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Dolphinman - The Marine World
.These are a sample of the 80 slides in each live presentation.
.Click on any image to see an ENLARGEMENT.

Short Resume  
We start with a 'shore dive' looking at plants and animals photographed in their natural habitat. Then deep down vertical underwater cliffs at St. Kilda to have a look at beautiful animals with gruesome or unusual names like  Dead Mans Fingers or Lumpsucker. On the way back to the surface we meet the Basking Shark, the second largest fish in the world,(10m) looking into the gaping mouth to see its gill rakes.

Below is the presentation Marine World in verbatim with pictures to illustrate the text.
All material Copyright © Tony Crabtree and the Space Pictures below courtesy of NASA
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.  
NASA Visible Earthhaddenum

The Marine World 
The surface of our planet is approximately 71% water and contains five oceans, including the Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Southern but today we are going to concentrate on diving around the British Isles. The water around England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland is quite spectacular, some of the best temperate water diving in the world is right here at home - the British Isles.  The reason it is so spectacular is because this sea water doesn't just sit static around the British Isles, it is changing and moving all the time because the world is spinning, this circulates the sea water.  This moving water is being supplied from the North Atlantic which is circulating clockwise between Africa, the Caribbean Gulf and it is joined with water from the Mediterranean and the Polar Seas.  All this circular movement of the Atlantic water is the result of the world spinning on its axis.  The water in the Gulf of the Caribbean has the tropical sun shining on it all the year round.  The water gets very warm and this hot Caribbean Gulf water is then drawn into the Atlantic Ocean and joins the clockwise circulation of the North Atlantic.

Caribbean, the British Isles, the North Atlantic, Mediterranean, N/W Africa and the Straits of Gibraltar.

The arrows illustrate the flow directions in the North Atlantic and the worlds oceans.

The Gulfstream water flowing north easterly along America.

This hot Caribbean Gulf water floats on top of the cooler Atlantic water - it is called the Gulf-stream.  The Gulf-stream water flows north-easterly along the east coast of America and turns east travelling all the way across the Atlantic to the British Isles, it then circulates into the English Channel, the Irish sea, the west coast of Ireland and the west coast of Scotland, over the northern top of Scotland and down into the North Sea.  Because of the world spinning on its axis this also circulates sea water from under the polar ice to join the Atlantic water circulation. The Mediterranean Sea water joins the Atlantic circulation at the north-east corner of Africa at the Straits of Gibraltar.

The Mediterranean water is also heated by the sun but because the Mediterranean water is quickly evaporated it has become much saltier, this makes sea water from the Mediterranean denser than the Atlantic water.  Although it is warm this Mediterranean water sinks and forms a  counter-flow which goes north along the west coast of Portugal and French coasts and joins the British Isles water.  So we have animals living here in the British Isles that came from the Caribbean & the Mediterranean.

North East corner of Africa at the Straits of Gibraltar. Mediterranean water sinks and forms a counter-flow which goes north along the west coast of Portugal and French coasts and joins the British Isles water.

All this Spring reproductive activity causes a plankton bloom in the
waters around the British Isles which can be seen particularly at the Western approaches - the bottom left-hand side of the picture.

We also have animals from the polar regions of the North Atlantic.  There are fish that live under the polar ice all of their lives and, to stop themselves from freezing, they actually have antifreeze in their bodies'. Some of them move to Englandís shallow coastal waters.  They come especially to lay their eggs in our waters because it warms up quickly in the spring.  I will show you later one of the fish that does this but there are lots of other fish and animals of various kinds e.g. crabs, lobsters, crayfish who use these shallow waters as a nursery in the Spring to spawn.  All this reproductive spring activity causes a plankton bloom in the sea - it is a mixture of plant and animal reproduction. 

This picture shows the Western Atlantic Ocean with colour to illustrate the different depths of the water.

If we look at the coastal waters around the British Isles, you will find that the average depth is very shallow. This picture on the left shows the Western Atlantic Ocean with colour co-ordination to illustrate the different depths of the water of the Western Atlantic. The light green colour is where the edge of the continental shelf lies around the British Isles, the dark blue colour is showing where sea is deeper. Shallow seas cover all the continental shelves. These waters are where the oceans are most productive, where biomass is highest and where all the major sea fisheries of the world take their catches. The shallow seas include warm tropical waters, temperate seas like those around the UK and the chilly waters of the Arctic and Southern Oceans.

The picture on the right shows St Abbs harbour and the surrounding coast looking south from the coastal path that leads up to the St Abbs light house.  If you go on any coastal paths never leave that path - there are dangers which are "sneaky" and you will not know the dangers are there until it is too late. On the left-hand side of the picture( on the right ) you can see some vertical cliffs - when we go underwater we will swim around vertical cliffs underwater - in the same way as birds can fly around the cliffs in this picture. Letís go on our first dive starting at St. Abbs on the east coast of the British Isles just north of the Scottish border and in the North Sea.

St Abbs Harbour and the coast looking south from the coastal path that leads up to the St Abbs Lighthouse. east coast of Scotland.

St Abbs Harbour at high water.

Having arrived in the local car park you have a choice of hiring a dive boat and going on a boat dive but, on this first dive, we have chosen a shore dive from the outer harbour wall.  As you walk around the harbour wall you will notice that sometimes the harbour is full of water (at high tide) and sometimes the harbour is empty (at low tide).  It takes 6 hours and 20 minutes for the sea to rise to high tide, then 6 hours and 20 minutes for the tide to fall to low water. The first picture of St Abbs harbour was taken at high tide.

The second picture was taken at low tide. The children in the picture are collecting shells some of the shells are very pretty.  The children are quite safe providing they donít walk on the rocks that are covered in seaweed.  Walking on seaweed anywhere can be dangerous because it has very shiny surfaces which protect it from damage.  These shiny surfaces are very slippery when you stand on them so please never try to walk on seaweed. Continuing around the outer harbour we approach the water on the seaward side of the harbour wall to a place called Sheepís Hole.

St Abbs Harbour at low water.

All this water movement is caused by a combination of the Moon in orbit around the Earth and the Earth and Moon in orbit around the Sun.

The Moon in in orbit around the Earth.

The Moon in in orbit around the Earth.

This is a very popular safe entrance offering easy access at any state of the tide. It has a gentle slope which is covered in barnacles and seaweed but, please remember, donít walk on the seaweed, sit down, fit your fins to your feet, make sure the air tanks are switched on, set the compass, and make sure that your mask is water tight. This is a very exciting time for a novice diver especially if this is your first sea water dive in the British Isles. You are going to see things that you have never seen before. On entering the water the diver will see for the first time the green sea, this greenness is made by millions of bits of life floating in the water - it is called plankton.


Divers getting ready to enter the water at the outer harbour.  Location  Sheep's Hole, St Abbs east Scotland.

Diver swimming over a Kelp Forest containing the many different seaweeds we will find around the British Isles.  Location Sheepís Hole  - St. Abbs, Scotland.

Plankton is made up of animal larvae and plant spores.  It is the beginning of the underwater food chain - you will see examples of this later.  The divers adjust their buoyancy so that they float just below the surface.  This is their first underwater view at Sheepís Hole.  The  rocks there are covered in a kelp forest which is made up of different kinds of seaweeds - we will find them all around the British Isles. With names like Bladder Rack, Saw Rack and the edible Sea Lettuce. The kelp plant is one of the bigger varieties and grows very quickly, if it was to start from first attachment in March it could be fully grown by June.

 All these different seaweeds grow anywhere  where there is enough light for them to grow. The seaweed photosynthesise the sunlight this makes them grow and in this process seaweeds gives off oxygen into the water, 50% of all oxygen is made by plants in the sea. This means that half the oxygen that you are breathing was made by the plants in the sea. Let's go and explore the kelp forest. If we look at one kelp plant - starting at the top there is the frond, this is the equivalent of leaves on a tree. The frond is the place where the kelp makes oxygen by photosynthesis.

One individual kelp plant using the power the of sun to photosynthesise and in this process seaweeds give off oxygen into the sea water.
Location - Sheepís Hole at St Abbs, Scotland.

There are animals we will find later that will keep the kelp frond clean - a bit like a window cleaner.  Some are extremely pretty. The next part of the kelp plant is called a stipe, it is the equivalent of a tree's main trunk.  All the parts we have looked at up to now are very strong and very bendy like a leather strap. The kelp plant has to attach itself to the seabed.  It can only do this on something that is solid and strong. The kelp will grow on rocks, shipwrecks, man-made structures like floating buoys, mooring chains or piers. The kelp grows from a spore floating in the plankton and when it lands on something that is solid it will stick itself down with some of its own "superglue" . 

Once it is attached it will start to grow its holdfast very quickly.  As the kelp plant gets bigger it grows new growth over the younger parts of the holdfast and it will continue to grow bigger and stronger.  After it has grown over itself several times it leaves spaces that are safe places for young animals to start life in, this could be a baby lobster, baby crab, fish eggs, fish fry, juvenile sponges, starfish, sea urchins, any new animal that needs a safe home. The kelp forest itself, when fully grown, becomes a safe habitat for other animals to start life or live in. The kelp plants are extremely tough - they have to be - the sea can be very violent and stormy.

Kelp holdfast growing on to solid rock with a variety animals, Starfish, Hermit crab, Soft corals, Sponges. Location - St Abbs Head, by St Abbs Lighthouse.

If kelp gets damaged it will re-grow either a new frond, a new stipe or, if only the holdfast is left, it will grow a new plant.  If you look around the holdfast you will see other animals living there, the hermit crab, soft corals, sponges, sea urchins, tube worms and clams. All these animals feed in different ways so that they are not in competition with one another e.g. the clam gets its food from pumping the plankton in the seawater through itself to filter the water to get food; the sponges (of several colours) they also filter the sea water. The hermit crab is looking around for food and finds bits with his claws and puts them in his mouth to eat. The hermit crab doesnít have a shell of his own and he has a soft body so when he leaves the holdfast he has to find an empty shell that somebody else has made.  They usually use empty snail shells where the snail has either died or has been eaten by another animal that has left the shell behind. The hermit crab then will use the shell he finds until heís too big to fit into his present "home".  He is always on the lookout for a bigger shell to move into.  If you watch you can give him an empty shell, put it next to him and he will, if you wait a few minutes, make sure that there is nobody living in the shell and, if he thinks it fits him better he will transfer into the new shell.  This is an example of nature recycling anything useful.  Just next to the hermit crab is an example of a soft coral.  Corals have to live in places' where the sea waves wash food over them to eat. The starfish walks around on hundreds of tubular legs with suckers on the end.  If you remember, I said earlier there are fish that come from coastal areas under the polar ice to our British Waters to lay their eggs.

If you look carefully you will find them usually in places where patches of the rock have been cleaned so that nothing is growing or living on it. The fish that do this clear and clean the rock surfaces with their teeth, then guard the area day and night and wait.  Please see if you can see the fish that is guarding this bare patch of rock. Lumpsucker or Lumpfish Cyclopterus lumpus is brilliantly camouflaged so that most divers just donít see him. I call him Mr Happy you will see why in the next pictures. If you approach where Mr Happy is hiding as you get near he will come up to you and swim round you.

If you look carefully you will find where patches of the rock have being cleaned. All the lump sucker pictures were taken on the east coast of Scotland, outside the little harbour called Cove.  north of St. Abbs Head.

The female has laid her eggs, The male Lump Sucker is in the picture (camouflaged) guarding the 300,000 eggs.

Youíll see why I call him Mr. Happy - his mouth has got a big wide "smile" -  but this is not his real name, his real name is Lump Sucker.  This strange name describes what he actually was doing in the last picture when you couldnít see him. Mr Lump Sucker has, underneath his chin, a sucker which he uses to stick himself down to the sea bed.  He uses the sucker to stop himself from being washed and swished about by the waves above.  This saves energy when itís rough weather.  When Mrs Lump Sucker arrives from her long journey coming from cold  

polar waters she will lay her eggs where dad has prepared, then he will fertilise the eggs.   

The Lump Sucker (Mr Happy) is hiding.  As you get near he will come up to you and swim round you.

Mrs Lump Sucker is much bigger than dad she is also different colour - very dark green. She doesn't need any camouflage. When mum has laid her eggs she leaves dad in charge and moves away.  Mr lump Suckers job is to stay and guard the eggs that mum has just laid, day and night. If the eggs were not protected and guarded by dad the 300,000 eggs that Mrs lump sucker laid would be eaten by all the other fish and crabs nearby.

In this picture on the right you'll see why I call him "Mr. Happy" - he has a big wide happy smile,  Sometimes Mr Happy the Lump Sucker, when swimming around you, will try to lead you away from the eggs, if he does this you need to set your compass so that you will know which way he is leading you because, after a few yards, he will suddenly dive into the kelp and stick himself somewhere to hide hoping you will leave the area then, after you have gone, he will make his way back to the eggs and carry on guarding them. 

Mr Lump Sucker - I call him Mr Happy because of his big "smile"

Mr Lump Sucker leading you away from the eggs.

If you find him he will then stay with you and if you put your hand out flat he will sit on it. You can then let your compass swing back to where the eggs are. If you do this he will stay on your hand but he will still make sure that nothing is eating the eggs.  He will, in the end, come off your hand and, after you have gone, let his sucker stick down next to the eggs.  As well as guarding the eggs 24 hours a day 7 days a week until they hatch Mr Lump Sucker also has to circulate oxygenated water around the eggs by fanning them with his tail.

Mr Lump Sucker hiding under the kelp using his sucker.

This picture shows the sucker underneath his body.


Mr Lump Sucker happily sitting on a diver's hand.  He will still keep his eye on the 300,000 eggs.

Please note to protect his soft skin Mr Lump Sucker  has bony nodules on his body.

This is another reason why he needs his sucker, when Mr Lump Sucker is fanning the eggs with his tail he uses his sucker under his chin like a handbrake, like we do when parking a car, by sticking himself down with this sucker when he wags his tail he forces the water over the eggs and doesnít move himself forward. Mr Lump Sucker and Mum are unusual fish they do not have scales and, to protect the soft skin, they have only bony nodules along their body sides.  Later, when the eggs hatch, dad still will protect and guard the fish fry - you sometimes see them sitting on dad using their suckers so that they can stay where ever he goes.

Mr Lump Sucker attaching himself back on to the seabed to guard the eggs until the eggs hatch.

The Sea-Urchin will pick up any debris to camouflage itself. Location - Wolf Rock four miles south west of Lands End, Cornwall.

Sea-Urchin Phylum Echinodermata sometimes called the Sea Hedgehog. The sea-urchin is a spiny, hard-globular shelled animal that lives on the rocky seafloor.  They also will sometimes use camouflage to try and protect themselves.  They canít change colour so they pick up any loose things they find on the seabed and wrap it round themselves e.g. bits of seaweed bits of plastic basically anything they find to confuse predators. The spines are attached to the shell with universal joints so that the spikes can move in any direction.

They are for defence.  In between all the spines there are tubular legs with suckers on the end of each leg. You can see the diver (which happens to be me).  I am using my finger to tickle the spikes of the sea urchin this will make the sea-urchin pump water in through its mouth to inflate tubular legs. This is how they pick up bits of seaweed and debris to camouflage themselves from predators.  When they have inflated the tubular legs they can then use them to step across gaps in the rocks or travel on vertical surfaces.

The Sea-Urchin has inflated it's tubular legs. 
Location - St Abbs on the east coast of Scotland.

Enlargement of the Sea-Urchin showing suckers on the end of their inflated legs.
 Location -
Kilkee on the west coast of Ireland.

 Sea-Urchin grazing the rocks and
encrusting pink Coralline Alga - Lithophyllum incrustans. Location -  Kilkee on the west coast of Ireland.

They can even walk on overhanging surfaces.  If you look in between the spikes and the tubular legs youíll see that there are shorter tiny three pronged structures called pedicellarines they are small stinging structures that are used for defence and for obtaining food. The sea-urchin will graze on anything on the sea bed, plants or animals.

The Sea-Urchin (close) up uses five self sharpening teeth. Location - Skellig Islands, west coast of Ireland.

Sea-Urchin using this tubular legs step across the rocks Location -  Kilkee, west coast Ireland.

To eat the food they find, they have five self-sharpening teeth that are sharp enough to cut rock off the seabed. They will be able to remove everything living on an area depending on how many there are in the population. If they over-graze a particular area they will starve and die but because the seawater around is full of sea-urchin larvae the area will be regenerated. Sometimes this will take two or three years.  

The seven-armed Starfish Luidia ciliaris (on the right) this is easily recognised by its fringing spines and long feet with which it moves across the seabed relatively rapidly. It can exceed 40cms across and is a fearsome predator on shellfish and other starfish.  The seven-armed starfish is trying to catch Brittle stars but they are trying to escape from being eaten. The seven-armed Starfish will sometimes be in the sand or gravel half buried waiting for prey. They are very common on the south and west coasts and islands of the British Isles.

The Seven-armed Starfish Luidia ciliaris
Location - Bridges of Ross, Loop Head, Ireland.

Common Sun-star or Crossaster papposus The Sun-star can be seen in many different colours.  In the first picture the Sun-star is trying to catch the Brittle-stars and Feather-stars. It is using its tubular legs to move across the seabed to catch them and when it is successful the Sun-star will climb over the Brittle-star or Feather-star.  Sun-star will then extrude its stomach over them to eat them, it will also find bits of dead fish, crabs, or climb over snails and attack by extracting them out of their shell with its tubular legs.  This particular Sun-star starfish has thirteen stomachs one for each arm.

Sun-star trying to catch Brittle-stars & Feather-stars.
Location - Cathedral Rock, St Abbs east coast of Scotland.

The underside of the Sun-star with its stomachs showing Location - Cathedral Rock, St Abbs east coast of Scotland.

Common Starfish - Asterias rubens  All the starfish in this picture have got their five arms interlocked with their neighbours to prevent any other animals from eating the dead body (the fish that is under all these starfish). They will share the fish's body.  When the starfish at the bottom of this pile have had enough to eat they will move to the top of the pile and the new starfish just arriving will make their way down to the bottom extrude their stomachs and start to eat.   All the many different  kinds of starfish perform a very important function in the sea because of their eating habits.

Common Starfish Asterias rubens feeding. 
Location - St Abbs east coast of Scotland.

Common Starfish Asterias rubens regenerating its fifth damaged arm.  Location - St Abbs east coast of Scotland.

They don't seem very fussy, they will eat anything they find dead or alive.  We have in our world service providers like the dustbin man, the road sweeper, the undertaker, caretakers and window cleaners. Starfish have accidents, when this happens the starfish can regenerate any part of their damaged body, if it was cut in half, each half will regenerate the parts that needed replacing. If you remember when I first started talking to you I showed you vertical sea cliffs I said that we would be going diving around underwater sea cliffs floating around where ever you like to go.

The cliffs in the picture to the right are covered by soft corals with a spooky, name they are called Dead Man's Fingers Alcyonium digitatum.  Dead Man's Fingers flourish all around the British Isles.  They like to be where there is moderate wave movement and they will also live happily in parts of the coast where the flow is quite strong because of the tides. Dead Man's Fingers will not tolerate any location where there is sand or fine sediment. You will find Dead Man's Fingers in several different colours.

Diver on the underwater cliff.
Location - Longships Reef by Eddystone Lighthouse

Dead Man's Fingers their polyps extended to feed on the plankton. Location - Manacles Reef,  Cornwall.

The picture on the left shows my hand next to white Dead Man's Fingers.  In the same picture there are orange Dead Man's Fingers.  Some are bright red.  They are all the same type of animal.  In the picture on the left the white Dead Man's Fingers (near to my hand) are feeding using extended polyps to catch plankton out of the water.  If you were to touch this animal all the polyps will deflate and pull back into the main body. They are still safe to touch. The Dead Man's Fingers in the picture (on the right below) all the polyps have stopped feeding and have retracted their polyps which makes them look similar to a man's hand.

After storms at sea sometimes these Dead man's Fingers are washed up on the beach - this is how they got the name "Dead Man's Fingers".  Dead Man's Fingers grow their body to be in harmony with their surroundings.  When in a stormy location they will grow a strong stumpy body shape - as in the pictures. If they live in a location where there is fast water movement and no wave action they grow into slim and delicate structures.
My favourite of the Dead Man's Fingers we have in British waters is of a red colour - if you don't dive with torch you will not realise how beautiful it is.

Dead Man's Fingers with their polyps deflated.
Location - Manacles Reef, Cornwall.

Red Dead man's Finger colony Alcyonium glomeratum. they thrive where the water is clean and fast-moving. Location - Penzance Cornwall. (self-portrait).

Red Dead Man's Finger colony close-up with its polyps feeding. Please note the individual bits of plankton on the polyps. Location - Penzance, Cornwall.

The red Dead Man's Fingers in the picture above are Alcyonium glomeratum these animals are only found in warmer waters - along the west coast of England, the English Channel, along the west coast of Ireland, in the Irish sea at Bardsey Island, Wales, on the west coast of Scotland and at St  Kilda. They can grow into huge colonies and thrive where the water is clean and fast-moving.  They also like coasts that receive the Atlantic swell and surf.  Pictured below are Red Dead Man's Fingers and one of my favourite fish the Goldsinny WrasseHe has to investigate what is happening in his territory.

Red Dead Man's Finger colony with polyps deflating.
Location - Penzance, Cornwall.

Goldsinny Wrasse pictured with  Red Dead Man's Fingers. Location - Manacles Reef, Cornwall.

I call him "cheeky chops" (this is not his real name) but it does describe his behaviour.  "cheeky chops" - the Goldsinny Centrolabrus rupestris or Goldsinny Wrasse as it is sometimes known, is a very common fish around the British Isles. They are very territorial and defend their patch with vigour. When any diver enters into "cheeky chops" home ground he will follow you around and interfere with any pictures you try to take. Some of this strange behaviour is because you disturb food that he could eat.  You will see him chasing away any rival Goldsinny Wrasse. The picture below shows the Goldsinny Wrasse watching me while I take our picture. This is typical behaviour they are in credibly inquisitive, quick to learn, and opportunist. 

I have witnessed them cleaning other fish because the Goldsinny Wrasse is a territorial fish and other fish have then observed their behaviour and taken advantage of this.  It has become known "in the fish world"  that the Goldsinny Wrasse will clean visiting fish, providing the visiting fish keep still and calm.  The attraction for the Goldsinny Wrasse is a regular food supply. "Cheeky chops" will find his own varied diet which includes worms, small encrusting all animals which he can easily tackle with his sharp forward pointing teeth e.g. young crabs, shrimps.  "Cheeky chops" will find these items of food amongst the Plumose Anemones - Metridium senile 

Cheeky chops will find their items of food amongst the Plumose Anemones-Metridium senile in pink and white. Location - The Stags half a mile south of The Lizard which is the most southerly point of Cornwall, England.

Goldsinny Wrasse has used its sharp
teeth to cut out a place to hide or sleep.
Location- Skellig Islands West coast of Ireland.

The Goldsinny Wrasse is a day-time feeding fish.  They all need somewhere to sleep at night.  Many of the British Isles coasts have underwater boulder slopes so plenty of places to get a safe night's sleep.  But there are places where the Goldsinny Wrasse has to make a "bedroom" inside another animal's body.  The picture on the left shows one in use  Bryozoa Ross - Pentapora foliacea. this colony has been used and modified by the resident - the Goldsinny Wrasse. It has used its sharp teeth to cut out a place to hide in or sleep.  It is very fragile -  like our potato crisps - and the fish can easily cut their way in. Bryozoa Ross can be found in the warmer waters of the British Isles, the English Channel, along the west coast of England, in the Irish sea, along the west coast of Ireland,  the west coast of Scotland. and also in the Mediterranean.

The next fish we are going to look at is the Ballan Wrasse or Labrus bergylta which can be found all around the British Isles among rocks and kelp forests.  This particular animal is 40cms long and lives just outside some rock caves at St Abbs called Cathedral Rock on the east coast of Scotland.  It is a very popular dive site and can be accessed from the outer harbour wall at St Abbs.  A short swim will take you to Cathedral Rock.  The Ballan Wrasse will expect you to bring food with you. They will be quite disappointed if you don't feed them and will, in fact, get very impatient and butt you. 

Ballan Wrasse - Labrus bergylta.  Also in the picture are Saithe, Pollachius virens - a shoaling fish.
Location - Cathedral Rock, St Abbs east coast of Scotland.

This is not dangerous - they are just impatient. They will break the sea urchin shell themselves when you're not there. It is possible to identify individual fish by their scars - this is because their pectoral fins sometimes split.  Some of the scars they receive are from attacks by seals.  If they escape this encounter, when you have repeat dives over a period of years, you will recognise your old friend with his beautiful eyes and damaged fin or scars.  The Ballan Wrasse live in small groups. They are slow-growing fish and are thought capable of attaining 30 years of age.

Ballan Wrasse Labrus bergylta watching you with his beautiful eyes. Location - Cathedral Rock, St Abbs.

Ballan Wrasse Labrus bergylta eating sea urchin eggs.
Location  -
Scapa Flow Block Ship: Goberanada Boris.

In this picture on the left I am offering the Sea Urchin - Phylum echinodermata for the Ballan Wrasse to eat. They won't eat the shell  but they love the Sea Urchin eggs that are inside. This is their normal food which they'll find for themselves when there are no divers at Cathedral Rock.  The Ballan Wrasse with its sharp teeth can easily tackle a varied diet which includes small encrusting animals, young crabs, and shrimps but, because of divers' behaviour, there are very few sea urchins in the area of Cathedral Rock. 

In the picture on the right is the female Cuckoo Wrasse Labrus-mixtus she is pink with white and brown marks on the top of her tail.  She is feeding on the eggs of a sea urchin which she has broken herself.  Also in the picture is someone you should recognise, yes, one of my favourites "cheeky chops".  He too is waiting for his chance to eat some of the eggs.  You can see how concentrated life can be underwater - there are two colour varieties of Dead Man's Fingers also you will notice the white Sand eyed Anemones - Sagartia elegans they catch their food from the passing water.

Female Cuckoo Wrasse Labrus-mixtus
Location - Skellig Islands on the west coast of Ireland.

Female Cuckoo Wrasse starting to change colour into a male. Location - Calf of Man, Isle of Man.

The fish in the picture on the left is a female Cuckoo Wrasse.  If you where to be a Cuckoo Wrasse, you would all be born female.  Just imagine, ladies living in a world with no males around.  Some of the males in your territory in the sea  will be eaten by the seals.  Some of them get caught in fishing nets and some die of old age.  However you do need males to fertilise your eggs. To get round this problem of shortage of male Cuckoo Wrasse some of you ladies will have to change into a male Cuckoo Wrasse !

When the female Cuckoo Wrasse starts to change into a male she will begin to lose the white and brown marks on the top of her pink tail.  You can see in the picture above that the tail has gone blue and her face is beginning to get blue stripes. In the picture on the right the female (that was) has completely changed from female to male and has now become this beautiful dazzling blue striped male.  All this change of colour is to display to the females that he is ready to fertilise any eggs the females wish to lay. When the male has attracted a female to follow him he will lead her to a place of his choice and allow her to lay her eggs.

This male Cuckoo Wrasse has completely changed  colour and will behave for rest of his life as a male. Location - Outer breakwater Port Erin, Isle of Man.

Male Cuckoo Wrasse asleep in its safe rocky night-time resting place. The fish cannot close their eyes - they appear just to be in a trance whilst they are asleep. Location   Calf of Man, Isle of Man.

He will then fertilise eggs. The female will not have any further responsibility for the eggs.  It is the male Cuckoo Wrasse's job is to guard the eggs day and night.  If they need ventilation he will fan them to keep the eggs oxygenated. The Wrasse family of fish all reproduce in this way and they are daytime feeders.  If you go diving at night you will find them in a safe place having their sleep.  When sleeping they cannot close their eyes - they appear to be in a trance.  On  the bottom left of this picture there are two crabs mating.  When not mating crabs normally feed at night.  In the underwater world there is a day shift and a night shift.

St Kilda has tallest sea cliffs in the British Isles and because of its location it has dramatic sea conditions waves 8 or 10  metres high.  With wind velocity of the 130miles an hour.

Come with me and I will show you around     the Islands at the "edge of the world".  The
St Kilda Archipelapelago is a remote Atlantic group of Islands 64 km west of the Outer Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland. 18,000 years ago the sea was 120m shallower.  St Kilda was one volcanic island. As the ice melted at the end of the ice age the sea became deeper to its now present depth.  St Kilda now only consists of four main islands - Hita, Soay, Boreray and Dun. Three sea stacs - Stac an Armin, Stac Lee and Levenish: and great number of smaller stacs and skerries.

St Kilda is one of two dozen global locations to be awarded World Heritage Status. It is a remote, wild, beautiful place.  There are spectacular sea cliffs (the tallest in the British Isles). St Kilda is one of the best diving destinations in the whole of the British Isles especially for its crystal clear 60 metre visibility and blue waters.  Because of its location St Kilda has dramatic sea conditions some waves 8 or 10 metres high with wind velocity of 130 miles an hour.  Consequently all this erosion has left us with spectacular underwater cliffs, caves and trenches to go and explore.

Dramatic sea conditions waves 8 or 10 metres high sending sea spray over the cliff tops.

St Kilda is one of the best diving destinations the whole of the British Isles, especially known for its crystal clear 60 m visibility.
Location - St Kilda.

St Kilda is the major seabird breeding station in the North Atlantic.  It has the largest colony of Northern gannets nesting in the world on Boreray and Stac Lee.
Location - St Kilda at Stac Lee.

Diving these vertical walls is like flying, you are defying gravity by being neutrally buoyant in the water.         Location - St Kilda at Stac Lee.

In the picture above is Stac Lee it is 165 metres high and covered with nesting gannets.  It is the biggest colony of gannets in the Northern Hemisphere. The vertical cliffs around this sea stack carry on underwater,  These same vertical cliffs underwater are now covered in Plumose Anemones with Crabs and Squat Lobsters (with their spectacular colours) hiding in the cracks. In the picture on the lef the diver is using his torch to look into the many nooks and crannies in the rocks to see who is living in them. Diving these vertical cliffs is like flying, you are defying gravity by being neutrally buoyant in the water.

Diver using his torch to light up cracks just where the Squat Lobster will typically hide for the day. The diver's torch will show the true colours of the Squat Lobster.
Location - St Kilda at Stac Lee.

The Spiny Squat Lobster - Galathea strigose with his body camouflaged with fluorescent blue stripes - these beautiful colours red and blue will confuse predators.
Location - St Kilda at Stac Lee.

The Spiny Red Squat Lobster Galathea strigosa in the picture above on the right with his body camouflaged with fluorescent blue stripes.  These beautiful colours - red and blue - will confuse predators who find their food in daylight.  More importantly, the red shell cannot be seen because the colour red will not transmit through green sea water.  This is why most divers carry an underwater torch so they to can see true colours.  In the (picture on the right) is my diving buddy and the rocks are covered with one of my favourite animals Jewel anemones Corynactis viridis they are known for their patches of spectacular varieties of different colours.

In the picture above my diving buddy with the rocks covered with my favourite animal, Jewel anemones.
Location- Bardsey Island- Llyn Peninsular North Wales.

Green Jewel Anemones (life size) with purple stinging tentacles and with their mouth in the centre to eat their prey.
Location - Blasket Islands, west coast of Ireland.

When I first saw them on the Manacles Reef in Cornwall their beauty just "blew me away".  I wondered why was there such beauty hidden away under the sea where nobody could see them but, there is a reason, it is a warning telling animals who might think to eat them to keep away. The Jewel Anemones are deadly predators they are equipped with hundreds of stinging tentacles.  They generate their own lights on the end of each tentacle to attract the plankton to swim to their glowing tentacle tips.  They grow a smooth column body up to15mm in height and diameter. 

They come in every colour that you can imagine - brilliant blue, green, red, pink, purple, orange, white, or brown and various combinations of colours that can get mixed when they reproduce sexually.  They can also reproduce by longitudinal fission, i.e.. dividing in half vertically by cloning themselves.  This results in patches of identical related Jewel Anemones as in the picture on the right - different colours - some could be pink and male and the brown ones bottom left of the picture could be female. When they reproduce sexually the female's larvae are fertilised by the male and they are distributed by the tide to be deposited to new locations.

When I first saw Jewel Anemones on the Manacles Reef in Cornwall in 1963 their beauty just "blew me away".
Location - Raglan Rocks, Manacles, Cornwall.

This is an unusual colour which I personally have only seen it twice at two separate locations in Cornwall. The anemones in this picture are all same sex.
- Raglan Rocks - Manacles Cornwall.

This new larvae could be a colour different to the parents, or a mixture of colours from the parents. The pictures below show good examples of this. Because their larvae are dispersed by the tides all over the British Isles you will find them anywhere below the kelp forest or on overhanging rock faces, in caves anywhere along the west coast from the Shetland Isles, Orkney Islands, St Kilda, the Outer Hebrides,  Inner Hebrides, west coast of Ireland, Isle of Man, Wales, Scilly Isles, North Cornwall along the English Channel, Western Europe down into the Mediterranean.

Pink Jewel Anemones.
Location - Bardsey Island - Llyn Peninsular, North Wales

Brown Jewel Anemones.
Location - Bardsey Island- Llyn Peninsular North Wales.

When pink and brown anemones reproduce sexually you will see the offspring in the picture below on the left has a pink body with brown tentacles. The anemone below right is the fusion of green and orange parents.

Location - Calf of Man- Isle of Man.

Location - Scilly Isles.

Red Jewel Anemones - all one gender. Some have stopped feeding and withdrawn their tentacles .
Location - Blasket Islands west coast of Island.

Green Jewel anemones with spectacular pink stinging tentacles.
Location - Skellig Islands west coast of Ireland.

Diver entering The Sgarbhstac Submarine Arch. The apex of the arch is at a depth of 30m it then flares out to 20m wide and is 50m to the sea bed. It is a 30m swim through 60m visibility.  One of the finest underwater dives at St. Kilda.

There are lots of magical dives around the many islands of St Kilda the most spectacular is the Sgarbhstac Submarine Arch. When approaching the site, which is just across from Stack Lee, you will see rocks protruding out of the water about 20 metres high - rather drab and very unassuming in appearance - the surprise is below the water. This is a very exposed site and is also affected by tidal flow.  You can, when conditions are calm, swim on the surface right up to the rock face, dive down 30 metres to the apex of the arch and enter the Sgarbhstac Submarine Arch. The view, if you have conditions like I had,  will blow your mind away - a dive you will never forget.

It is a 30 metre dive to the apex of the arch. The arch is 20 metres wide and 50 metres to the seabed.  The rock faces are covered in many different colours of Jewel Anemones, Plumose Anemones - pink and white, Sponges in many bright colours - red,  yellow,  orange and purple also there are Sand Eyed Anemones with yellow centres and white tentacles.  Whilst you are looking around all this beauty keep a sharp lookout you could be visited by another air breathing animal the Grey Atlantic seal Halichoerus grypus, which means "hooked-nose sea pig".

Gray Atlantic Seal sleeping in one of the caves at  St. Kilda Location - Stac Lee.

The St Kilda seals are quite happy to be in close contact with divers. Location - St Kilda Stac Lee.

In open waters gray seals rest or sleep in a vertical position, similar to a floating bottle, the animal keeps only its head and neck above water. Here at St Kilda they sleep in any place where they can wedge themselves in. In this cave there are many places to use.  On this particular day there were three seals in the cave and even when they woke up they still preferred to stay where they were wedged in, they did not want to lose their place. This keeps them in a safe stable place. They can hold their breath for sixty minutes and so this in enables the seal to dive to great depths. 

To capture food (dives have been recorded as deep as 1,560 feet (475 m), with their excellent vision, hearing and very sensitive whiskers on their cheeks which enables them to feel any vibrations in the water they are able to find things in the dark.  Seals are  formidable hunters.  Food sources include fish, crustaceans, squid, octopus and even occasionally seabirds.  Smaller fish are generally consumed underwater whilst larger fish are brought up to the surface to be the broken into smaller pieces using the seals' "prehensile" front flippers and mouth.  They consume between 4% and 6% of their bodyweight per day.

With excellent vision and hearing, very sensitive whiskers on their cheeks this enables them to feel any vibrations from the water.
Location - St Kilda Stac Lee.

Males can also be distinguished from females by their long-arched "roman" nose. The male nose is the basis for its Latin name. The Gray Seal pups in the eastern Atlantic Ocean are born during September-November whilst pups in the western Atlantic Ocean are born during January-February.  The mother feeds the pup for three weeks and then she abandons them. The female will mate with a male then leave  The grey seals at St Kilda are very playful and curious they will approach divers and look through your mask, some will get hold of your fins carefully with their teeth and spin you around.  They will also give you a fabulous display of their underwater acrobatics. Their abilities will make you feel inadequate. 

The grey seals at St Kilda are very playful and curious they will approach divers and give you a fabulous display of their underwater acrobatics.
 Location - St Kilda Stac Lee.

Looking up vertically.  Location - St Kilda Stac Lee.
We are going to make our way back up to shallower depths now.  On the rock surface we meet yellow Breadcrumb Sponges Cliona celata, this animal has the ability to bore into  rock, also there are Pink Plumose Anemones feeding.

Pink Plumose Anemone. Location - St Kilda Stac Lee.

Basking sharks head and the pectoral fin with the mouth closed, it is just possible to make out the sharks eye.
Location - Part Erin, Isle of Man.

Plankton containing Salps - Salpidae they feed on items
of phytoplankton, they strain the water with internal filters. Location - Village Bay, St Kilda.

Basking Sharks Cetorhinus maximus - the second largest fish in the world they can get to lengths of 11 metres and can weigh up to 10 tons.  The Basking Shark gets its name because, when feeding, its dorsal fin and tail fluke will be out in the fresh air.  This is because the plankton is attracted to the surface by the sun. In the old days people used to think the basking shark was sunbathing when, in reality, it is feeding on the thickest layer of plankton.  Very often the water is murky because of the plankton bloom - the very thing they are trying to feed on.  It swims open-mouthed at the surface, filtering out plankton.  Every hour the basking shark passes up to 395,000 gallons (1.5 million litres) of seawater through the huge gills that almost encircle its head.  The shark is equipped with five sets of gills on each side of its head, the ten gills slits also each have a set of gill rakes - they are like combs and are to filter the plankton out of the water.  Once the gills are blocked with food the shark closes its mouth, swallows the food and proceeds to carry on feeding.  The shark's liver runs the length of the abdominal cavity and is filled with oil to aid buoyancy.  Sadly, in the past it was hunted and great numbers were killed for their livers.  Because of this activity shark numbers tumbled however, fortunately for the shark, it is now fully protected in British Waters. To dive with a fully grown Basking shark is something you never forget, I'm fortunate to have dived with them on many occasions.  If you are ever considering swimming with basking sharks please think again, I would recommend that you don't unless you are fully kitted as a diver with all the normal safety equipment with you,  the reason it can be dangerous, although the shark is harmless, is because of the places they swim through looking for plankton they often pick up anglers fishing lines it can get wrapped around their tails trailing behind in big loops and in the plankton particularly, the lines are totally invisible if you where to get tangled in the fishing line the basking shark would feel you moving the shark would panic and dive if he had no knife to cut the line it could a rather nasty end.  When you're sitting in the plankton bloom its like being in a fog and, as this monster looms out straight at you, when it sees you it is quite startled and quickly closes its mouth and turns away.  After it has gone past you it calmly opens its mouth and carries on feeding. The shark swims in loops in a figure of eight.  This behaviour keeps the shark in the densest part where the plankton is.  Basking Sharks arrive in UK waters in approximately the month of May into the English coastal water of west and north coasts of Devon and Cornwall.  Then they move slowly northwards congregating around the Isle of Man during the month of June, then they move on through the Irish sea and along the west coast of Scotland up to the Outer Hebrides and St Kilda the following the plankton.

Basking sharks front portion, head up to the dorsal fin and pectoral fins looming out of murky plankton bloom.
Location - near Kynance Cove Cornwall

Basking sharks rear portion, from dorsal fin down to the tail
Location - near Kynance Cove Cornwall

Basking sharks mouth half open, we can see the eye and the interior of the ten gills.
Location - Ailsa Craig near Turnberry Point

Basking sharks mouth open, we can see the interior of some of the gill rakes.
Location - Ailsa Craig near Turnberry Point

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