A group of 7 divers set off from Bristol on Wednesday afternoon to complete a night dive at the far East side of the 29km long Chesil beach. After about 2 hours in the car, we arrived at the pebbled coast to find glass like conditions; the stillness of the water was only broken by a single wooden row boat that glided up and down the beach as we unpacked the kit. The first to brave the cold channel waters were the 3 divers in dry suits; Chris, Will and Eduardo, meaning myself, Alex, Harry and Jethro, all in wetsuits, were left to look after the remaining kit.
By the time the first divers were ready, night was upon us, and after buddy checks under torch light, the guys headed into the sea, leaving the rest of us to eat Jethro’s skittles and to kit up ourselves.
Roughly 40 minutes had passed when a greeny yellow disc of light appeared a few metres off shore, indicating to us that the others were finishing their dive.
3 divers and 3 working torches had entered the water, 3 divers and 1 working torch returned! Despite this, the guys ambled up the beach with smiles on their faces, having just had a surprisingly successful night dive with one working torch shared between them. Sleeping fish, squid, shrimps, lobsters, and conger eels where just some of the wildlife observed, not to mention the spectacular bioluminescent algae that sparkled emerald-green when one turned off their torch. So overall, despite the lack of working equipment and the cold sea temperatures, the first dive had been a success.
It was then time for the divers in wetsuits to dive, who were admittedly sceptical about the dive time they would achieve given the previous reactions of the dry suit divers to the water temperature. We descended a few metres from the shore then swam along the sloping pebbled sea floor. Eventually we reached a reef like area where we uncovered many sleeping fish- a very different experience from seeing their normal frantic darting motion. They seemed to hang there, eerily suspended in the water like puppets on a string. They would shimmer as our torches (that only lit a small circular area) swept past. The lack of area lit by the torches added to the experience, as you never knew what your torch beam might reveal as you scanned the ocean floor. Whether that be a hunting conger eel or a shoal of sleeping fish, you always felt a sense of suspense. This was different from being on a normal daytime dive where your field of view is significantly larger, even with our notoriously poor uk visibilities!
After inspecting many small cracks and caves in the rocks, we pressed forward and came to some sandy flats where we saw numerous crabs patrolling along the ocean floor. We explored the sandy bottom for a while before turning and starting to head back to shore, once again shining a light on the sleeping reef.
We only completed one dive each as we were conscious of time and the coldness had proved greater than we had expected. So, after a quick bite to eat, we headed for Bristol.
Chesil was, for many of us, our first night dive and I think I speak for everyone when I say I would not want it to be my last.
Thank you to Jethro for the pictures.