(The underwater photos in this article are screen grabs from video frames)
I was told by a diver recently that he hated long poetic descriptions of underwater scenes and just wanted the facts. Something like, ‘jumped in the water and saw a fish, went in a cave, saw some more fish – went home’. I guess that would make for a shorter article but it would be a shame to confine such a nice dive into such brutally compact wording.
I was out with Mark Milburn from Atlantic Scuba near Falmouth, doing a recce for some new GoPro video courses I am running. Mark was very enthusiastic about a site he called Fraggle Cave and so that’s where we headed. The short trip started well with five or six common dolphin scooting across our wake and 10 minutes later we were at the site near Fraggle Rock.
A shallow dive this one, and we rolled back off the inflatable into 5 metres of water and a sea bed covered with long fronds of gently waving kelp some of which were decorated on top with Snakelocks Anemones.
Mark led the way over and through the maze of kelp until we came to what looked like a dead end of rock. Then he disappeared into it. Of course I followed and found myself looking into the darkness of a small but perfectly formed cave. As my eyes got used to the dark I could make out a hint of light about twenty metres ahead where the cave had an exit. To be correct this was a tunnel and not a cave but who cares, it was still quite a find.
At first I thought the inside to be totally scoured by the huge swells that storm this coast every winter, but as we looked closer into the nooks and crannies of the walls so life started to appear.
The first to catch my eye was a Tompot Blenny sharing a crack in the rock with a Velvet Swimming Crab. Tompot Blennies can be very territorial especially during spawning from March to May when a single male may guard the eggs of several females. Living for up to five years these Blennies are generally left alone by divers but are taken from rockpools for display in aquariums.
The Velvet Swimming crab though is taken in great numbers. It is estimated that 500 tonnes are taken in the UK every year for the European food market. It has the name ‘velvet’ because of the soft texture to its back and it’s called ‘swimming’ because it has flattened rear legs which can be used for swimming. They do in fact swim quite well especially when escaping from predators such as cuttlefish.
Further along a large Prawn seemed to be guarding a baby Edible Crab. Both these species are fished in great numbers for the food markets. It always makes me cringe when I think of them being dropped alive into boiling water. Some say they feel no pain but that’s one I have to argue and in fact do so in another of my articles ‘Do Fish Feel Pain’. If you want to research this yourself I can suggest you start by reading a book with this very title written by Professor Victoria Braithwaite http://fishcount.org.uk/fish-welfare-in-commercial-fishing/fish-sentience/do-fish-feel-pain
Finishing the dive, as we emerged from the cave, there was a Lobster. Hiding under a small ledge it looked at me briefly, decided I was no threat and scrambled away to a better hiding place. It’s interesting that Lobsters as well as other marine species have the same major internal body structures as humans including a brain, heart, nervous system, stomach and intestines and depending on which web site you look at, can live up to 80 years in the wild.
I heard that the next day a diver took the lobster up for supper. It’s a shame that no will ever see it again when they come out of the cave, but perhaps another one will replace it over time.
Thanks Mark for a great dive. http://www.atlanticscuba.co.uk/
Have you ever dived Fraggle Cave? Let us know in the comments below!