A tiny tourist

I was in Babbacombe last week to film a tiny tourist who’s put down some roots: Periclimenes sagittifer, a prawn who sets up home in our snakelock anemones. Sightings of this beautiful little animal have crept slowly north from the French Coast to the Channel Isles and to Swanage in 2007.

Huge thanks to photographer Terry Griffiths, the first diver to spot this teeny brightly-coloured visitor to Devon’s Riviera, and my guide to inhabited anemones. Thanks also to Mike and Michelle, Duane and Wayne for the warm welcome back to Babbacombe bay; it’s such a fabulous dive site and stunning location.

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Images and words by Andy

Massacre of Ships

A news report on the BBC website today remembers the centenary of a wartime “massacre of ships”.

One night in September 1916, 19 fishing boats from Scarborough were sent to the bottom one by one. However, all 126 lives were spared due to the compassionate actions of the German U-boat crew.

Here’s the full story: BBC News Report

In August 2007,  a small team dived one of the wrecks, 76m deep in the North Sea. Here’s real-time video of Colin and I finding the bell of the Otter.

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Images and words by Andy

Otter dive team: Colin Bell, Mally Jenkinson, Tim Lamplough, Andrew Oliver and myself.

Anchoring the eelgrass

I’m just back from a filming trip to Dorset. The weather wasn’t great but I managed a couple of days’ diving at Studland Middle beach. I’ve dived here during August for several years and it’s interesting to see how things are changing.

A lot of the animals I’ve seen before were absent: no juvenile black bream, no red mullet, no 15-spine sticklebacks, no undulate rays, and sadly, no seahorses.

I did find a few pipefish, sole, spider crabs, juvenile cuttlefish, gobies and sea bass but that was about it.

While I dived, around 100 yachts were anchored in the eelgrass area of Studland bay. Do anchors damage eelgrass? There are differing opinions on this, but here’s a clear picture of the damage one anchor caused.

I don’t think anchors are the only reason for Studland’s decline, but I do think digging up the eelgrass is a contributory factor. I hope the third tranch of MPAs takes on this controversial site and pushes for the installation of a seabed-friendly mooring system.

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Images and words by Andy

NB: Any TV or news agencies who wish to broadcast this anchor footage, please get in touch. I’ll be glad to offer it free of charge to help protect our fragile seagrass habitats everywhere.

Guillemots swimming – Farne Islands

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Farne Islands to film puffins underwater. It was a tall order. Puffins are easily-spooked and speedy swimmers. Great shots of them underwater are rare.

I developed a puffin plan and with skipper Ron Cooper at the helm of Mara Mhor, we set off chasing puffins.

Thankfully, filming went extremely well. I had some truly magical moments underwater with adult puffins and baby pufflings darting around in front of my lens. The footage is pretty special and I’m in discussions with a broadcaster at the moment – which means I can’t share it here yet.

However I do have the next best thing: while I was filming puffins, I was joined by guillemots and I can show you how spectacular they are. If you look very carefully, you might just catch a glimpse of a swimming puffin in the distance…

With thanks to Andrew Douglas of Sovereign Diving for organising the boat.

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Images and words by Andy

Moon Jellyfish – Loch Shieldaig

I’m just home after a ten-day diving adventure along the west coast of Scotland. I was onboard the fantastic MV Cricklade from Oban to Ullapool and back. At the end of day 3, we dropped anchor in Loch Shieldaig to go ashore for dinner.

I watched the anchor break the glassy surface and noticed hundreds of moon jellyfish drifting past. A few minutes later I was back in my drysuit, slipping into the water again.

I swam through the jellyfish soup, beautiful shots in every direction as the light faded. The way the sun shone through their bodies, their graceful pulsating movement, the vast numbers around me, and the subtle colours made this a magical moment I’d love to share with you.

Thanks to everyone on MV Cricklade and in particular Mally and Keith for delaying their dinner to help me.

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Images and words by Andy