Pipers Gut and the North Warmses – Diving the Farnes

22nd June 2013

by Richard Booth

Rather than risk the mud at the bottom of the Seahouses slip at low water we opted for the ‘safer’ option of a tractor launch from Beadnel. The down side to this plan however was a longer journey out to the Farnes in a choppy sea pushed up by the combination of wind against tide. These weather and sea conditions also limited some of our dive site options, ruling out those on the south side of the islands.

We opted instead for sites on the northern side, which promised more shelter from the strong south blowing breeze.

First dive site selected was Pipers Gut, although with the slack water window ending and the tide starting to pick up and now flooding back through this passage, it promised to be more of an exciting drift dive than a leisurely exploration of the gullies and walls that are to be found in this area. Still we were up for it, with the aim of looking for some of the wreckage from the SS Forfarshire. This paddle steamer met its end on Big Harker Rock at the entrance to the gut during a gale on the 7th September 1838. The incident resulted in the famous rescue of 9 passengers and crew by Grace Darling and her father who was the lighthouse keeper on the nearby Longstone.

Today, only a few remnants of scattered iron wreckage can be found in the surrounding gullies as well as in the main Piper Gut passage.

This area also provides quite a nice scenic dive due to the marine life that thrives on the fast moving tidal current.

On the south side of the Gut entrance it is possible to escape out of the tidal current by tucking in close to the back of the great Harker rock. Here the current drops away; although the downside is that the marine scenery becomes much barer with less soft corals in evidence. On the sandy bottom, large purple boulders litter the seabed.

Here we also came across a number of inquisitive seals. Nicola also found a cooperative gurnard fish, which happily posed, for her camera.

For the second dive we returned to explore the walls and gullies of the North Warmses. The clear water provided an excellent dive with frequent encounters with seals that flashed past the drifting divers.

Following a problem with the rib engine, we made an interesting journey back to Seahouses, courtesy of Glad Tidings IV, enjoying the commentary on puffins and seals, but that’s a tale for another time.