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Scuba Diving North Wales, UK, Europe
Dive Site: Puffin Sound Drift
Location: Puffin Island off Anglesey, North Wales
Description: Drift dive
Depth: 10 - 30 metres (30 - 100 feet)
Visibility: 5 - 10 metres (15 - 30 feet)
Stunning drift dive in the right conditions, a chance meeting with an old anchor or two, and a large array of marine life.
A drift dive over a varied seabed in a tidal swept area. The whole area here has been proposed as a marine nature reserve and several SSSI's. It is one of several unique marine places in the area. The tides can be strong and dangerous at times, boat cover is mandatory. It is at the exit of one of the most dangerous tidal ways in the UK, with tidal differences to 10m or more, in 6 hours!
Puffin Island (Ynys Seiriol), named after Saint Seiriol lies off the southeast coast of Anglesey (Ynys-y-Mon) and contains monastic remains dating from the 6th Century AD. On its north eastern tip is a colony of seals. The isthmus between the tip of Anglesey past Beaumaris and Puffin Island is known as Puffin Sound and is a navigable channel. A black & white ringed lighthouse keeps watch on this turbulent passage and this is one of the exit points of the tidal Menai Straits. Across the other side is another lighthouse on Perch Rock.
The Menai Straits was formed at the end of the last Ice Age, when the local ice sheets melted, the then estuarial landscape was thus transformed into a tidal feature with strong tides entering the straits and opposing each other. This brings nutrient rich water & abundant marine life on the very diverse array of rocks (Cambrian and Ordovician), mud, sand and shingle.
The result is a pot-pourri of filter feeding marine life and masses of fish and seals, certainly at the Puffin Island end. A dive is usually made on drift through the Sound from the Straits outwards into open sea. Several Dutch men-o-war were believed to have gone down in the area, perhaps they gave the nearby Dutchman's Bank its name - one of the treacherous sandbanks in the area. Having sailed around here with a skipper knowledgeable to these waters I can see there could be many other wrecks in the area and it is known that a few more modern vessels have come to grief nearby.
The olive green water stays bright at 15m as your dive sweeps along a colourful motley collection of small boulders. The small plumose orange and white anemones cover every scrap of these rocks as the horizontal seabed continues for many metres. A dark shape on the seabed suddenly looms, but before the brain has had time to decide what it is, all hell has broken loose and you're being swept into a dark chasm! The trench goes down to at least 30m and it's about here a large conger or a larger lobster may just waddle out of their hole to take a look at the dinner plate eyes of the diver in front. Your brain then starts thinking about ghost galleons or maybe it's just the narcosis, anyway look out for old anchors down here - we spotted one.
The trench's vertical wall is home to variety of marine life species, and is jam packed with colourful sponges. In the lee of any current it's possible to move along the wall for a while before it once more tugs at the diver who is then drawn out of the abyss and up a long slope. The slope looks devoid of life with many stones & pits but then a movement of grey gives away the position of the many dogfish whilst the puff of dust in the water reveals that large edible crabs inhabit these pits. It's not before long that a complete contrast occurs when the dull colours of the slope suddenly give way to bright swirling sand in 9m, reminding one of a desert. Well before then the SMB would have been launched and the skipper will be ready to make the pick up.
I found 14 17th century gold rings here. I was made up.
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