The calm conditions over the last week allowed Sheephaven divers to put out to sea from Downings for the first time since last autumn.
With Simon Henderson providing dry coxswain duties they conducted a one stick dive in Skate Bay, where they had good in-water visibility of at least 10 metres horizontally, while water temperature was 8 degrees Celsius.
Dive times of up to 40 minutes were conducted to a maximum depth of less than 20 metres.
During the summer this site is generally full of fish life, but only a few Wrasse were observed on Saturday morning. However the divers were given a real treat when local lobster fisherman Ivan Mc Elhinney brought an Octopus for them to see before they started the dive.
Octopus are a real threat to lobster stocks as they very predatory and will easily raid lobster pots and kill the lobsters before the fishermen can stop them.
There are up to 100 different species of Octopus reported worldwide, but this one was either the Common Octopus, with the scientific name of Octopus vulgaris or its smaller relative Curled Octopus, named Eledone cirrhosia.
The Common Octopus mantle is 20 to 30 cm with an arm span of around one metre, while the Curled Octopus has a total length of 50 cm. The Common Octopus colour is grey, while the Curled Octopus is reddish-orange to reddish-brown, much like what was observed on Saturday morning.
Octopus are rarely observed in Irish waters as they are smart and elusive with the most remarkable camouflage skills, coupled with the ability to shrink into the tiniest of hiding spaces.
However for this Octopus observed on Saturday morning its raiding days are unfortunately over, having been caught in the act in ones of Ivan’s pots. But its end was not in vain as it was the first opportunity for these divers to see an Octopus in Irish waters.
So thanks to Ivan for bringing this wonder of the sea to the divers’ attention, a real treat indeed.
Sunday mornings’ Sheephaven dive activities were dedicated to the Sheephaven Search and Recovery Unit as one of its obligatory training days.
All unit members are required to attend the training days in order to be registered to participate in Search and Recovery activities.
Under the direction of the SAR Unit leader John Joe Rowland two different swim lines of divers and snorkelers took to the water in PortnaBagh Harbour and conducted separate exercises.
Using the swim line techniques the divers were directed around the harbour from the surface by the snorkelers.
Portnablagh Harbour makes for a difficult dive site, due to the presence of multi moorings, kelp covered reefs and rocks, all of which were negotiated with some degree of expertise by the teams involved.
The Sheephaven SAR Unit was delighted to be accompanied by the Mulroy Coastguard Unit on Sunday morning, who arrived in their state of the art RIB and gave top cover assistance to one of the swim line teams.
Dive times of 20 minutes were recorded to a maximum depth of 5 metres, while in-water temperature was 8 degrees Celsius and water visibility was good at over 5 metres horizontally.
While the SAR Unit members were in the water, other club members who are currently not trained up for SAR conducted a separate snorkel in the harbour on a calm and pleasant Spring morning.