Horn Head marine life a highlight of Sheephaven dive

‘Potato crisp bryozoan’ among the species seen

Sheephaven SAC


Sheephaven SAC



Horn Head marine life a highlight of Sheephaven dive

A male cuckoo wrasse seen at Horn Head. Photo Ciaran Mc Glynn

After the intensity of the last few weeks of tests and courses, followed by a week of strong winds and spring tides, Sheephaven SAC divers took full opportunity of a bit of settled weather on Sunday to dive in the shelter of Horn Head, just for the sheer fun of it all.

The initial dive site choice was the arch at the back of Horn Head, but the ebbing spring tide was running strongly over a southerly breeze and it had left sea conditions too rough to dive the site in any comfort.

Instead, Dive Officer of the Day John Joe Rowland took the two-boat dive party back to Skate Bay where the dive was conducted in one stick thanks to Brendan Proctor, who provided cover for everyone while they were in the water.

Maximum surface-to-surface dive times were no greater than 35 minutes to a depth of just under 25 metres, with reasonable in-water visibility of around seven metres horizontally.

Water temperature has started to drop, down on Sunday morning to 14 degrees Celsius, but still twice as warm as the air temperature, which was as low as 7 degrees Celsius earlier in the day.

As always, the great feature of Horn Head was the vibrant marine life that is ever present on site. Fish life is dominated by large ballan wrasse, with the occasionally highly coloured male cuckoo wrasse, along with some good examples of pollock and buried in the sand some small plaice.

Lobsters are considered to be the king of shellfish and they are plenty of them to be seen all along Horn Head and in particular in Skate Bay, with a variety of crab species also on show.

The most unusual species observed on Sunday was potato crisp bryozoan, with the scientific name of Pentapora fascialis. It is a colony of marine organisms that have grown together to form a mass of repeatedly dividing sheets in an open honeycomb type structure and a deep orange colour.  

It has a growth rate of about 2cm per year and lives up to 10 years, but can form structures 40cm high. While it appears to look like a coral, it is in fact a member of the Bryozoan genera but nonetheless its presence is always an indicator of good water quality.

While the Sheephaven divers were on site they were joined by their colleagues from Strabane SAC, who also had sought out the shelter of the headland on a beautiful sunny morning in early October.

After all the divers had been recovered safely it was a quick dash back to Downings, where the boats were recovered just before the tide had gone out too far on one of the lowest tides of the year,

Finally, Sheephaven SAC wish to express its sincerest condolences to the family and friends of their colleague and Club Treasurer Damien Kelly on the recent passing of his mother, Margaret, late of Ros Suilighe, Letterkenny. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.