Whirl Rock – hunting the jewels

Richard and Brian getting ready for the first dive.

This trip had been a few months in the planning, essentially picking a weekend when the tides were right so that we could get a nice long slack on Whirl Rocks. Also using a hard boat meant that everyone on board could have the full slack window diving the reef, rather than just half of the slack so that two waves of divers could dive from the club rhib.

The weather was looking favourable, small swell and blue sky, with only a few clouds. On the trip were Bill, Richard M, Richard B, Nic, Michael, Tony H and Brian. In order to make the boat more viable we were also co-sharing with the Pirates, one of whom is also a member of Tyneside 114.

Tony and Brian loading up in the harbour

The first dive was on the Blue Caps. It lies out of the current and makes for a ‘pick your own depth’ dive. The sensible people stayed quite shallow in order to optimise bottom time on Whirl Rocks, and those who went deep would regret it later when racking up deco on Whirl Rocks later. The Blue Caps were a bit urchin grazed this year, with lots of bare rock, but if you looked closely lobsters and crabs were there.

The second and deeper dive was Whirl Rocks. Michael the skipper dropped the shot and down we went. The instructions were to go down the rope then along the gully and turn left. We went right just to keep away from the masses and get some scenic shots. The walls on this dive are just amazing, absolutely covered for their whole height in soft coral, dead man’s fingers. After staring at the walls, we gained a bit of depth (32 metres) and as we swam north up towards the wreck (Jan van Ryswyk) we found jewel anemones. Generally not found on the north east coast, they do occur here: green ones, and definitely there. 10 years to find them, but find them we did.

Yellow jewel anemones on a rock on the seabed.

After navigating through a few gullies, finding a large anchor and a few other bits of wreckage, the Jan van Ryswyk rose up on front of us. The engine block stands about 4 metres proud of the seabed. It must have been quite a big wreck; we spent the best part of 30 minutes swimming around finding new bits to photograph each time. It is also slightly sheltered from the current, and life covered everything, including a special bryzoan only found in this area of the north east coast (and also in Norway) called Smittina landsborovii.

After about 52 minutes, we headed up towards the top of Whirl Rocks to deploy the DSMB. As soon as we deployed the bag it became quite apparent how strong the current now was. So, whoosh! up and along we went. I then spotted an entangled DSMB (not ours) so dived down to

The upstanding bits of the Van Jan Ryswyk. 

 free it. No problem I thought, I can then just bag up too. On freeing the DSMB I realised mine was no longer clipped to me. Eeks, so I slowly ascended the now freed DSMB to the surface.

Once back on the boat, there sat on my seat was my DSMB. It must have unclipped just before I left the boat. Disaster averted and lost items found, we headed back to Seahouses, and all went to the pub to discuss what a grand dive Whirl Rocks is. We must make this an annual event.

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