Being able to scuba dive was always something that I dreamed of doing when I was growing up, the idea of breathing underwater and seeing all the wonders that live down there. Four years ago I finally learnt and was lucky enough to dive in many different places from Cornwall to the Maldives, very different locations but both special, unique and beautiful. After exploring wrecks and reefs I fancied trying something different, night diving. I’ve never been diving at night before but it sounded very exciting, certainly a different view of the water world.
Aquanauts down on the Barbican offer a free shore dive each month for students in the University scuba diving society, an excellent offer as membership from January was only £35. Last month’s dive was to be a night dive at Brixham, not too far from Plymouth.
The first big difference between diving in the day and diving at night, a difference that I hadn’t previously considered, is that its dark when you’re kitting up. I had never thought about the fact it would be dark when we were on the shore, and how much more difficult it makes it to attach all your kit and check you’ve got everything. Silly really, of course it would have to be dark above the water as well as below. After spending a lot longer getting ready and using my phone torch to help me see, we finally got into the water. I was actually amazed at how warm the water was, it was a toasty 9⁰C which for February was quite a nice surprise. With torches lit we waded out into the darkness stopping at waist deep water to put on fins before taking the full plunge.
People are sometimes surprised when I say I dive in England, they often state the same three things: isn’t it really cold, isn’t it really murky and surely there’s nothing to see down there? Firstly, if you’re cold wear warmer clothes, I use a very thick thermal under suit and some nice woolly socks. Secondly, yes the water isn’t amazingly clear but you can see a few meters and I find that added mystery quite fun. Finally, there might not be thousands of brightly coloured fish swarming around you, but as someone who has dived in the tropics I can definitely say that after a while you stop seeing the fish as your eyes glaze over them. Whereas in England, when you see a fish you really look at in detail and take the time to appreciate it. There is plenty to see in British waters, you just have to look a little more closely.
Diving at night obviously makes it even harder to see, you have about a metre of vision in front of you and even that is concentrated on the light beam from your torch. This didn’t stop us from discovering some beautiful creatures. It does amaze me that we saw anything, divers are so clumsy underwater unlike the graceful marine animals, and considering that we were shining bright lights everywhere I’m surprised that everything didn’t clear off long before we reached them. Perhaps most did, but we were still treated to many different sights. We met gorgeous little fish dancing over the rocks, met many velvet swimming crabs patrolling their territory and even a couple of lobsters loomed out of the darkness. We stumbled on a little nudibranch on a kelp frond, it was tiny only a couple of centimetres at most, it was a mini miracle that we saw it. Nudibranchs are essentially sea slugs but they are beautiful, often with bright colours and spiky ornaments, as they are so small finding them is quite an achievement.
Towards the end of the dive my dive buddy had an artistic moment and arranged a piece of litter alongside a bright sea sponge, making a statement of how pollution of our marine world has become standard and almost accepted as the norm of society.