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Seasearch Observer Course, Newcastle, 27th March 2010

What do UK divers do in winter when they are bored with trips to the Lakes or cannot face another dive in the coldness and murkiness of Ellerton? They go on courses!

Nic, Tyneside 114’s energetic training officer, arranged a Seasearch Observer training course (the entry level) for the last Saturday in March, promising the participants a lot of fun and excitement – of the fishy kind!

Well, why do divers who only really care about wrecks and other pieces of historic corroded metal go on such a course?

I cannot speak for Liz and Mike – another two members of Tyneside 114 who attended on the day – but personally I wanted to know more about all those creatures that live on the seabed and sometimes encountered on shipwrecks, which I know very little about and are commonly referred to as ‘those weird things’ and ‘that slimy stuff’.

Another incentive for participating is that it is in line with a project the club is deeply involved with: Gun Rocks II.

What does the course cover?

Amongst other things, the course tutors (Carrie Pillow and Paula Lighfoot) showed the 10 participants on the day some of the survey methods used during Seasearch dives.

Although there was some basic species identification, the course is not an endless slide show about species, families and Latin names; it is first and foremost about the variety of marine life in English and Irish waters in the near-shore zone.

We were also taught how to recognise and classify marine habitat, position fixing and finally enter the details of a dive onto the Seasearch form. The day was concluded with a ‘video dive’ and an opportunity to fill in the form without even getting wet!

That’s well and good, what next?

The ultimate aim of this course is about organising club dives to survey and monitor the state of the sea life around the UK waters. To be fully signed up as a Seasearch Observer, participants have to complete 5 forms for real, including two dives with a tutor present.

For the very keen ones and other kelp-huggers there are more courses:

  • Seasearch Surveyor – for experienced recorders who want to increase the value of the results
  • Specialist Courses – a range of ID and techniques courses for people who want to expand their knowledge