Harbour: Falmouth, Mylor
Max depth: 36m
Located in the Fal Estuary the Narrows start off at 8m and gradually drop down to the wall to about 40m making it the perfect dive for divers of any qualification. For anyone that likes the little things, the shallow areas are covered in Mearl (calcified red seaweed) that play home to many a decorator crab, spider crab, hermit crab, anemones, tube worms and nudibranchs. As you get deeper the larger creatures such as thorn-back rays, octopus and dog fish are all incredibly common. Unless you are particularly wanting a fast moving drift dive it is best to wait until slack tide in order to avoid the fast currents moving through the estuary.
Sunday The 11th of June:
The East Narrows has got to be one of my favourite dive sites in the falmouth area, it has something for everyone, from the small Leeches Spider Crabs to the Large thorn back rays, yet I had never managed to dive it with a camera.
After finishing uni a couple of months ago I had made the decision it was time to invest in my own underwater housing, well first I had to order it and wait for it to be shipped in and then luck not being on my side, the weather turned and another week went by where I was unable to take my new toy out for a test drive (or should i say test dive). Well finally on the 11th of June the weather seemed to be picking up slightly and it seemed just possible that we may get out and in the water. So there I was bright and early at falmouth water-sports centre kitted up and with my new Nauticam camera housing beside me, ready to go out on Steve McEwans weekly Sunday morning dive.
As we headed out of the harbour we where still unsure as to where we were going to be diving, until much to my excitement the mutual decision was made to stay in the bay where we knew the conditions where semi alright. This meant I was finally going to be able to photograph the mearl beds! High water had been three hours earlier at 7:15, which meant we would be diving whilst the water was running turning our dive into a drift dive, sadly not ideal for taking photographs. Never-the-less myself and Jane Morgan got ourselves kitted up and after making the decision to stick to the mearl and stay rather shallow (Our max depth being around 15m) we jumped into the water, sure enough there was a strong current and we spent the majority of the dive finning into the current to try and stay still enough to search for marine life and take photographs. Even with the current and on Jane's part the eternal lack of thron-back-rays it was a fabulous dive with many a photo taken.
Being as obsessed with nudibranchs as I am, a dive really isn't a dive unless I've found myself a nudibranch to photograph. So as you can imagine as the end of the dive was approaching i was starting to get a bit desperate, until I accidentally stumbled upon this gorgeous Facelina Annulicornis, after originally mistaking it for seaweed I continued to photograph a nearby hermit crab, until it caught my eye again and I decided to take a closer look. After identifying it as a nudibranch and photographing it for a while, I alerted Jane to the find and moved aside to let her photograph it. It wasn't until then as I was taking a closer look at my photographs that I noticed the small spiral of eggs beneath its body, I have photographed hundreds of nudibranchs and nudibranch eggs both in Britain and abroad but until this point I had never been lucky enough to catch them in the act.
The real inventors of the 69er?
Nudibranchs have a short lifespan, after reaching sexual maturity they usually don’t have long to mate and reproduce, due to this the courtship of most Nudibranchs consists of little more than two slugs of the same species moving into position. The real inventors of the 69er, the reproductive openings of all opisthobranchs are located on the right hand side of their body, meaning matting occurs in a head to tail position. All Nudibranchs posses both male and female reproductive organs, meaning they can both produce eggs and fertilize the eggs of another Nudibranch. (The ability to self fertilize being limited to the opisthobranchs species Berthelinia limax, a sap-sucking slug that can reproduce without the aid of another slug). Mating involves the male reproductive organs jointly being inserted into the female openings, leaving both Nudibranchs with the ability to lay their own separate egg ribbons.
Once fertilized the eggs are given a nutritive layer and an outer capsule before being bonded together in a chain or ribbon. The eggs are then laid in spirals or ribbons through the genital papilla. It is incredibly difficult to identify the species of eggs once laid unless the act of laying is observed as the egg masses of opisthobranchs vary greatly in size, shape and colour. The eggs are laid counterclockwise as they are being laid from the right side of the body, this allows the Nudibranch to obtain a strong connected of the eggs and the substrate pressing the ribbon down using the foot.