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Diving under the arches of Mulroy Bridge

2013-05-18 Ryan War#1790391As the water warms up Sheephaven SAC welcomes back more and more members every week, which in itself helps add to the variety of diving activities in the club.

This week there were trainee dives on Wednesday evening and Sunday morning and a club dive on Saturday morning that took a new look at a familiar feature and found a wonderful dive site that shows the benefit of an artificially created marine habitat.

Beginning with Wednesday evenings’ trainee dive Anne Boyle, Club Training Officer and Regional Diving Officer provides the following report. We had a very successful nights training at Woodquarter on Wednesday and who was there to greet us when we landed at Woodquarter but none other than our very own Alison Bourke, Sheila Rodden and Donal McEleney.

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As the tide was very low, we decided not to dive, as the trainees would have had to snorkel a considerable distance in full dive gear to get any depth.  Instead the group decided to snorkel, given the fine evening and calm waters at Woodquarter.

Alison Bourke and Sheila Rodden entered the water first and headed east toward the nearest island.  This was their first time in the water with the club this year and served the dual purpose of easing themselves into training in water of about 8 degrees and fulfilled their CFT Water Fitness Test requirements.

Under the watchful eye of Shore Marshall Donal McEleney the second group consisting of Eileen Coll, Christine Scott, Louise Scott, Lee Downey, James (Buster) Kane, Damien McConnell, JohnJoe Rowland and Anne Boyle headed south toward the marine farms and reached the southern island approximately 35 minutes later.

The water was teaming with common jellyfish, almost turning the water into a jellyfish soup.  Unfortunately there was only one sighting of a pipe-fish, but the group did see three specimens of the still un-identified squid-like creature seen at this location on previous occasions.

On the return snorkel the group kept to the outside of the marine farm trestles, in line with the eastern side of the nearest island, then back to shore again an hour and a half after setting off.

For the Tory swimmers the intensity of training is beginning to build up, with Coach Hugo Mc Fadden expecting three by two hour in-water training sessions per week at this stage for the swimmers involved.

The Saturday morning club dive was greeted with very wet weather with a light north wind, creating conditions just not good enough to put to sea but not as bad as had been forecast. The dive party put out from Meevagh slipway under the helm of Dry Coxswain Doug Fox who kindly gave up his dive and proceeded to the Second Narrows were the tide was at slack water, allowing the divers to get under the arches of Mulroy Bridge in nearly still waters.

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To the casual observer on the surface the bridge is supported in the centre by two columns which rise from a concrete base platform at sea level. However under the water there is a great surprise in that the concrete platform is itself supported by a collection of piles that protrude up from the sea bed in a series of angles which provide an artificial marine habitat all of its own.

To the divers under the concrete platform the piles alter the ambient light significantly under the water, as well as creating sheltered areas that a single concrete mass would not do.
Additionally from an engineering point of view the pile structure reduces the pressure of the fast moving tides on the bridge supports while creating strength and lightness to the construction as well as reducing the impact of the harmful effects of concrete in the water.

The beginning of the dive was a descent along the side of the mussel encrusted platform and then onto the pile structure below it until the divers carried onto the seabed at a depth of 6 metres. The sea bed was a jumble of broken rocks and stones which provided an excellent environment for crabs, small fish and kelp, while further away from the pile structure towards the centre of the bridge the seabed turns to maerl, which is itself a very important marine bio-diversity habitat.
Having pasted under Mulroy Bridge many times and indeed conducted a series of drift dives in the vicinity this dive was a true hidden gem due to the pile structure providing a valuable new habitat feature to Mulroy Bay, while the light atmosphere under the support columns was akin to being in a forest of large trees, a must do dive when the opportunity arises.

Sunday morning’s trainee dive was to Pat Mc Gees, a favourite dive site for new trainees when they begin their open water diving with Sheephaven SAC. The dive was conducted as a one stick dive thanks to Kevin Boylan who gave up his dive to act as Dry Coxswain for the day. The dive party launched from Downings and proceeded across the bay to conduct a dive in less than perfect visibility due to the heavy rain run-off that had occurred previously. However sea conditions were otherwise good with water temperature at the site recording as high as twelve degrees Celsius, making wet suit diving quite comfortable.

Sheephaven SAVC wishes to sends is condolences to club member Ryan Ward and his extended family in the passing of his uncle, Terence Ward. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Finally Sheephaven SAC wishes to express its most heartfelt congratulations to Jason Black on his successful conquest of Everest, the ultimate determination of the mental and physical strength that that is displayed in this sporting triumph.

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