St Kilda Colour

We arrived in Village Bay just before midnight, as the last daylight sank into calm Atlantic waters. The UK’s highest sea cliffs loomed before us, their tops shrouded in mist. We dropped anchor into glass-like water; the gales were behind us, high pressure had settled in, as we did, for three nights.

We dived around Hirta and Boreray, and explored the ruined village, abandoned in 1930 when the last 36 St Kildans were evacuated to the mainland. From the rib, we looked up at seabird colonies on the Stacs and marveled at St Kildans’ survival by harvesting seabirds. The initiation ritual now made sense: young single men had to go to a narrow point on an exposed cliff top, stand on one leg, and reach down and touch their ankle. This would prove their ability to provide for a family.

Underwater, vertical walls dropped into the deep. Exposed walls were scrubbed clean by wild Atlantic storms, while those with more shelter were carpeted with brightly coloured dahlia, plumose, and jewel anemones. Crabs and lobsters hid in crevices, Devonshire cup coral clung to rock, jelly-like hydroid medusae floated past, our torch beams picked out colour and life everywhere. Caves and arches were waiting to be explored. Visibility was spectacular, at more than 25 metres. Watch this 30-second video to peek into the most remote corner of Britain’s underwater world.

Tobermory Shelter

Leaving the Caledonian canal we had one question on our minds, “Will we make it to St Kilda?”  Gale force winds were building, but the promise of calm weather beyond fed our hopes.  We were stuck in Tobermory for two days, but with spectacular dives in the sheltered Sound of Mull and a few beers in the legendary Mishnish, we managed to cope…

The Hispania is one of the best dives in the Sound of Mull.  She sits on her keel in 25m of water with a slight list to starboard.  Vivid with colour, very strong tidal flows feed nutrients to plumose anemones, hanging tight to every available surface.

Watch these 60 seconds of video to share our joy as we dived the Hispania.

Caledonian Canal

MV Hatherleigh is a grand old lady.  A 100-foot ex-sidewinder trawler, her bow is designed to cut through icy north Atlantic seas.  We took her on a dive expedition from Scarborough to the Hebrides, St Kilda, the Flannan isles and North Rona.

Captain Terry Bunker knows and loves the Hatherleigh well; he has skippered her through many waters and weathers.  But he has never been able to pick leaves from trees through the wheelhouse window.  The narrow waters of the Caledonian canal presented us with many challenges, especially where the bottom needed dredging.

Here’s the Hatherleigh climbing canal locks at Fort Augustus.

Over the next few days, I’ll share stories and underwater footage from our dive expedition.