Farne Islands…The Fang delivers!

8th July 2012

by Richard Booth

After all the recent rain and with a northerly swell running nobody was exactly quite sure what to expect when the dive party assembled at Seahouses harbour to launch the club RIB Seawitch. We anticipated some swell and were not surprised by the waves breaking against the harbour wall. Likewise the brown state of the sea within the harbour reflected the amount of rain that had fallen over the North East over recent days but hopefully the Farnes were sufficiently offshore to be relatively unaffected by run off from the distant rivers of the Forth and the Tyne and would offer some shelter from the swell…

We fired up the engine and headed, taking care to power the boat gently over the waves as the swell continued to roll down the coast.

Dive sites would be limited due to the combination of swell, which ruled out more exposed sites, and the strong tides. Ahead we could see numerous dive boats congregating over the St Andre and besides the Blue Caps reef; we opted to try the St Andre.

The shot was dropped onto the wreck and the first group of three divers kitted up. It was clear however from the water streaming back from the buoy that the strong ebb tide was even reaching parts of this relatively sheltered site. In we went and down the line, surrounded by brown coloured water. Conditions on the seabed were no different, with a torch being required to cut through the gloomy brown water. Occasionally a wrasse would flash briefly out of the darkness and our torch beams danced across the wreckage, but this dive was turning out to be more like the conditions off the Tyne than those usually experienced out at the Farnes! We explored around the two boilers before heading up into shallower water to escape the tide and explore the life on the submarine cliff.  It was here in a small crack in rock face that Kevin discovered an octopus deep within its lair. It proved to be the highlight of an otherwise relatively disappointing dive.

Between dives we headed around to Pipers Gut, to peek out at the swell coming down from the North. Here we were greeted by the incredible site of a standing wave, created by the powerful ebb tide meeting the swell from the north: this wave appeared to be acting as a fragile barrier holding back even more dark water no doubt carried down from the rivers further north.

Where to head too for our final dive? In the distance we could see charter boats heading back to Seahouses having apparently abandoned any thoughts of a second dive.

We opted however to take a gamble and to try the waters on the more sheltered side of the Crumstone in the knowledge that the powerful tide was starting to slacken with the approach of slack water.

 

 

 

 

 

The shot was prepared and dropped onto the pinnacle on the western edge of the underwater reef known as the Fang that juts out from the Crumstone. The first group descended, using the line to guide them to the top of the dramatic submarine cliff, which is the starring feature of this dive site. Here we excitedly plunged over the cliff edge carefully adjusting our buoyancy so that we descended down the cliff face in a controlled flight, and taking our time to admire the spectacle of a multicoloured wall covered in white and orange soft corals. Here we found clear green water, free from the tainted brown rainwater that shrouded our earlier dive on the St Andre site. Moving on along the wall Winter found another octopus, this time out and exposed on the cliff face, surveying all around, whilst adjusting its skin colour to blend in with the surrounding white deadmen’s fingers. We had struck gold, our gamble had paid off and the Fang had delivered.