I studied Ocean Science for my undergraduate degree and was lucky enough to be able to undertake the HSE commercial diving qualification alongside this.
At the time, I had never been diving before and still to this day I have only ever dived in Plymouth waters. Don’t be put off if you’re used to tropical waters and corals, there is still lots to see and experience in the water around Plymouth.
We were once lucky enough to have an encounter with a dolphin while diving, who gave us a truly amazing treat when he came close enough to be able to touch. He was clearly intrigued by us and stuck around for a good 15 minutes. I have been told that this dolphin often pays a visit to Plymouth so, who knows, you may be as lucky as we were.
On a dive to 30m (max allowed when diving with the University) I was able to see a sting ray. This was a dark dive due to the depth, and we only caught a glimpse in the torch beam, but it was a wonderful experience and another one I never expected from Plymouth waters.
Whilst undergoing my diver training we went on many dives at the New England Quarry. Some of my favourite dives were made here, in particular the night dive. This was compulsory under the HSE training and was amazing for many reasons. The stars shone so brightly that night, because there was no artificial lighting in the vicinity you could see the starry night sky with such clarity and this was a ‘non dive related’ favourite moment. During the night dive we also experienced some ‘meet-and-greets’ with garden gnomes, which was strange! These had been placed here by previous humorous divers to add a bit of fun to an otherwise barren dive location, although they did sometimes give us a bit of a scare in the dark!
There are other surprising things to find in New England Quarry, including a helicopter wreck and a rowing boat wreck which were fascinating to see. These wrecks also provided us with an opportunity to practice survey work underwater whilst using a full face mask with underwater communications.
New England Quarry was a favourite with many but it wasn’t uncommon to have to break the ice on the surface before going to dive – we don’t shy away from bad weather when diving!
Since I undertook my diver training there has been a brand new dive centre built offering new and improved diving facilities and lab rooms. This is called the Marine Station and is based just opposite Plymouth Barbican at Queen Anne’s Battery Marina. I spent many happy hours on board the University’s diving vessels JoJo and Aquatay.
I would highly recommend the course to anyone who has the opportunity.