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The underwater wonders of the UK’s seas, a story in photographs

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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From the Jurassic Coast of Dorset to the northernmost waters of Scotland, there is a huge array of incredible landscapes and animals beneath the water’s surface in the UK. The Marine Conservation Society has gathered together some of the amazing ocean imagery capturing the wonders of UK seas by talented photographers and divers around the country.

Read the photographers’ stories behind the captivating images, enjoy some unexpected sightings and get inspired to head to the UK’s coasts and seas as lockdown eases and summer draws closer.

The Marine Conservation Society’s sightings programme asks beachgoers to report animals including jellyfish, turtles and basking sharks when they spot them in UK waters. Divers can join Seasearch, a volunteer diving programme that monitors underwater life, with the opportunity to hone underwater photography skills.

Creatures of the deep

Photographer: Kirsty Andrews

Sea hare, Swanage Pier, Dorset, UK, June 2020

The story: Sea hares look brown and sluggish at first glance but if you look closely they have delicate patterns and colours. I used a snooted spotlight effect to show this off and highlight the head tentacles which resemble a hare’s ears, giving this animal its common name.

Photographer: James Lynott

Fluorescent fireworks anemoneInveraray, Loch Fyne, July 2020.

The storyOver recent years underwater fluorescence photography has become a passion of mine, particularly in British waters. I never know quite what I’m going to find that will fluoresce under the blue (near UV) light. After spending the day diving at the Garvellachs my buddy and I decided to stop off for an evening dive in Loch Fyne. The site we decided on was at Inveraray slip which is fantastic for fireworks anemones. This particularly large individual was a favourite of mine from this dive as I was able to capture the whole anemone with its long tentacles stretched out within frame. 

Photographer: Dan Bolt

Flabellina pedata nudibranch, Swanage pier, England, 14 July 2020.

The storyThe colours of this nudibranch make it not only one of our most flamboyant, but also easiest to spot! In a dark area under the pier this individual was making its way along a stalk of kelp. A flash of pink and purple in my torch light caught my eye, and so I had the pleasure of observing it for several minutes before I moved on.

Photographer: Kirsty Andrews

Tompot blenny, Babbacombe Beach, Torquay, Devon, UK, June 2020.

The story: This tompot blenny is presenting a smiley face to the camera but he’s actually carefully guarding a stash of eggs in the crack behind him.  Male tompots can be quite feisty in guarding their territory, which they keep clean and tidy, ready for several females to lay eggs in, if they’re lucky.  They will fertilise the eggs and guard them for around a month in the early Summer.

Forests of the sea

Photographer: Kirsty Andrews

Grey seals in surge, taken at Eilean Cluimhrig, Loch Eriboll, Scotland, UK

The story: The Grey seals on the North coast of Scotland are not as accustomed to divers as in some UK locations, but it was fun to watch them enjoying themselves at a distance.  They were far more comfortable in the surging waves than I was, as I clung on to kelp to capture this photo. 

Photographer: Alex Mustard

Young Lumpsucker, Kinlochbervie, Sutherland, Scotland. 4th November 2020 

The story: This young lumpsucker was about the size of a tennis ball and was living attached to the blades of sugar kelp. My buddy Kirsty Andrews found this one and I photographed it with one of my flashes backlighting the kelp to reveal its golden colour. As always with great finds, it was at the end of a long and chilly November dive, so I only had time for a few pictures before I had to bid it goodbye. I like the featherstar arms peeking into the background of this image, which are so characteristic of this area in the far north west of Scotland. 

Photographer: Paul Naylor

Spiny starfish (Marthasterias glacialis), Wembury, Devon, 4th June 2020.

The story: This starfish slowly walking up to the top of the kelp canopy was seeking a good vantage point from where it could release its spawn. A chemical sent out by females with their eggs prompts neighbouring starfish to join the party.

Photographer: James Lynott

Brown crab in amongst dense animal turf, Falls of Lora, Loch Etive. 15th August 2020.

The storySituated at the narrow entrance to Loch Etive, near Oban, the Falls of Lora has a reputation of being a bit of a scary dive. Given that the tide races through creating upwells, whirlpools, and standing waves, it’s easy to understand why. But done at the right time it is an excellent site and easily a favourite shore dive of mine. There is such amazing underwater topography and proliferation of life at this site, there was plenty to admire and photograph. While swimming along one of the gullies this crab caught my eye as it seemed to be comfortably nestled into the yellow breadcrumb sponge and hydroids surrounding it. 

Into the blue

Photographer: Alex Mustard

Blue Shark. Penzance, Cornwall, England. 29th September 2020 

The story: I’d only seen blue sharks in British waters once before, so was delighted to get the chance on a sunny late-September day in 2020. After a few hours waiting the sharks started arriving, as their numbers built up they became more confident and rewarded me and my buddy with plenty of close passes. This frame of a beautiful female slicing through the autumnal sun was a favourite and stands out because of the blobs of atmospheric lens flare. Blue sharks are sadly the world’s most fished shark, so it was a real treat to see them. 

Photographer: Matt Doggett

Bib or pouting (Trisopterus luscus), Jurassic Coast, Dorset.

The story: Photographing these large shoals can be a challenge as the fish are highly reflective and change direction constantly. One summer I was drifting through crystal clear waters over an area of huge boulders off the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. The boulder tops were covered with red seaweeds, sponges and antenna hydroids. Suddenly I was joined by this small shoal of bib which swam alongside and just in front of me for several minutes. They would often bunch together nicely, allowing me to snap away as we floated along in the gentle current. It’s wonderful, relaxing dives like this that give you fond memories of British diving and keep you coming back for more. 

Photographer: Mark Kirkland

Basking shark, Isle of Coll, July 2020.

The story: I’ve been over to the Island regularly in the last few years to photograph this huge fish as it migrates up the west coast of Scotland. I wanted to do something different from the classic head-on open mouth shot so I had a custom bit of photography gear built to try and take split shots – something that was rarely seen. It was 2 years in the planning and a real technical challenge due to the dark, plankton rich waters but I had a glorious week on the island with multiple dreamy encounters. This shot was taken on the last night, just as the sun was setting.

Photographer: Kevin Morgans

Atlantic Puffin, Fair Isle, Shetland.

The story: When photographing an animal, eye contact is a critical component, allowing your viewer to connect with the image. This image breaks many of the traditional rules. The setting sun, the uneasy pose of the puffin and scene all throw up many questions and thoughts. Where is the puffin looking? What is it thinking? What lies beyond the horizon?

For more information about the Marine Conservation Society visit their website by clicking here.

Title image: Mark Kirkland

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Gozo Diving and Gozo Technical Diving join RAID

European DTA Team

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Great news for RAID divers around the world: Gozo Diving & Gozo Technical Diving have joined the RAID network and now offer RAID courses, and RAID-quality support in one of the classic Mediterranean dive destinations.

Malta is a well-known and highly rated diving destination. The water is warm (around 28 degrees), the visibility is epic (20-40 metres), and many sites have weak to moderate current. So, there are great dive sites for every level of experience, and these include fantastic and historic wreck dives.

Located on the Island of Gozo, RAID’s new dive centre, offer the complete range of recreational, technical and Instructor courses. The facilities include two classrooms, access to an onsite pool and a full CCR room. So, visiting divers and instructors can enjoy nitrox, trimix, as well as oxygen-compatible air fills, rentals of sidemount cylinders, twinsets, and stage cylinders, DPV rental and of course high-end teaching, coaching and experienced guiding.

Gozo Diving and Gozo Technical Diving has more than 30 years of experience in training, exploration and diving professionalism. Now fully aligned to offer the the complete spectrum of RAID courses, which means both experienced divers as well as those who want to start exploring the underwater world can come and enjoy the dive site attractions of Malta and Gozo knowing they’ll get the fun and full-service experience our agency and network of RAID dive centres are famous for.

To find out more, email: info@gozotechnicaldiving.com or visit their website at: www.gozotechnicaldiving.com

Photos: RAID Blog

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DIVING talks 2022: 4 great reasons why you should attend!

European DTA Team

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International Dive Show DIVING talks 2022 takes place from 6-9 October in Troia, Portugal. Here’s four great reasons why you should attend…

1. The ‘Talks’ and the Speakers

What do you get when you have in the same room Dr Alessandro Marroni, Dr Óscar Camacho and Dr Simon Mitchell? Undoubtedly an incredible amount of knowledge in diving physiology and hyperbaric medicine. If you are a diver, you know the value of such a debate.

What do you expect to see in a Bill Stone presentation?

Wouldn’t you like to discuss with Thomas Stachura, Leigh Bishop or Armando Ribeiro their findings underwater in the expeditions that led to the discovery and identification of new shipwrecks?

2. The Exhibition: brands and trials

It’s about talking with ‘who knows’ and testing that piece of equipment even underwater if you want!

Friday, October 7, is BRANDS DAY. Try dive the Mares SCR Horizon, test your preferred scooter, and more. Bring shorts or a swimming suit. This is happening in the swimming pool. Join us on October 7. Diving Talks is also Brands Day!

3. DIVING talks is a family/ partner friend event

You don’t need to leave your family or partner behind. 

If you want to attend, transform this trip into a partner or family trip to Portugal. There are many things they can do while you enjoy the Talks.

It is not that you need to have something planned. The peninsula is such a fantastic site to enjoy; there’s the beach if you want to relax by the sea, there are trails you can check out, or you can relax by the pool.

4. YOU CAN ACTUALLY DIVE!

If you have free time and want to explore Portugal underwater, DIVING talks can be the pretext for a ‘stay and dive’ side-program.

Diving talks partnered with Portugal Dive, a boutique dive concierge that organizes dive trips to Portugal; the mainland and in the Azores and Madeira archipelagos.

Diving recreational or technical, you can expect the European Atlantic’s most transparent waters full of life, schools of fish, the big pelagic, and even monk seals: all that and wrecks, inland caves, you name it.

Opt to arrive one-week earlier or leave one-week later, and chose the stay and dive program for your type of diving and preferences.

For more information, contact Arlindo Serrão via e-mail: arlindo.serrao@portugaldive.com or check out the following links:

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