12th – 16th September 2010
by Richard Booth
Expedition organiser Andy Hunt selected the small but picturesque village of Glenuig as the expedition base. It has the added advantage of a concrete slip as well as a small relatively sheltered bay in all but the severest of weather.
There are a number of cottages available as holiday lets in Glenuig, as well as a pub, the Glenuig Inn, which offers a good selection of real ales, whiskies and excellent Scottish cuisine.
At one time the Inn also had its own compressor and was a popular location with visiting divers. The compressor has long since gone, and many of today’s visitors appear to be kayakers and wild life tourists rather than divers.
However, Tyneside came prepared bringing along the Club’s two portable compressors for air fills. Fortunately the expedition base, Viking Cottage had no near neighbours who were likely to be disturbed by the noise of the running compressors.
The principle aim of the expedition was to dive a range of offshore sites that can be accessed by a good seaworthy RIB from Glenuig; In particular the distant reefs of Bo Fascadale and Elizabeth Rock, the Oberon Banks, as well as explore some of the dramatic walls across on the Island of Eigg.
Closer to Glenuig Andy had also identified a number of submarine pinnacles that looked like they had the potential of offering very promising adventurous diving judging from their positions on the chart. All we needed now was for the weather Gods to be kind to us and allow us the opportunity to visit these ambitious sites.
With however the impending threat of Northerly Gales, we decided to make an early dash out to Elizabeth Rock and Bo Fascadale and at least achieve some of the planned diving programme. These two sites are situated about a mile apart, some 10 nautical miles out from Glenuig and about a mile north of the Ardnamurchan penisula. In truth you could probably spend a whole week just exploring either of these two fantastic dive sites. Indeed both sites turned out to be oasis of ocean life as their rocky surfaces turned out to be covered in an interesting diversity of marine life.
Nevertheless, the effort involved in travelling out to these sites proved very worthwhile with two excellent dives giving us all a good taster as to the true potential of these sites.
Well satisfied with our exploratory dives we headed back across the open sea back to Glenuig hoping that the forecast would turn out to be wrong and that we would be granted other opportunities to head across back to these open water sites.
Sadly however, the weather forecast proved all too accurate and reluctantly we had to resort to plan B and explore some of the other more sheltered sites that this area of Scotland has to offer.
Day two of the expedition saw the start of the arrival of the predicted bad weather, restricting diving activity to the more sheltered areas of the coastline. Again a mixed variety of dives were experienced. Some proved disappointing having clearly suffered the ravages of recent scallop dredging. Others however provided more interesting dives, particularly on the pinnacles of Broad and Priest Rock. Here we found a variety of rocky pinnacles with plumose anemones much in evidence, plus the usual host of marine life including velvet crabs and squat lobsters.
By midweek, however, Glenuig was in the grip of full force 9 gales. The long range forecast had proved all too accurate fully vindicating the decision to head out for Bo Fascadle and Elizabeth Rock at the start of the expedition. Reluctantly Seawitch was recovered from the water and firmly strapped down against the worst effects of the wind.
It was time to resort to plan C! To this end expedition members loaded their dive kit into cars and headed south, to complete a recce of Loch Sunart. Here just outside the small hamlet of Salen, we completed a shore dive exploring down a steep slope with numerous boulders covered in loch anemones. On the slope nearby we also found some nice sized scallops…
The high hills that surround loch Sunart offers reasonably good shelter from the strong northerly wind. We also established contact with the owners of the slipway at Salen, Mark and Jan Drury, which offers good launching and overnight mooring facilities.
The decision was therefore made to move the club’s RIB Seawitch down to Loch Sunart and spend the remainder of the expedition exploring the rich waters of this loch.
That evening back at Viking Cottage, Andy pored over the chart and identified several promising looking sites for further exploration. These included the well known dive site of Risga Pinnacle which provided some excellent scenic diving with walls covered in marine life.
Not far from Risga, we also had an excellent scenic dive down the submarine slope that extends down from Broad Rock.
We also however located and dived some other superb steep walls that plunged dramatically downwards into the depths.
Again, marine life on these sites proved plentiful and varied. Indeed we were all somewhat taken by surprise by the unexpected high quality of the diving we found in Loch Sunart, as it is an area that does not seem to feature strongly in the dive press possibly because of the lack of any real local diving infrastructure.
In the end despite the best efforts of the weather to disrupt the expedition, the waters off Glenuig and Loch Sunart had provided us with some excellent and adventurous diving.
Thanks to Andy Hunt for organising another excellent Tyneside 114 expedition.
Viking cottage: http://www.vikingcottages.com
Mandy and Peter Tevendale
Contact details for Salen jetty.
Mark or Jan Drury
01967 431510 or 07788 664971