Mull – June 2022
Twelve members of the club made their way up to Lochaline to meet up with the Gaelic Rose for six days diving around the island of Mull. The group included old timers, advanced and technical divers as well as newly qualified sports divers, some making their first trip away on a hard boat.
Amazingly despite travelling independently from different locations in South Cumbria we all ended up on the same short ferry ride across the Corran Narrows.
After loading our gear on board and preparing our dive gear we headed off into the Sound of Mull and up to Tobermory for the evening giving us time for a walk through the town and a pay a welcome return visit to the Mishnish. Tobermory now has its own Whisky and Gin Distillery as well as a local micro-brewery!.
Boating and diving plans are all weather dependent and our goal of circumnavigating Mull and perhaps a visit to the Garvellachs was soon put to rest after consulting the weather forecast and evaluating sea conditions. Instead, we planned on diving initially in the Sound of Mull and Loch Sunart whilst the windy weather blew through. We would then head out to Coll, Eigg and Muck before returning to Tobermory before the weather changed again later in the week.
Sunday was breezy even in Tobermory harbor and the water out in the sound choppy. We made our first dive off Calve Island, just outside Tobermory harbor in the lee of the wind this time on its South East wall.
This is a sheer wall covered in sea life which together with excellent visibility made for a spectacular sight as the divers were gently pushed along by the current. Certainly, a good, relaxed, introduction to a week’s diving on the west coast of Scotland. The weather improved all day and our second dive was on another, similar, scenic wall across the Sound of Mull in the shelter of Loch Sunart at Rubha Aird Shlingnich on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula.
Monday the weather was calm and sunny locally but there was still quite a swell out to the west of Mull. We stayed locally again diving the Auliston Point wall across the Sound from Tobermory on the Movern Peninsula in the morning and the historic iconic dive of the Hispania in the afternoon.
Auliston point is a largely non tidal dive on a wall dive covered in anemones and soft corals. The wall drops almost vertically to 40m and the cracks offer shelter to fish and crustaceans. The wall is covered in plumose anemones and it is also great for red fingers, peacock worms and other filter feeders.
The Hispania, a 644 tonne Swedish steamship is in the narrowest part of the sound and is very tidal and catching slack is critical to avoid the unpredictable currents on this wreck. There was quite a current flowing on our dive and it was such that nowhere appeared to offer much shelter. There was exceptional visibility though and every surface was covered in sea life. One of the most enduring facts about this wreck is it’s one of the most recent known examples of the captain of a vessel choosing to go down along with his ship. Eyewitnesses in the escaping crew reported seeing Captain Ivan Dahn saluting them from the deck as the Hispania finally sank beneath the waves in December 1954.
Tuesday we woke to a misty but calm overcast day and given a good forecast for at least 36 hours we headed out to Coll where we dived two other iconic wreck sites of the Tapti and Nevada II off Rubha More.
For me, the Tapti was the best dive of the week. The Tapti is broken into four parts and she lies in depths between 9 metres and 25 metres immediately south of Soa Island, south of Coll. Her bow is the most impressive aspect of the wreck, lying on its port side, separated from the rest of the wreckage and rising nearly 15 metres towards the surface. Her stern lies nearest to the shore and is the shallowest part of the site. The wreckage, which is strewn across a rocky, sandy seabed, is encrusted with colourful Sealife including soft corals, Devonshire cup corals and plumose anemones. Fishes include ballan wrasse, cuckoo wrasse and pollack. Sea cucumbers and seven armed starfish are also a common sight on the wreck. A wide range of fixtures and fittings remain identifiable including the boiler, mast and winches
The Navada II lies almost parallel to the shore in depths of 4 – 16 metres with her bows in the shallows close to the surface among the rocks and deep kelp.
The ship itself is very broken due to the weather, waves and heavy salvage, and the wreckage tumbles down the underwater rocky slope and cliff to the stern which lies on the shingle bottom at 16 metres. Of the ship itself, the propeller shaft, steering gear, crane arm and pulley are distinctive features. Some of the cargo is still recognisable, such as roofing sheets, truck chassis and batteries. Once again superb visibility and lots of sea life.
We intended to stay on Coll that night in Arinagour harbor but civil works were on going meaning we had to find another safe haven either on Muck or Eigg. The transit was calm and whilst on the way we spotted two Orcas swimming slowly southwards between Coll and Mull which was quite magical. A whale spotter sight-seeing boat was following the whales respectfully and someone on board produced some great drone footage.
Later further north nearing Muck we also saw a Minke Whale heading north east. We landed on the ferry slip on Eigg on a beautiful warm still evening which gave us chance to explore the island a little bit locally.
Wednesday the weather was changing again for the worse so we had had another dive, this time off muck on the Windmill Reef wall before heading back to Tobermory. The swell picked up progressively as we headed back and it was nice to pass Arndamurchan lighthouse and get back into the sound of Mull. Our second dive was just north of Tobermory on the Bloody Bay Wall
Thursday was sunny and calm again inside the Sound of Mull as we left Tobermory for the last time and headed south back towards Lochaline where we were staying the night. On the way two more iconic wreck sites the Shuna and the Rondo.
The steamship Shuna was wrecked in the Sound of Mull on 8 May 1913. She was on a voyage from Glasgow to Gothenburg carrying a cargo of coal. The wreck is perhaps the most intact wreck in the Sound of Mull although perhaps not the most pretty. It is situated out of the main current and can be a little silty when there are lots of divers on it.
Much of the inner workings of the ship are still intact and the triple expansion steam engine can be seen through the doorways of the engine room. The ships spare propeller is still on the aft deck along with winches and other machinery. The shot line brings you down to a mast amidships, giving you a good view of the whole wreck in good visibility.
The Rondo, an 80m 2363 tonne tramp steamer wrecked in 1935 against the small islet Dearg Sgeir near Salen after breaking anchor in a storm. This is a really unique wreck as when the ship sank it slid down a steep wall bow-first coming to rest almost vertically with the bow in 54m and the stern between 6-9m. This is a great wreck for mixed level groups as each pair can pick their depth and dive a nice profile slowly ascending up the wreck. You can also hang off the rudder on your safety stop
Friday was once again sunny and Calm and gave us time for two more dives before we had to disembark and head home. These were just out into the Sound of Mull – The first the wreck of the Thesis and the second the John Preston Wall / Wreck.
The SS Thesis was lost in 1889 while carrying a cargo of pig iron. The bow section was damaged a few years back after being hit by a scallop dredger however it remains a fascinating wreck to explore, the holds have opened up and you can now explore more of the internal areas. The main boiler still identifiable standing proudly in the middle of the wreck covered in all sorts or marine life.
The John Preston was a 116 ton wooden schooner with iron bolts, was built in 1855. The wreck otherwise known as ‘The Slate Wreck’ is a very broken up wreck lying on a ledge at 14-18 metres on a scenic wall. The wreck itself has almost entirely disappeared but the remains of her cargo, piles and piles of slates, still remain, giving the John Preston her local nickname. The wall itself is home to a lot of sea life too.
As we left Lochaline and started our journey south we learnt there had been a road traffic accident in Glen Coe which included an upturned tanker. The subsequent road closure meant a diversion via Oban which given the volume of traffic having to cross the single track Connel bridge added an extra hour and a half to our journey home.
A good week’s diving and although the weather prevented our initial plans did not spoil anything and gave us some top-class diving – twelve dives in all. We look forward to a return visit in November.
One of our new Sports Divers comments:
This was my first week long boat trip and I was excited to have the opportunity to dive in a variety of sites such as the many wrecks and cliff walls. I was shocked to learn just how many beautiful wrecks were actually located around the Isle of Mull!
The weather wasn’t on our side but it did not stop us from diving some quality sites. I really enjoyed the trip having met some more club members who were great to get to know and to top it off the wild life was fantastic, my first time seeing killer whales as well as having a brief encounter with a seal underwater!
Overall I really enjoyed the trip and can’t wait for the next one !