A Remote Treasure

I’m just back from a ten-day Scottish expedition, taking in dive sites down the west coast. I started in the North West corner at Kinlochbervie, then headed south to Loch Carron, Loch Creran, and last but not least, Loch Fyne.

The trip included return visits to favourite dive sites where I filmed more sequences for ongoing stories, and the joy of discovering new sites full of potential for future films. At Kinlochbervie, I discovered a rich seam of underwater stories I’d love to tell. The tiny fishing village offers access to the open waters of the North Minch. The dive sites here are swept by heavy seas, the water is deep and clear, and the seabed is rock gullies, walls, and pinnacles. It’s a wild place and you need to be lucky to venture beyond the shelter of Loch Inchard.

Luck was with us and we made it out to Handa Island for our first dive. This is a superb location but it’s seldom calm here. There’s a constant underwater surge that makes filming very challenging. I’ve put together a series of clips to show you this very special place. These clips only scratch the surface of the amazing scenery and life that abounds in Handa Island. I can’t wait to get back and film some more!

With thanks to Chris and Cath Hollingdale of North East Dive and the Sea Search gang from Inverness Sub-Aqua Club.

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Words by Andy

Mackerel hunting Sardines

We’re just back from a lovely break on the Lizard and Lands End peninsulas in Cornwall. We shore dived at Porthkerris and Newlyn and I captured footage of two fast-swimming species I’ve never been close enough to film before: Mackerel and Grey Mullet.

The dive site near Newlyn had rocky shallows teeming with Sardines. From time to time they frantically broke the surface, making the water boil as they fled for their lives. As the tide rose in the early evening they took sanctuary in a gulley.  The outcome seemed inevitable so I sat amongst the terrified Sardines and hungry Mackerel with the camera to see if I could film the spectacle.

I recorded this at 60 frames per second instead of the more usual 25 so I could slow down the action by nearly two and a half times. Even at this speed you will see that this is still very fast paced drama. Sit back and enjoy a glimpse of a what must be a very common life and death struggle we are seldom able to witness.

I’ll blog again soon about speedy Grey Mullet at Porthkerris.

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Words by Andy

Sligneach Mor – Loch Sunart

Every now and then, a joyous diving experience is born from the most unlikely circumstances.

After dreadful weather tossed us around on the open sea, Cricklade took shelter in Salen, Loch Sunart. Our dive plans were bust. I contacted George Brown, seeking last minute recommendations to save my filming trip. And boy, did George come up trumps.

Below the waters around Sligneach Mor, a small island on Loch Sunart’s north side, a steep rocky habitat is fed by a tidal stream. It is home to a number of priority marine features (PMFs) and it is fantastically photogenic. I would have been happy to spend a week filming the treasures in this dive site. I’ve edited some highlights into a short reel for you. Music is by Moby, courtesy of Moby Gratis. Album “Hotel Ambient”, track “The Come Down”.

With thanks to the Cricklade crew, George Brown, and the bloody awful weather for helping me find this very special dive site.

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Words by Andy

Underwater Fireworks

I’m just back from a 2-week tour of Scottish lochs. Heavy rain and wind made the trip challenging at times, but I managed to film rare and beautiful animals that cling to existence in these wild western habitats.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share short films and blogs about some of these amazing creatures.

First up, Loch Duich. An old favourite – and the home of Psolus Phantapus, one of the stars I filmed for BBC Springwatch, 2015. But – Psolus was gone! Not a single Sea Cucumber to be found. I knew they only appeared for a brief period each Spring, but it still came as a surprise to discover what had been a forest of animals now just an empty mud bank.

I turned my camera on the other jewels in Loch Duich’s muddy depths. I’m glad to introduce the rare Fireworks Anemone – Pachycerianthus multiplicatus – in two colour forms. Their feeding method is a lovely spectacle. They brush food particles onto the “pom pom” at their centre. I hope you find Fireworks as mesmerising to watch as I do.

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Words by Andy

Yorkshire: A Year in the Wild

One of my favourite bits of UK coastline is Ravenscar on the southern cheek of Robin Hood’s Bay. It’s been a special place for me since I was a teenager. I always feel connected and content there, and I know the terrain like the back of my hand. Over the years, I’ve spent many happy hours there, often without seeing another soul. I’ve shot a lot of film around there, topside and underwater. One of my favourite Ravenscar subjects is its burgeoning Grey Seal colony, which I’ve watched grow from a handful to hundreds of animals.

Imagine my joy when a production company took an interest in the Grey Seal material I’d shot, wanted to buy some and commissioned me to shoot more. I loved every minute of this shoot. Thanks to Duncan Chard of Tigress Productions for giving me the opportunity. This is the first topside natural history story I’ve filmed for broadcast.

The seals feature in Episodes 3 and 4 – Autumn and Winter. They go out on Tuesday 4th and 11th April at 9PM on Channel 5. Settle down with a glass of wine and come to Ravenscar with me to see what happens above and below the water when no one else is around.

Special thanks to Zoe Frank, Park Ranger, National Trust and The Raven Hall Hotel for all their help.

Link to My5

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Words by Andy