Eastbourne, May 2012

Beachy Head

I'm not actually a member of Aquanauts Dive Club but they had some free spaces left on their trip to Eastbourne on Dive 125, so I signed up.

After a week of rubbish weather, Saturday morning was bright, sunny with little wind. I wasn't expecting huge things of the viz though, given how it had been. The first wreck was the Alaunia, a 13,405 ton liner of the Cunard line. It hit a mine in 1916. Arriving on site, the water didn't look a brilliant colour, but descending the shot line, it never got totally dark. There was still some visible light and the viz was about 3m. The wreck is huge. I made my way up to the bows and swam round them, past the huge anchor that's hanging from them. There was quite a lot of life on the wreck. The usual big shoals of bib, plus a fair few wrasse. On the otherwise boring hull, I also spotted a couple of what I think were yellow-edged polycera nudibranch, though I'm no expert. It was low water slack, so my maximum depth was less than 30m, though I didn't go looking for any scours. You can normally get 34m on her. The water hasn't warmed up much though, it was still 11°C.

The waters off Eastbourne are unusual in that it's possible to do two slack water dives in one day on certain tides. It does mean having a 4 hour surface interval, which some skippers don't do, but Dive 125 often do it when it's possible. The 2nd dive, was also to be a liner, the Oceana.. At 6610 tons, it was a bit smaller than the Alaunia, but it's still pretty big.

The viz was a bit worse at around the 2m mark, and it was noticeably greener. The plankton bloom seems to be arriving. In that viz, it's hard to make out exactly what bit you're looking at sometimes, but there was plenty of wreckage to swim around and lots of life, including lots of edible crabs. Maximum depth was about 30m again.

The plan on the Sunday was to dive the Ashford, which I've never done, but there were a couple of fishing boats on it, so we opted to do the Braunton instead. This was a cargo ship sank 1916 by UB-29. Disappointingly, the viz was much the same as the Oceana, i.e. 2m. The sea bed is about 30m, but it stands well up with some bits of wreckage as shallow as 22m. I used 32% nitrox and left the bottom practically on my no-deco limit. The water is still a bit chilly to do much in the way of deco, plus I was trying out my new drysuit, so didn't really want the extra complications of mandatory deco, just in case.

Some of the group got in for a 2nd drift dive on Sovereign Shoals. I gave it a miss, but it had been a good weekend, and the weather wad been very kind considering what happened in the days before and after.