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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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New North Wales dive boat for 2023 season

UK DTA Team

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Duttons Divers, the North Wales based Scuba diving company, have been going from strength to strength with the expansion of a new dive centre last year, and now the addition of a second dive boat.

Duttons already offer guided shore and boat dives around the North Wales area, with their current dive boat, Little Viv, taking divers around the Llyn Peninsula. The area offers an array of marine life and variety of dive sites, including wrecks, caverns, scenic wall dives and of course their colony of curious seals at the Tudwals Islands.

The new hard boat has a diver capacity of 10, which can be booked as a single diver or as a group charter booking. The boat has toilet facilities, a kitchen for refreshments between dives and dedicated storage areas for kit.

Clare Dutton says: “We are extremely excited for the addition of the new boat. Little Viv is a great asset to our activities, but now being able to offer dive space only trips too for divers to explore the stunning area around here will make it even better.

The dive sites within this location offer something for all level of diver interest, from shallow interactions with the seals to deeper wrecks with tonnes of history. We are all very excited for the 2023 season!”

Duttons are now taking bookings for the 2023 season. Follow the link for more information: www.duttonsdivers.com/dive-boat

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Palaemon Divers to open new dive centre in Warrington

UK DTA Team

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Hugely popular scuba dive centre in the North West, Palaemon Divers have expanded and are opening their second dive centre, this time in Warrington!

Spreading across two floors, the new dive centre will become the only scuba centre in Warrington, with an in house compressor to provide air fills to both members and the public, classroom, workshop and fully stocked retail scuba floor.

With the new site opening, also comes a second pool night for those new to the sport and experienced divers to jump in and try it out or practice skills. With a pool night already on a Wednesday in Speke, and the second pool night starting on a Tuesday in the Warrington area it will allow easy access to training nights.

The existing 5 Star PADI dive centre in Liverpool offers training and scuba experiences within the dock itself along with a scuba club in which the divers take monthly litter pick dips and regular trips around the UK and abroad, and try dive experiences available for beginners all the way through to professional level courses.

After opening the site in Princes Dock in January 2022, the site has trained and introduced 100s of new divers from Merseyside to the sport, ran regular scuba kids clubs (aged 8+) in the pool and the Docks and numerous team building exercises for companies in and around Merseyside and is looking to introduce Warrington to the same!

Director Leanne Clowes said:

“We are really excited to open our second dive centre after the huge success of our Princes Dock site in Liverpool, and can not wait to introduce the Warrington community to the amazing sport that is scuba diving!

We have been looking for a while where our second site would open, and we have had are minds set on Warrington the entire time so really happy to find our perfect second centre at Evans House Business Centre, Norman Street WA2 in a previously converted micro brewery site!

Palaemon Divers Warrington will be open fully from January 2023, however we are available now to get in touch with for queries regarding courses starting in the new year. For further information on our open day please check out our socials!”

David (Director of Evans House Business Centre) says:

“We can’t wait to have Palaemon Divers on board, they will be joining an impressive number diverse companies that call Evans House Business Centre their base from an Escape Room, to specialist fitness suites, craft workshops and a number of trades. Evans House Business Centre really is an excellent facility to visit!”

Whether you have always wanted to see what scuba is like or you are a certified diver looking to join in all over the UK and abroad on sociable dive trips – get in touch, Palaemon Divers would love to have a chat!

To contact the Palaemon Divers team or find out more:

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