Sometimes, you get to a dive site, and you can tell with a quick glance into the water “we are going to struggle to see our dive computers with visibility like that”… and other times you look at the water and know straight away you will have a brilliant dive.
That’s what happened when we took our first look over the edge of the roadside into the sea at Browns Bay. We all instantly knew it would be a good dive. The water was flat and calm, a welcoming surprise after a week of high winds. The water looked clear and inviting and we wanted to get in to start collecting the debris. Our team of divers excitingly kitted up, mesh bags handed out and we headed down the many steps to the rocks.
Browns Bay is another new site for Scuba Leeds. The facilities above water are not what you would find at a managed dive quarry. A lack of toilets was very much noted. However as soon we headed into the water this was all forgotten and the excitement of the dive began.
With much banter the week before the dive of all the large exotic objects we might find, within a few minutes of our heads dipping under water the standard threat of plastic fragments reared its ugly head. The dive at Browns Bay starts in a man build Victorian pool built directly into the rocks, refilled at high tide. It was like a mini show case of what was to come on the dive; clear water, marine life, and tin cans. A quick reccy around the pool to clean up what we could find, and then we swam over the rocks (which can be done on high tide) and out into the open sea.
Straight away we found velvet crabs running along the sea floor, with Blennies camouflaged on the stones, Lobsters hiding under the rocks, Lion’s Mane jelly fish floating above, Butterfish flickering across the water and then we found our first Nudibranch resting on the kelp. My dive buddy and I have a fondness for Nudibranch, and after spotting our first one we celebrated with the standard high five. Another Nudibranch was spotted by my buddy, and then another and so on. White with yellow marks, a four lined Nudibranch. The counting continued. This started a side mission of finding Nudibranch. In total 64 were spotted along the dive – our personal best (yes we counted).
Nudibranch are the slugs of the sea, they come in almost every combination of colour and are simply beautiful little creatures. With over 3000 species of nudibranch, it should dull our excitement of finding only one species of Nudibranch but it didn’t. Each Nudibranch was counted with a smile (and a lot of high fives). We simply love finding them, but you need a keen eye, with the adults as small as 4mm they are easy to miss. The attention to detail needed to spot them is similar to finding debris on our coast line.
On some dives, debris stands out like a sore thumb. On others dives, the debris has almost become part of the scenery. This is what Browns Bay looked like. The clear view of over 10 meters of kelp, rocks and plenty of marine life looked undisturbed by debris. Like finding the nudibranch, sometimes you have to be looking to see something, which is often the case with debris. Having a mission to find as much debris as possible really helps. You start to “see” the debris when first glance it doesn’t appear there.
Very quickly, hidden between two rocks, next to a lobster, we found fishing wire tangled around the kelp. A line cutter was required to cut through the fishing line to release it from around the kelp. The risk to the lobster was removed.
The dive continued, with equal excitement for each nudibranch spotted, and each piece of plastic placed in the bag. We get a genuine buzz finding each bit of debris knowing it is no longer an issue to the environment. On dives like at Browns Bay the debris appears to take a bit of looking to find. It’s a real victory when you swim along, and realise out the corner of you eye you have missed something. A quick reverse fin back and you realise what you thought was a pattern in the sand is actually 10cms of electric cable!
After 60 mins we ended the dive, exiting the water with our haul of plastic, excited to see what the rest of the group have found.
Once all the divers were out the water, we had an impressive haul from the sea. Our Debris included a fin insert, 2 rusty metal bars, half a pair of scissors, broken glass, cans of beers, can lids, fishing line and a tennis ball. We had 5 sets of buddy teams all entering the water at the same spot. Each buddy team left the water with a collection of trash, which is sadly impressive. A sad reminder that even though we think we have found every piece of debris on a dive, there is always more to collect.
After a debris dive, I am often asked "what was the biggest piece of rubbish you found?". I am often met with a look of disappointment when I say we found 24 food wrappers. However these small bits of plastic are unfortunately easily mistaken for food by animals. This makes it vitally importantly to remove this threat on every dive.
It’s a real sense of achievement when any debris is removed.
All our trash together weighted 5.4kgs, with over 30 individual items collected. Without help from all the divers, all of this trash would still be in oceans, causing unknown amount of harm to our marine life. A huge thank you to our Debris Divers who joined us at Browns Bay. It was great to see so many new faces on this dive. Hopefully everyone returns to join us on our next day out in the sea.