A Happy New Year to all members following a year in which I failed to deliver one of the promises I made in the first of my series of President’s Word, namely to steer the Society and its members safely through Brexit; I’m afraid it was out of my hands!
Reluctantly, though now with some relief, I recently cleaned and stored away my scuba diving equipment as water temperatures begin to drop in our freshwater venues and air temperatures plummet, making it an uncomfortable surface interval between sea dives. There are hardy divers of course who continue to be active throughout the year but I’m afraid those days are now behind me.
Experienced divers develop specific interests: wrecks, caves, photography, marine life but, in my own club in Scunthorpe, the members have had to learn to put up with my tendency to suddenly stop and apparently, at least in their eyes, be staring at the sea floor or having a prolonged rest. These stops are usually the result of discovering some geology-related feature and they are not all confined to under the water.
My first dive at the National Dive Centre at Stoney Cove, Leicestershire was delayed because the path from the car park to the water is through a cutting that exposes red Triassic mudstones (Mercia Mudstone Group) lying unconformably on Ordovician quartz-diorites of the South Leicestershire Diorite Complex. It was worthy of at least 15 minutes of my attention but my instructor didn’t agree! Nor did most of the members who accompanied me on a week-long trip to the Sound of Mull when we tied up for the night at Lochaline. I arrived at the local pub a good 45 minutes after them armed with pockets full of Gryphaea, ammonites and bivalves, collected from the shore, which I duly presented in expectation of at least some recognition. Not one of them recognised the assemblage of fossils on view as the same as that seen in the stone walls and garden soils of Scunthorpe.
Frustratingly there is a dive site I visited in 2013 which is an analogue for Treak Cliff near Castleton, Derbyshire. It is in the Gulf of Suez and, on our arrival to tie up for the night, I shocked my dive buddies by repeatedly shouting “it’s Treak Cliff” as we approached a submarine reef (our objective) with pale blue, relatively shallow water beyond, that contrasted with the deep inky-blue sea on the open water side. I use the term “frustratingly” because nobody on board, fellow Scunthorpe Divers, Egyptian crew members and dive leaders and solo Chinese diver, appreciated what I was trying to explain. Similarly whenever I take groups on my Castleton circular field trip I wish I could transport them to the Red Sea for a few minutes; perhaps a laptop to show my video record of the experience, complete with shouts of “it’s Treak Cliff”, would be a useful accompaniment on my next visit.
A more recent dive in the Adriatic Sea off Cephalonia visited the site of a ‘hole’ in the sea bed. The mouth of this ‘hole’ is at 30m below sea level and is the mouth of a tunnel leading to a system of onshore caves. During the dry season water flows from the sea towards the land and the opposite way during the wet, winter, season. The result is that this regular flow of water oxygenates the water close to the dive site and brings in nutrients to support marine biota.
My buddies on this Cephalonian dive were strangers to me but they were interested to know what I had found so fascinating about a large clam-like shellfish at the entrance to the tunnel. I explained that the Mediterranean has today, sadly, a paucity of marine life, a combination of factors including overfishing, pollution and increasing sea temperatures. These “clams” dominated this niche environment and reminded me, as I finned from one to the next, of the large inoceramids such as Mytiloides spp. that are common in the Chalk of the early Turonian.
Paul Hildreth, YGS President