So it’s been a busy summer season this year. We’ve had some great groups up diving with us, and some interesting projects going on all season. Here’s a round-up of a few of the projects we’ve been involved with over the past few months.
Wessex Archaeology’s Project Samphire has been working with us here at Lochaline Dive Centre while investigating the Sound of Mull for new wrecks and sites of archaeological interest. Project Samphire aims to support and investigate the marine and coastal heritage of western Scotland’s coasts and islands. Many new targets have been identified and the first few dived in the past few months.
First we had divers in on an incredible Catalina flying boat. Unbelievably intact and sitting around 25 metres, what made the dive even more significant was that it was divers from RAF Brize Norton on national Armed Forces Day, making for a fantastic day’s diving. Throw in some deeper sites (around 60 metres) and there’s been some exciting new wrecks added to the Sound’s inventory, with more to be confirmed in the future.
To continue the archaeology theme, the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) have been with us working on one of the Sound’s famous historical wrecks – the Swan (Duart Point wreck). The Swan was a Cromwellian warship, which sank in 1653 in an attempt to capture Duart Castle and subdue the Maclean of Duart. She was the last ship to be built for Charles I, and carried a number of iron cannons.
Last November the historic wrecks in the Sound of Mull – Duart Point, Dartmouth and John Preston – had their designation changed. Originally protected by the Historic Wrecks Act, the sites are now classed as Marine Historic Protected Areas. This opens the sites to allow divers to enjoy these historically and culturally important wrecks on a look-don’t-touch basis.
To promote these wrecks and their change of designation, the NAS along with Lochaline Dive Centre and esteemed marine archaeologist Dr. Colin Martin have been working on an underwater trail guide for divers to explore the wrecks, starting with the Duart Point site.
The guide will allow divers to clearly see how the wreck and its artifacts rest on the seabed, and how the wreck’s structure has changed over time.
It will also provide a way for Lochaline Dive Centre and the NAS to monitor the wreck over time, and map any further artifacts that are exposed.
The whole project is funded by Historic Scotland, and Phil Robertson – senior inspector of marine archaeology – has been heavily involved in the project with us here at Lochaline Dive Centre.
The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) have been with us at Lochaline Dive Centre while surveying and studying the diverse range of marine wildlife on some of the Sound’s popular wall dives. The significance of this in relation to divers is that many of these walls are popular and frequently dived, are easy access shore dives, and provide interesting and attractive dives to divers of all experience levels. The fact that the JNCC are recording exactly what species are there and in what kind of population will provide useful and interesting information for divers, particularly keen photographers and wildlife spotters. The study and classification on what could be several new species of sea-slug is also on the cards.
Quite aptly with everything going on in the area the Sound of Mull has been awarded Marine Protected Area (MPA) status, as part of the huge body of water stretching from Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura.
This newly designated MPA – one of the biggest MPA’s in the network – is designed to support the resident population of marine wildlife, focusing on the common skate – the largest species of skate in the world. This is encouraging as the designation will put restrictions on trawling and dredging in the Sound of Mull and the surrounding waters. This should create the perfect environment for a boom in marine wildlife, from the very smallest micro organisms to the very largest mammals such as dolphins, whales and seals.
Speaking of wildlife, the summer season saw a whole host of interesting wildlife being spotted in the Sound. Schools of dolphins were spotted not just far up the Sound, but divers reported tons of dolphins playing right off Lochaline beach. Minke whales were seen alongside our dive boats and of course the famous basking shark was much sought after with divers going out towards Coll and Tiree. A popular day with divers here in the summer is to combine a dive with the basking sharks – who congregate in the waters in and around the Isle of Coll – with a dive on the wreck of the Tapti – a British steel cargo vessel which ran aground in 1951. Our divers and snorkellers had regular encounters with curious seals on several trips throughout the season, and of course the Sound’s resident sea eagles can often be seen flying overhead while we’re out on charters.
We still have divers with us all throughout the autumn/winter, but as the days are getting shorter we can’t help but look back at the amazing summer we’ve had.
If you want to book a dive trip with us we’re taking bookings for the Autumn/Winter season and 2015, with a few cheeky package deals available!
For info and booking check out our website www.lochalinedivecentre.co.uk or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.