Habitats, forts, wrecks and reefs – Plymouth, August Bank Holiday

By Peter Martin

Can people live under water? Glaucus, the underwater habitat, was the labour of love of 19-year old Colin Iwin of Bournemouth & Poole SAC. A steel cylinder, 3.7m long with a diameter of 2.1m, Glaucus did not have an air supply, but relied on a chemical scrubber to clean the air and enable Colin and his friend John Heath to live and breathe in it for a week.

This was 1965, just two years after Jacques Cousteau and his team lived for a while in their famous Conshelf II underwater village in the Red Sea, so Glaucus was a pioneering project for its time (http://www.submerged.co.uk/projectglaucus.php).

Glaucus still lies on the sea floor in Plymouth harbour, and has become an artificial reef. As we descended to it, a school of bib was frolicking in the thick soup that was the sea 4 that day (vis was about 3m, if you must ask; the bottom around Glaucus is rather silty). Underneath, you can find crabs and lobsters.

Finning due south from Glaucus, you quickly reach the round tower of Breakwater Fort, a favourite dive site in windy conditions, as it’s situated in the shelter of the breakwater wall. This is always great fun to see and easy to navigate even in poor visibility (you just swim round, and, given enough air, round again). In the rubble at its foot, small fish and crustaceans like to hide.

We also visited the James Eagan Layne, one of the most frequently dived wrecks near Plymouth. Those of us who had been there many times before noted how the wreck had been broken up by the movement of the sea, with some structures having tumbled down, and new ones being exposed. We saw several juvenile congers hiding in pipes, a large adult conger under some metal sheets, several tompot blennies and lobsters. Other dive sites we visited were the Glen Strathallan, the Scilla, Cawsand Bay, the Elk, and Mewstones Ledges.

A highlight of the trip was a meeting with a pair of cuttlefish, who seemed quite happy being followed around, and frequently sat down close to us, changing their colour according to their perch: brown when settling on rock, and white on sand. One buddy pair of divers spent a solid fifteen minutes in the company of the buddy pair of cuttles.

Overall, an enjoyable and successful trip, which included a first dry suit dive and several first dives in UK waters. Thanks to Nick B for organizing, Tomek for managing the dives on Day 2, and to coxes Keith, Declan, Nick and Bart.

Posted in Dive Trips