St Kilda or Bust, 1st-6th May 2010

by Richard Booth.

In the run up to travelling up to Oban for the St Kilda, anxious eyes scanned the weather charts trying to read the pattern of high and lows to see if a trip out to St Kilda was likely to take place….The signs appeared promising.

For the second dive we headed up further around the coast of Skye and dived Nieste point. The plan had been to dive the wreck of the Doyle but instead we found ourselves hemmed in on the point by the tide. Here the walls were covered in a thick covering of colourful marine life. The only wreckage located was an old anchor. Was it from the Doyle? Who knows.

Later that afternoon, after watching the outline of St Kilda grow larger on the horizon, we arrived at the island of Boreray . The first dive at St Kilda was a passage dive off Boreray Rubha Bhrengadal; an excellent dive which involved swimming into a passage before descending down a shaft and out into open water via another submarine passage.

The following dive was off the southwest corner off Dunn in a small bay. This site provided a lovely scenic dive with plenty of opportunities for macro photography.

The following day we dived the underwater pinnacle of An Torc off Hirta. A number of crayfish were found hiding in the crevices that cut into the rocky pinnacle. The dive itself consisted of swimming down a cleft in the pinnacle before descending out onto boulder slope at around 40 metres. From here we began our ascent slowly circling around the pinnacle as we slowly headed back towards the surface.

The next dive involved a swim along a long passage which eventually opened out into a small shallow bay. This site is clearly subject to strong tidal surge, as the walls were covered in jewel anemones.

The following morning, the Elizabeth G headed back out to Boreary for a dive on the legendry underwater arch of Sgarbhstac. On this dive we learnt the importance of preparing a compass bearing before jumping off into open water and relying on dead reckoning. Confusion reigned as some of the party headed straight down towards the bottom, 50 metres below! By some miracle everyone made it to the opening of the arch which begins at 34 metres. Drifting down through the open water one gains a spectacular view of this huge submarine arch towering above.

All too soon, you are out on the other side of the arch and it is time to start ascending up the rock slope before sending up a delayed SMB and completing safety stops.

The final dive of the day was spent exploring Fat Boy passage, here Gordon had a heart stopping encounter swimming towards him up a narrow passage way.
Fortunately the seals backed down and turned round before making their escape away out into the blue.
Whilst stopping in Village Bay we had the opportunity to go ashore and explore the island of Hirta . Here can be found the haunting ruins of the village which was evacuated in 1930.

Four of the houses have been renovated and indeed one of them has been converted into a museum which gives an interesting insight into the geology, wildlife and history of the occupation of St Kilda.

All too soon the final day arrived, so an early start was made with the aim of getting two dives in at St Kilda before heading back to Mull . First dive of the day was a site named as the Dun Caves . This site provides some beautiful scenic walls and overhangs notable for the sheer volume of colourful sponges and anemones that encrust all the exposed surfaces. At the base of these cliffs can be found the small cave which gives this site its name.

For the final Hirta dive we elected to dive another classic St Kilda the dive, the legendry Sawcut. Gordon and I arrived first into the deep cleft that cuts some 60 metres back into the Island of Dunn . However even at 27 metres depth, the increasing swell was all too evident. Entering warily into the Sawcut the surge from the swell was too all evident, great for the feeding jewelled anemones, but not so good for the aspiring underwater photographer clutching expensive housings with delicate dome ports. Reluctantly we headed back out into more open water to escape the worst effects of the swell.

Once everyone was safely recovered, kit was hastily stowed and the Elizabeth G headed back towards Mull arriving at Tobermoray 14 hours later Behind us we left the mist shrouded cliffs and hills of St Kilda.
The following morning we returned down the Sound of Mull completing a dive on the wreck of the SS Thesis. Final dive of the trip was a scallop dive off Craignure Point. Returning to Oban it was time to say our goodbyes before heading off home.
Many thanks to Rob and the crew of the M/V Elizabeth G for an excellent trip.