Polychaete research in the Falklands by Teresa Darbyshire - weekend dive report
Yes it was a good sign! The weather this weekend has been what every diver dreams of, light if any wind, flat seas and warm. Do I dare complain that the risk of sunburn was too high having already fallen foul of the strong rays here several times? No, just don’t forget the suncream!
5am was a very early wake up call on Friday but I don’t think anyone regretted it. We headed over to Egg Harbour which, as I am used to now, required a long drive on gravel followed by an off-road track, when one was available, or a general ‘it’s over that way’ decision on driving over unmarked territory. This time however, we were towing a RIB as well, not something you normally contemplate off-road! To be fair though, this RIB is on a double-axled trailer with tyres the same size as the cars. It too seemed to bump happily along and over the rough ground although even the four wheel drive needed help once on a steep slope (photo 1).
We were staying at Egg Harbour house (photo 2), a strange sight as you approach it sitting on its own on the hillside with absolutely no other sign of civilisation around it. Still, it was very comfortable, with its own jenny and water pump for amenities and peat burning aga to keep us warm in the evening.
But what about the diving I hear you ask? The diving was all virgin territory as this area was unsurveyed and new to all there. I’ll admit that the life was not as prolific as at Cochon Island, however the kelp was also not as thick and the bottom was very light. Although the visibility was similar to before, the light made everything seem clearer (photo 3). Most of the dives were on rocky seabeds with the rocks of varying sizes across the sites, some easy to turnover in my hunt for worms some not so. Sometimes turning over a rock produced a surprise, as much for me as undoubtedly for the stunned octopus that stubbornly clung to the rock as it guarded its eggs (photo 4)! Starfish of many different sizes and shapes abound but the pretty picture award went to this whelk (photo 5).
As for the worms there were many different ones for me to collect. I was particularly happy to find this pectinarid (photo 6), a group I had not collected here up to this point. There were several to be found on the dive lying on the seabed which on this dive had lots of sandy sediment between the rocks. This animal builds a very neat cone-shaped and slightly curved shell, shown in the photograph with the animal next to it. On another dive was a different sort of paddleworm to the one I collected around Cochon with very nice colours (photo 7).
As for the other wildlife, we had a brief visit by some Commerson’s dolphins as we arrived at the launching site on Friday afternoon and then on Saturday we had some friendly and some not so friendly sealions (photo 8). The photo also shows just how flat and almost glassy the water was by then. I unfortunately had the not so friendly ones. They were very curious at first although you don’t notice them so much when you’re head down in the sand and rocks, just the occasional flicker in the light as shapes pass above your head. Then you get the nudge. Then you feel something on your head and look up to find a whiskered face in yours. It was when the jaws started nibbling and more around my head that I became concerned particularly as it combined with a bit more force behind it! It was nearly time to come up though and I was happy to do so.
I was also able to do some shore sampling between dives at a couple of sites which kept me busy and all added to a very productive weekend. I was not the only busy one though as all the surveyors had their own reporting sheets to fill in between dives (photo 9). Again, more new sites completed for the team here.
A long drive back Sunday afternoon felt like a shame to all there, with the good weather still persisting. Long may it last (or at least for another week please).