Sheephaven divers got to conduct a lovely night dive in Portnablagh harbour last Wednesday evening, on the last day of summer.
During their dive they took full benefit of the excellent water clarity; maximum depth was 10 metres with surface-to-surface times of up to 40 minutes.
The dive started in the gloaming, just as the light was beginning to fade, and was concluded in darkness, which allowed the light from the pier lamps to cast an eerie glow underwater to guide the divers home at the end.
On the surface, the shore marshals Hugo McFadden and Willie Sheridan could clearly follow the divers’ progress as the dive torches threw out their distinctive glow in the water.
Apart from the thrill of diving in the dark, the big issue of night dives is the presence of so many nocturnal marine species that could be observed. In particular there were a considerable number of lobsters out in the open, some fighting for their territory without any concern for the divers watching their belligerent behaviour.
But the most interesting marine species observation on Wednesday night was the observation of a European eel, which was in its mature colours of olive green on the top and yellow underneath.
This specimen, most likely a male, has now finished feeding and has migrated downstream to begin its long journey across the Atlantic to breed in the Sargasso Sea.
With the scientific name Anguilla anguilla, European eel numbers have crashed since the 1970s by 90 per cent and are currently classified as critically endangered, so to meet this guy on the night dive was a really big deal.
Just more evidence of how rich our maritime ecosystems are and what you might see if the conditions are right.
Sheephaven SAC dived Duncap Head on Saturday morning with a one boat, two-stick dive party. Surface-to-surface times of over 40 minutes were recorded to a maximum depth of 25 metres.
In-water conditions were reasonable, with horizontal visibility of around seven metres and a water temperature at a very comfortable 16 degrees Celsius.
As always, marine life on this site was both abundant and diverse, with plenty of fish life including shoals of juveniles as well as large pollock, wrasse and the occasional ling.
Again, as would be expected, there were loads of lobsters throughout the site along with good numbers of brown crab.
The best observation of the morning was a small conger eel making off with a butterfish in its mouth, but eventually releasing its prey. The butterfish immediately made a full escape, all of which was caught on video and is now posted on the club’s Facebook page, Sheephaven SAC.
On Sunday morning the pride of place went to Ciaran McGlynn, who successfully completed his coxswain test under the examination of Pat McElroy from the Rosses Snorkellers.
The Kevin Boylan-led dive was under the cliffs of Horn Head, where the three-boat dive party conducted a two-stick dive to a maximum depth of 25 metres for times of 40 minutes.
Weather conditions were nearly perfect with only a slight variable breeze to ruffle the sea and the entire site benefiting from the early September sunshine.
Water temperature remains lovely at 16 degrees, just perfect for wet suits, while in-water visibility was slightly better than Saturday at around 10 metres horizontally.
Once again the marine life made the dive, with the observation of topknot, wrasse and pollock on site, as well as good numbers of lobsters and brown crab, while on the passage to the dive site a porpoise rose in the water not far from the boat.
However the divers had a very unusual wildlife observation even before they left Downings pier, when one diver found a male common newt had travelled to the site in her dive gear.
These tiny reptiles, with a scientific name of Lissotrition vulgaris, are the only native Irish newts and this little guy was safely put back where he came from when the diver returned home. Again, you never know what you might see on a dive.
Finally Sheephaven SAC wish to extend their condolences to club member John McGee and his family on the death of his mother, Mary. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.