Kate Sirrell has done all the organising
for this monster trip (excellent work!), here follows a summary
of the email she has sent to all concerned.
will be rocking up in Falmouth on Thursday evening; accomodation
will be mainly in the Cornish
Diver's self-catering bunkhouse on Bar Road, Falmouth.
Gary, Candice, Aidan, Alistair, Heather and Nick are staying
at Trevoil Guesthouse and Warren and Dawn are staying at Treganna
Friday we'll be shore-diving
off Pendenis Point (more on which below) and making a night
dive (squid!!). Saturday and Sunday Kate has arranged
two hardboats to take us out to the Manacles, and Monday we'll
get a few more shore dives in.
A large van will be going down on Thursday
morning, anyone who'd like their kit to be taken in the can
can contact me.
Pendennis Point in Falmouth Bay is perfect
for observing seasonal changes, as it offers almost every
habitat in its sheltered shallow waters. Here you can find
deeply fissured reefs, sandy plains and even wrecks, all within
50-100m of the shore. It's an ideal area for training, photography
and, perhaps, for depth fiends who want to test their kit
and procedures. Average water temperature is 10c.
As spring approaches, the reef begins
to regenerate and dress itself again in kelp, new sponge growth
and the frenzied breeding activity which coincides with this.
One of the strangest fish you might encounter in spring is
the male lumpsucker, which is left in shallow water guarding
and nurturing his egg clutch after mating. These fish were
apparently once common in the South-west, as they still are
in the North Sea, but are now infrequently encountered, so
it is exciting to find that one had taken up residence just
a few metres off the beach.
Directly above this lumpsucker on top
of the wreckage were a pair of large, deep maroon-coloured
ballan wrasse, the female heavy with eggs resting in the weed
while the larger male fastidiously courted her and saw off
the advances of other determined males. This pair were in
residence for a week or more waiting to spawn and showed no
interest in the instant meal directly below them. In fact
this piece of wreckage, which was formerly part of the hydroplane
assembly of the submarine, is a microcosm of reef life. Aside
from its temporary and permanently resident fish, the underside
is decorated with sponges, hydroids, tunicates, tube worms,
cup corals and anemones. Amid these, topknot flatfish are
often found clinging upside-down like freestyle climbers.
The top of the steelwork is covered
with kelp, so that from above it is indistinguishable from
the reef itself. Among the fronds are swimming crabs, hermits,
prawns and well-camouflaged scorpionfish.
Other camouflaged residents include the greater pipefish and
snake pipefish, both of which hang in the weed and need sharp
eyes to spot. At the base of the kelp stipes you might find
little clusters of dark sea-grapes, or a clutch of white,
lozenge-shaped egg sacs. These show that both cuttlefish and
squid are mating in the area. Look carefully on the gravel
bottom and you are likely to find some cuttlefish, which will
put on a fine display of pattern, colour and camouflage changes
if approached gently.
If you want a chance of seeing the
squid, you need to return after dark and wait patiently with
a powerful torch, which normally attracts a few fleeting visits.
Back on the reef, by investigating the cracks and fissures
you will find various species of crabs preparing to mate.
Male swimming crabs and cancer crabs clutch recently moulted
females to their chests to protect them while waiting until
they are ready. Later the females will carry their broods
until they hatch. Spider crabs come inshore to breed as well.
You might meet small congregations of them waiting for the
females to moult, which is when competition between males
for partners begins.
The first mild sunny days of spring
soon propagate the first phytoplankton or algae bloom, which
can reduce visibility and turn the waters dark green both
inshore and offshore.However, as usual nature has all this
planned and this bloom is timed to coincide with the hatching
of the millions of larvae from the various spawnings. These
will feed on the algae as they develop and in turn create
their own plankton bloom, which will be fed on by others further
up the food chain. At the end of this food chain is, of course,
our largest fish species, the basking shark, which will appear
in late April or May and provide some electric encounters
for those patient enough to stalk them and forsake their diving
kit for a snorkel.
Pendennis Point is close to the centre of Falmouth, with adequate
parking and easy access to the water from the road. Best entry
point is from the eastern end of Castle Beach, with its small
clifftop car park and steps leading to the water's edge.
The U-boat wrecks are easy to find and
the remains of no fewer than five subs can be found on the
south-western side of the point, within 50m of the shore.
To find the closest, enter via the steps and follow the reef
edge on your left for about 50m. Turn left and swim another
50m or so parallel to the shore until you come to the first
well-defined gully, at right angles to the shore. Here you
will find the remains of the pressure hull of the first U-boat,
with other fair-sized pieces of wreckage close by. If you
continue swimming east you will encounter the remains of two
further submarines in the gullies 50-100m from the shore,
the farthest one perhaps 200m from your entry point. If you
dive from the rocks further up the road, make sure it is over
the high-water period. It's easy to get stranded by the falling
tide and you might have a long swim to an exit point!
Watching a lumpsucker circle
Clusters of squid's eggs are often
found attached to kelp
A nudibranch winds its eggmass around
a blade of eel grass
The shanny changes his colour to grey
or black when he is guarding his egg mass
A Starfish raises itself
This area of reef covering approximately
one square mile, is an abundance of shipwrecks and reefs ranging
from 8m to 80m, catering for divers of all levels. There has
been more loss of shipping here than on any other comparable
reef on the entire south coast of Britain, with over 110 ships
and more than 1,000 lives lost
A spectacular array of reefs can be
found on the Manacles, ranging from; sheer-sided pinnacles
and walls from 5-40m+, along with rocks and gullies full of
jewel anemones, crustaceans and plenty of fish life. The Manacle
reefs are quite literally British scenic diving at its’
best - densely covered with soft corals, hydroids, and large
plumose anemones, plus much more.
Reef dives include:
Raglan – 6-40m:
About 100m off Maen Voes lies
Raglan Reef, a series of submerged pinnacles rising to 7m.
On the outermost edge of the Manacles, it gets the full benefit
of the strongest currents as the tide is deflected round the
outside of the reef, though slack water is the shortest on
the Manacles. The rocks are densely covered with the usual
Manacles marine life of anemones, soft corals and hydroids,
with the emphasis on large plumose anemones.
Penwin – 4-50m: Pinnacles with sheer
drop-offs. Mohegan rudder rests here
Vase – 6-40m: Beautifully scenic gullies
Woodfords Wall – 6-45m: Sheer wall
drop-offs covered in life
There are many fantastic wreck sites in and around the Manacles
offering an enormous variety of diving ranging from 5-70m.
For the more challenging diver, the deeper waters offer larger
virtually intact ships. Wreck
The SS Mohegan
The wreck of the Mohegan, a Victorian
passenger steamer, lies an easy swim north-east from here
(Wreck Tour 8, October 1999), but the rocks and reef running
eastwards make a good scenic dive by themselves, with lots
of anemones, crustaceans and fish to see.
To the north in Porthallow Bay is the
Volnay, a 4600 ton munitions ship sunk by a mine in 1917.
At only 20m, and away from the currents of the Manacles, this
makes a convenient second dive and becomes the first wreck
dive for many new divers at Easter.
There are more wrecks than you can shake
a stick at on this part of the coast and I can't list them
all. Ric Stoddern has started to list them all here.
It should be pointed out that, though
the Manacles are a great dive, they can also be quite difficult
owing to depth, the many wrecks down there and occasional
strong tides, please bear this in mind and dive safe.