, a few groups are publishing genetic studies increasing our understanding of how marine organisms biomineralise carbonates. Quite imporant given the expected increase in ocean acidification.
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July 5th, 2011
Seven members of the group spent an interesting long weekend at the end of June in the very popular area around Oban. Weather conditions were quite mixed, but we did manage to avoid the showers. A number of dives took place including one on a rocky reef in the inner basin of Loch Creran, then north to the spectacular submarine wall in Loch Linnhe near Kentallon. We also made a visit to the littledived Loch Feochan just a few miles few miles south of Oban. The chart indicated that we could expect to see a lot of mud. The mud was part of the attraction, would we find sea pens and large anemones. From the easy access point, a lay-by right alongside the loch we swam over stones and pebbles covered with various green and brown seaweeds, then onto the gently sloping mud. There were occasional boulders covered with mussels, then at about four metres deep were dozens of the sea slug Philine aperta and the small almost transparent sacks of their eggs. Continuing down the slope to about six and a half metres below the surface where hundreds of sea pens Virgularia mirabilis covered the sea bed. This was only a quick look at a loch that I feel has much more to offer. Many thanks to Jo and Barry Kaye for organising a very enjoyable weekend.