Britain in bloom
Explosion of colour proves UK diving isn’t drab and dreary
It’s April, it’s almost Easter and most of us are dusting off the gear for yet another dive season.
A shallow bimble make a lot of sense for those who haven’t been near the water in months. If the torch you got all those months ago for Christmas is destined to flood, better in 10 than 50 metres. But there’s another more compelling reason to get out there and dive, and it’s not just wall-to-wall coverage of a Royal Wedding.
The sub-sea environment is in bloom.
Our charter took us from Bracklesham in West Sussex, headed speedily out to sea and dropped us on the remains of the Far Mulberry. Keen wreck divers and lovers of history alike won’t need the story of the Mulberry Harbours repeated, but for the uninitiated these were gigantic pre-fabricated concrete pontoons. Allied forces towed the majority across to Normandy in June 1944 for the D-Day offensive, although this piece off Selsey foundered.
we could see the Mulberry from the surface
Lying on a sand and shingle bottom in as little as 12 metres, we could see the Mulberry from the surface, so clear was the water. Built of reinforced concrete, much of the unit was destroyed for military target practice, and what’s left is badly broken up.
Not that the fish care, in fact the opposite: nooks, crannies and concrete walls provide the perfect housing project for all sorts of sea creatures. First to confront us was a relatively rare and unusual visitor called a Lumpsucker. Around 30cm in length, the creature has a body dull olive green in colour, compensated for with bright orange fins – the female of the species it turns out. The term Lumpsucker comes from an ability to attach to rocks, weeds and Mulberry Harbour walls using its adapted pelvic fins. To see one up close is quite a treat, not only for their unusual shape and colour but to observe a fish glued tightly to something instead of circling past.
Later we swam up and into the Mulberry unit and there was the male. This is conceivably the brightest fish you’ll see in UK waters, boasting a spectacular red body that made him look radioactive and fit to burst.
Also on site were impressively large Wrasse measuring a couple of feet stem to stern, quite a size for such a shallow water area. In every direction the sea felt vibrant as the weeds and kelp throbbed a rich red. For some reason the water west of Selsey point suffers from dire vis, but this site is well to the east and was far clearer. Sweetening the deal were a lack of current and glorious sunshine up top.
The 2011 dive season looks set to be a cracker.
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