WSC News Letter  
   
The Best in Welsh Diving
   

From time to time something quite special happens to all of us; a memorable holiday, the sensation of a first underwater adventure into the warm clear waters of the Red Sea; or launching off the top of a hill suspended in semi weightlessness under a hang glider wing. This year for the Welsh Association of Sub Aqua Clubs (WASAC) that something special is about to happen. The association intends to capture the beauty of Wales, but on this occasion underwater Wales. WASAC is planning to make and present a Video that will help identify Wales as having some of the best diving in the UK.

Whilst we would find difficulty in competing with the clarity of blue waters such as the waters of the Red Sea, diving the costal waters of Wales sees a vast diversity of life, an abundance of wrecks and some of the most adventurous diving to be experienced.

Above the waters (topside from a diver’s point of view), however, we can compete with anywhere in the world when it comes to scenic splendour, it is without doubt breathtaking especially when viewed from the sea. Wales is home to an amazing coastline and a number of wonderful beaches. From open, sweeping sands, to intimate pebbly coves, from the impressive granite cliffs all along the West Wales coast to the Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Môn ) situated off the north-west coast of Wales and near the beautiful Snowdonia mountain range, you will find it difficult to better its wonder and magnificence.

Some of the oldest rocks in and around Britain are to be found around the Pembrokeshire Coast, dating back to the Pre-Cambrian period, around 600 million years ago. Ramsey Island is the home of an RSPB reserve, and the second largest grey seal colony in Britain. The islands of Skomer, Stokholm and Grasholm are home to colonies of Ganets, Storm Petral, Cough, Puffins and Peregrine Falcons as well as many species of rare flowers and wildlife. Underwater the spectacle continues, many days throughout the calmer weather associated with our summer and autumn months, sport divers reap the benefits of calm seas and good underwater visibility to experience the richness of the biodiversity that covers the sea bed, its reefs both natural and artificial (wrecks) and walls that drop to over 50 metres in depth.

Throughout the summer the association intends to build upon the experience of many of our members to provide a fuller insight into the (coastal) submarine world around the Welsh coast. Welsh waters have a substantial number of wrecks per sea mile along its coast, but it doesn’t stop there, the sea bed, reefs and shoals are littered with a vast diversity of fauna and flora. The sea bed and rocky shelves of the many islands are teeming with life. Species of lobsters, crabs and other crustaceans abound, grey seals are common place and, sharks, yes sharks! are often welcome visitors to the Pembrokeshire coast.

The project is expected to take 5 months of diving and filming and bearing in mind that a 40 minute underwater filming session realises only 2 to 3 minutes of useable film; it’s clear to see that there’s much to be done to capture what the sea offers from four regions, South, West, Mid West and the North, we intend to film. One such filming session will allow us to dive back to the 1830s to film the little remains of Frederick. This little known American schooner (sailing ship) of 149 tons was, in some journals, reported missing early in 1832, but there is also some evidence to suggest that it floundered on the rocks ¾ mile East of St. David’s Head on 21st February 1833. The ship was on rout to West Africa having left Liverpool with a cargo of muskets and other small arms, and items used to trade with African nationals. There is not much evidence of a shipwreck left on this site apart from its cargo; there is however, a large lump of material, which was partly covered by metal strips resembling swords, but in reality they were merely strips of iron.

The wreck’s commonly adopted name: “The Musket Wreck” comes from divers having previously recovered whole flintlocks and musket parts. The muskets illustrated here were recovered by me during the summer of 1988, these can be identified as ‘Brown Bess’ muskets commonly used by both foot soldiers and marine soldiers (marines) during the Napoleonic wars.

The wreck lies at a depth of 22m at the top end of a gully that gradually slopes down to a depth of 26m where it flattens out. The gully itself is full of life and if you look very carefully at about 26m you can still find small trading beads, clay pipe parts, musket parts (ram rod ferrules and trigger guards), flints and some pottery that the seabed gives up from time to time.

SK_2.jpgThe 20 minute video that will come from the association’s work this year will not only promote diving for divers, but help expose how delicate and vulnerable the undersea world has become in its fight to overcome pollution. Throughout 35 years of diving the Welsh coast the author has witnessed the depletion of a rich ocean wildlife. Our seas are under immense pressure: too many fish are being taken out, too much rubbish is being thrown in and too little is being done to protect our precious marine wildlife. SK_3.jpgGlobally we are losing biodiversity at a rate never witnessed before, at huge cost to ourselves, and leaving a degraded environment that leaves wildlife vulnerable in the face of change.

Despite this we do have organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) which is working towards better management and protection of our marine wildlife. Recent Legislation has seen the introduction of The Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, which is an Act of Parliament providing protection for designated shipwrecks because of historical, archaeological or artistic value. This prevents the unnecessary plundering of our sensitive underwater heritage allowing it to be seen and experienced in the years to come.

As scuba divers, snorkellers and citizen scientists, we can help protect our earth's most important asset, for we are all connected to the sea in ways we may not realise. This video will go a little way to provide a key to a rich and productive future for the coastal waters around Wales.

 

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