Falmouth, April 8-12th
   
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Pendenis from the air

Arrangements

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.

Most people 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 Guesthouse.

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.

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Pendennis Point


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!

© Divernet

watching a lumpsucker

Watching a lumpsucker circle his nest

Squid eggs

Clusters of squid's eggs are often found attached to kelp

Nudibranch

A nudibranch winds its eggmass around a blade of eel grass

Shanny

The shanny changes his colour to grey or black when he is guarding his egg mass

Starfish

A Starfish raises itself

The Manacles

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 and drop-offs
Woodfords Wall – 6-45m: Sheer wall drop-offs covered in life

Shipwrecks
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 dives include:

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.

The Volney

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.

 

Map of cornwall

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