IN SOUTHERN IRELAND
with Peter Glanvill
We dived every day apart from the obligatory visit to Dingle Bay. The
locals have called the Bottle-nosed Dolphin. which has made his home in
the bay, 'Fungi'. We snorkelled out, and after what seemed an eternity
of bashing knives together (apparently it seems to attract him), he suddenly
appeared only a metre away from us in the water.
His back was scarred from propeller blades - he likes to chase after pleasure craft organised by astute fishermen who charge tourists £5 for the short trip from Dingle harbour. He stayed 15 minutes before chasing more boats out to sea before briefly returning.
At about 10 metres depth, right underneath a large cleft in some rocks,
a wonderful cave extended for about 15-20 metres, but the visibility was
superb, the colours of the Lobsters, Tompot Blennies
and various anemones were stunning. Below the cave were several large Crayfish.
There is, however, a ban on divers 'collecting' shellfish in Eire.
One of the two night dives took place at Carehdaniel beach at midnight,
opposite the graveyard! An amazing number of big Edible Crabs, Tope, Dogfish,
juvenile Conger, and Little Cuttles Sepiola atlantica danced in
the torchlight. Visiblity must have been 15 metres.
At night, Hermit Crabs were common, but none with the commensal anemones.
Urchins were very few in number. We surmise that swell makes it difficult for them to retain their holds. The Kelp descends to greater depths than elsewhere in the British Isles because of the clearer water. The most prevalent echinoderm were the Sea Cucumbers in huge numbers. The trails were noticeable with 4 to every square metre we dived in.
Large shoals of Pollack and Mackerel were in evidence. The largest of
the Congers reached 15 cm (6") in diameter. The dramatic Compass Jellyfish,
hysoscella, even when small are not overlooked. One specimen was over
2 metres (6 ft) in length.
Sea Anemones were well represented by 'Strawberry' Anemones, Actinia fragacea, in the cave especially. Plumose Anemones, Metridium senile, and Dead Men's Finger's, Alcyonium digitatum, were remembered. Other species completely covered rock faces.
The final dive also happened to be the most memorable. As the weather
calmed towards the end of the week, we paid a visit to the Skerrigs, about
16 miles (26 km) out at sea. On route we passed a large seal being
stalked by a Blue Shark. When we thought no-one else was looking, we took
it in turns to check our knives were packed on board!
We dived on the west face of Little Skellig, easily distinguished
by its white colour caused by the guano of 40,000 pairs of gannets that
nest there. At 25 metres, the visibility was 30 metres plus which showed
off the dramatic underwater scenery. Anemones in a variety of colours,
red, green, yellow, purple-pink, covered wall-to-wall of sheer cliff faces.
The highlight for two of the divers came when climbing one gully, there was a seal facing them two metres away which would mimic the divers movements. All the dive pairs had inquisitive seals with them at some point.
NICE PLACE NICE PEOPLE, GREAT DIVING!