Seasearch Survey May 2022

Seasearch Survey May 2022

By Matt Walters

In 2019 some of us in the South and West Wales Seasearch group were ready to make the step up to Surveyor level. These surveys are more detailed and include more data of the habitat types. Covid then came along and it had to wait (booo).

Photo taken by Blaise Bullimore on a dip during surface interval, SW Wales Seasearch group.

However, this season, members of the group were finally able to reunite and into Marloe’s Village hall we went in April (23-24th) for a long day of theory for how to complete the survey at Surveyor level. The following day an enjoyable morning in Stackpole Quay, a National Trust site, our first Seasearch Survey was completed! Being one of my first few dives of the year, my (lack of) dive fitness was found to something to be desired and I had a leaking neck seal – welcome back to open water diving!😊

On to May and we were back for a weekend’s worth of surveying. I like this part of the UK, the underwater scenery is very diverse and scenic with reefs, gullies and vast range of multi coloured life. It was a chance to put our training into practice and get some forms done to go towards our qualification.

First dive. Crawfish survey in what was a rock bed with gullies, eventually we saw a small one. Their give-away is their long curious antennae poking out of fissures and crevices trying to figure out what you are.  Also we found a Nursehound resting under a rocky shelf. I had not seen one of these before, so I was quite exited as my eyes caught a glimpse of its tail and a good 1.5m later saw its head. While we were photographing it, another swam right in front of my face and over my buddy. Good start to the weekend.

Saturday’s second dive was a Surveyor survey for real – with all this nice habitat around, it was a challenge to decide where to start. I settled with an Animal Turf covered rocky reef with quite a deep gully with gravel bottom as my 3 habitats. Scenery aside, I managed to list off some species I remembered, and photographed for later, I had become rusty but it has become apparent that, to quote Jaws, “I’m going to need a bigger book”. Well, in fact, more books in my Seasearch series.

Back on the boat and were discussed what we think we saw, and looked at photos of what we actually saw. That leaking neck seal I mentioned- it had returned and I suspect it’s something more problematic. Fortunately, on a hard boat you can get out of the thing and open it to dry off a bit, OK become a bit less wet while you write up your survey notes.

That’s nights homework was to write up the form. There is lots to remember but it will improve over time. A camera helps to look back on. The use of tech can help, an Amazon Fire tablet connects to my camera and dive computer so I can look at pictures and dive profiles on a larger screen which is beneficial. 

The next morning I handed in my form, the boss was happy, so all good. On to dive 3, a really interesting terrace like formation of steps in the bed rock with a pool like formation in the bottom. Dead Mans Fingers and Elephant Sponge were the order of the day. The current picked up and the survey was over. On the drift though I spotted an artillery shell from the nearby range. I just about photographed it before being dragged away.

On our extended lunch break it turned out that site was incredibly varied with other pairs surveying kelp forests and other had masses of fish.

In for dive 4 we popped and as the current died off by time we got down, there was masses of ‘squidgies’ to look at. I surveyed a large boulder as it had different types of life on either side. There was a lean to one side with the current against it. Large elephant Sponges occupied this boulder and elsewhere there were spinney starfish legging it* about (*relative term for a starfish) as there were Cotton Spinners on the prowl.

Back out of my (definitely not so) dry suit and back to Dale we sailed. A boat load of divers coming to shore on a pontoon is not an inconspicuous sight!
On the Saturday a large crowd for a pirate themed fete was in town. Some curious young lads excitedly enquired if we had seen any sharks. No doubt expecting tales of me fighting off Jaws, my less glamourous sighting of a sleeping Nursehound or 2 told through a knackered voice lugging heavy kit around soon evaporated such excitement. On a side note, in my opinion it is well worth taking the time to explain to curious bystanders what I have seen and what we do. We are ambassadors for the sport and underwater world after all.

After several runs to chuck all the kit back in the car it was time for a chit chat, ice cream and for goodbyes. A relatively quick sub 4hr drive home and straight to bed. Everything ached the next morning so a session on the foam roller of doom was had before going to work.

I will be back in July for scallop surveys in the Skomer Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), I will endeavour to do a couple more surveys towards my  surveyor qualification before doing an ID test!

Learning points for anyone thinking about getting involved in any type of surveying: know how your kit is configured – what dangly bits are clipped and dangling off what. Writing on slates and using torches, compasses and cameras can become a handful so keep it simple. Teamwork – help everyone out kitting up, dekitting, fixing kit and sharing books for ID.

Thanks to Kate Lock, Andy Trulove (skipper) and the gang for a great weekend!


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