Sunday the 1st of February saw five members of DSAC (Dave, Callum, Lewis, Ken, and myself) travel across to the west coast with the club RIB (Tay Explorer) for a day’s diving. This day ended up quite different from what was planned, which was a day diving in upper Loch Etive. With the original plan to dive on the Saturday put off due to the weather we set off from Dundee early on Sunday to arrive at Taynuilt ready to launch the boat by 09:30, only to discover that the beach that is apparently used for launching (with normal cars according to some online sources) was far from suitable for our boat. In fact it was difficult to see how this could be used at anything but high tide, so with our plans to dive Loch Etive out the window it was on to plan B which was launching at Fisherman’s Wharf near Connel to dive the Firth of Lorn. Loch Etive would have to wait for another day…
Once at the much more suitable launch site it didn’t take long to get the boat into the water and everyone plus gear on board. Using Fisherman’s Wharf gives a wide range of dive options, probably most commonly visited from here is the wreck of the Breda, but you can also visit the Sound of Mull, Kerrera, or further north towards Shuna Island. With the light SW wind and clear sky we chose to head over to the SW corner of Lismore and follow that up with a dive on the Breda.
Leaving Ardmucknish Bay we had great view of the snow topped hills behind us as we began the 7nm trip across the firth to the bottom end of Lismore. The journey over was fairly straight forward with only a slight swell to contend with and after passing the lighthouse at the southern point of Lismore we made our way up the southwestern side beneath the 50m high cliffs on the island. Keeping an eye on the depth sounder we approached what looked like a fairly steep underwater drop off under the cliffs. There was only a gentle swell on the surface here but conditions looked much worse down the Sound of Mull, thankfully we weren’t going that far.
Ken, Lewis and I were first in with Callum and Dave staying on board Tay Explorer. Descending at the bottom of the cliff face (56° 28.420N 05° 34.810W) we passed over a small area of kelp before reaching a steep boulder reef which due to the lack of current in this area was very silty. This continued down to around 30m where the boulders began to thin out until at 37m we were onto a mud/silt slope with just the odd boulder dotted about. We didn’t spend long at this depth and soon made our way slowly back up along the boulder reef while keeping the slope on our left.
Although perhaps appearing dull initially this site did have a huge variety of life, along with a number of species only found in these particular habitats on the north west coast of Scotland such as the Celtic Feather Star (Leptometra celtica) and Northern Sea Fans (Swiftia pallida). Also on the reef were numerous sponges, sea squirts, devonshire cup corals, spider crabs, red cushion stars, sea urchins, and a couple of small-spotted catsharks (dogfish).
Once we reached 10m there were a couple of vertical rock faces that were home to more sponges, sea squirts, and the smaller feather star species (Antedon spp.). It looked like these walls were continuing deeper so I think entering the water a bit further south than we did would be a different dive. After just over 30mins it was time to deploy a DSMB and make our way up, surfacing with a total dive time of 37mins and a max depth of 37.9m. A good dive with some really interesting life.
Back on the boat Callum and Dave decided to give this site a miss opting to just dive the Breda instead. Heading back across the Firth of Lorn with the wind now going with the tide the conditions were much better so it was a quick trip back across to Ardmucknish bay and the wreck of the Breda (Wrecktour). Sunk at the hands of German bombers in 1940 the wreck now sits on the sloping mud sea bed with depths on the deck ranging roughly from 13m at the bow to 20m at the stern (depending on tides).
As we approached the charted position it became clear the usual shot lines were no longer present so we would have to locate the wreck and deploy our own. Not a problem for our new plotter/sounder which picked up incredible detail as we passed over a cross section of the wreck, including one of the large holds. With the shotline deployed and Lewis choosing to skip this dive Callum and Dave entered first, followed shortly by Ken and I. Both buddy pairs attached a strobe to the bottom of the shot to make it easier to locate at the end of the dive.
Beginning the dive roughly in the middle of the wreck, on the port side of one of the holds we made our way around the entire wreck visiting the bow first then the stern, passing some of the remains of the ships cargo on the way such as truck axles and wheels. Visibility was reasonable at the bow at around 5m but poorer towards the stern. The wreck is home to a good variety of life, with large plumose anemones and sponges on the structures towards the stern and the outer hull covered in peacock worms, soft corals, sea loch anemones, feather stars, and sea squirts. A nice Flabellina pedata nudibranch was also spotted.
With the water temp at 7°C, after 25mins exploring the wreck it seemed like a good time to locate the shot line before making our way up, this was made much easier with the help of the strobes left at the start of the dive. Although, the strobe couldn’t be seen from the starboard side of the wreck in the reduced vis so another quick visit to the bow before going back down the port side to find the line. Surfacing with a total time of 38mins and max depth of 18.4m (on the deck at the stern).
From the Breda it was only a short trip back to the jetty where the boat was unloaded before being recovered via the beach. Despite not being able to dive where we had originally planned this was still a good day’s diving. Lismore was an interesting site and I think the walls just south of where we went in would be worth exploring another time and the Breda is always a nice easy wreck dive. With plans already in place to attempt Loch Etive again, we will be back!